Harold Prince’s uber-black comedy Something for Everyone is a sophisticate’s delight: a delicious, stylized cinematic morsel as appetizing as sweet pastry and as lethal as curare.
The Production: 4/5
Harold Prince’s uber-black comedy Something for Everyone is a sophisticate’s delight: a delicious, stylized cinematic morsel as appetizing as sweet pastry and as lethal as curare. A wonderful cast and intoxicating European locations add a lavishness to the nasty business tossed off in feather-light fashion and with a wonderful number of twists and turns to keep its audiences wondering what will happen next.
Vagabond Conrad Ludwig (Michael York) has always wanted to own a castle, and when he sees the one owned by the penniless Countess Herthe von Ornstein (Angela Lansbury), he knows he’s come home. But how to gain a foothold into the place? Replacing their footman Rudolph (Klaus Havenstein) is but the first step in a terrifically convoluted plan which involves a rich family, the Pleschkes: Mr. and Mrs. (John Gill, Eva-Maria Meineke) and their attractive daughter Annalise (Heidelinde Weis), the Countess’ homosexual son Helmuth (Anthony Higgins), plain-jane daughter Lotte (Jane Carr), their butler/major domo Klaus (Wolfried Lien), and anyone else Conrad may find will come in handy in carrying out his nefarious schemes. But as Conrad will soon learn, even the best laid schemes don’t always turn out just as one has planned, but Conrad has the innate good sense to roll with the punches and look for any opportunity to turn events to his own advantage.
Twenty-time Tony winning theater producer and director Harold Prince took his first venture into moviemaking with this project, and he brought with him important members of the New York theater community with whom he had successfully worked in the past: writer Hugh Wheeler (who won three Tonys in Prince-helmed projects) who penned the screenplay based on the novel The Cook by Harry Kressing, costume designer Florence Klotz (a six-time Tony winner in Prince-directed works) who designed the eye-popping gowns for Angela Lansbury (who goes from comfortable poverty to extreme wealth during the course of the film, her wardrobe mirroring the changes in her fortunes), and composer John Kander who likewise had a couple of Tony-winning experiences with the producer/director. All of their efforts are made a part of the fantastic fabric of this most unusual piece which finds a scheming, cold-blooded manipulator whose omnisexual appetites are all in the service of his fondest wish, that magnificent castle which, as he states up front, “Just wait long enough, and things will come.” They come, all right, but with bountiful strings attached that get more tantalizingly hard to untangle the longer the film runs. But that’s the fun of it: how will he solve his next conundrum? In the meantime, we get to revel in the stunning Bavarian scenery captured so beautifully by Walter Lassally’s cinematography (a shot with Conrad reclining surrounded by hundreds of blazing candles is scintillating) and with some sweeping pans up staircases and in a breathtaking garden party sequence as the Countess (guided by Conrad) makes a grand play to regain her fortune.
Michael York is the center of attention as the conniving Conrad, a master manipulator who uses his charm and sexual expertise to get exactly what he wants when he wants it. Angela Lansbury seems rather removed from the major machinations of the plot for a good third of the movie, but once things begin to twist into devilish knots, she becomes more directly involved in the proceedings, tossing off opinions and malicious tidbits with the élan of a great sophisticate. Anthony Higgins (who was acting under the name Anthony Corlan in this early work) is a memorable son Helmuth while Heidelinde Weis gets to play the spoiled rich girl who assumes she’s in the driver’s seat to great effect. Jane Carr’s Lotte is the wild card, seemingly on the sidelines watching things happen to others while silently doing her own manipulating to suit her own purposes. Wolfried Lien is a great autocratic Klaus who has his own secrets to protect. Another Prince favorite Despo plays the Countess’ masseuse and confidante who gets supplanted by York’s wily schemer.
3D Rating: NA
The film is framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is rendered in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is very good throughout the presentation though some may object to the more noticeable grain structure present here. Color is generally true with realistic skin tones though there is an occasional pastiness about some of the hues, sometimes seeming a bit dated. Black levels are good but not overly impressive. But CBS has done minimal clean-up on the master materials with dust specks and some small debris throughout. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is just as one might expect from a movie from this period. Dialogue has been nicely reproduced and has been combined quite professionally with John Kander’s background score and some Bavarian drinking songs and other local music and with the atmospheric sound effects appropriate for the film. But there is more than a little crackle, thumping, and some light pops, usually noticeable around reel changes that do momentarily distract.
Special Features: 0.5/5
Promo Trailers: Valentino, Luna, The Honey Pot, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Topkapi.
Something for Everyone is sophisticated, dark, and delicious: a black comedy of notable wit, color, and surprise. The Blu-ray release of the film doesn’t offer it in pristine condition, but it’s by far the best the film has ever looked on home video, and fans will certainly want to have it. Others might want to try a rental to see if the high-toned nastiness is their cup of hemlock.