Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive - THE SUNSHINE BOYS and THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS on Blu-ray ""

Friday, June 26, 2015


THE SUNSHINE BOYS (1975; Herbert Ross)
I never cease to marvel at watching a great actor take an abrasive, thoroughly annoying character and make them feel sympathetic in some way. A great example is Walter Matthau in this movie. Right out of the gate his character is tough to take. He is a huge grump and I'm sure it's supposed to be humorous, but I just found myself cringing. Matthau is an over the hill ex-vaudeville comedian who is basically unemployable. Richard Benjamin plays his nephew  who is constantly trying valiantly to get him work. 
There's a moment when Matthau is at home, alone in is tiny dilapidated apartment and it starts to become clear just where this guy's life is at and it's hard not to feel your emotions tipping into pity and sympathy. It's all about how Matthau plays it though. 
And when George Burns finally shows up in the movie that opens things up for more brilliance. Never before did I ever find two characters moving furniture around to be more humorous and engaging than in this film. It's all just so well timed and choreographed, but not in a high precision way. Watching these two actors do their thing is like watching moving artwork. They can't help but be as sublime in just bickering back and forth and shuffling around Matthau's apartment. I couldn't be more entertained by two guys almost starting to rehearse a comedy sketch for like 20 mins. Of course it doesn't hurt that Neil Simon wrote the words they are saying, but Matthau and Burns make them absolutely magical. I usually get slightly annoyed with stage-originated material in movie form because it often feels a little stiff and overly verbose. In this case though, there's plenty for the duo to do besides talk. The dressing room scene is a short bit of wonderful for instance. And there's a nice build up to the time we finally get to see the amusing "Doctor Sketch" that these guys are so famous for. Though the movie is really the Matthau and Burns show and all the stuff they do is fantastic, Richard Benjamin is no slouch himself and he adds quite a lot to the proceedings and the humor of it all by just struggling to wrangle both of them. I've been a big Benjamin fan for quite some time and he provides that essential final piece that helps keep the movie going.
The transfer here is good (if a bit grainy) and gives that gritty feeling of New York City in the 1970s that I love very much.

Special Features:
-An enlightening audio commentary with actor/star Richard Benjamin.
-"The Lions Roars" - a vintage MGM featurette.
-Makeup and Screen Tests for Matthau, Burns and Phil Silvers.

THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS (1943; David Butler)
THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS opens with the title song being sung by the wonderful Dinah Shore (as herself). This entire movie is filled with actors playing "themselves". The Dinah Shore song is followed by a pretty hilarious scene of John Garfield ("That Bad Boy of Burbank") bullying Eddie Cantor before they go on stage. Good stuff. Soon after that Garfield even sings a song (while continuing to manhandle Cantor)! That's just for openers though as the rest of the ensemble here is beyond ridiculous. Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Humprey Bogart, Olivia de Haviland, Ann Sheridan, Joan Leslie, Edward Everett Horton, Alan Hale, Jack Carson, Hattie McDaniel and more. Spike Jones and his band (the City Slickers) even make an appearance. It's a film that is very much cut from the same cloth as something like 42ND STREET. That sort of behind-the-scenes of "putting on a show" kind of movie but with a supercharged cast.
Lots of goofy fun in this movie including Eddie Cantor playing a dual role (as not only himself but also as a Hollywood tour bus driver). There are also many lively musical sequences peppered throughout the picture. One of my favorites features Eddie Cantor auditioning a dopey song for Edward Everett Horton and S.K. Sakall who are continually trying to get up to leave as Cantor's ditty goes on and on. Cantor has a really great sense of humor about himself  in the film as a whole and I'm always pleased to see an actor go to that place. 
THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS is just one of those light and jubilant musicals that leaves you with a smile on your face.

This transfer is another of those splendid looking black and white beauties from Warner Archive. They have truly demonstrated how good b&W can look in high definition wiuth their Blu-rays.

Special Features:
There's a nice collection of things here that could easily simulate what it might have been like to spend and evening at the movies back when THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS came out:
-Classic Cartoons: "Falling Hare" (HD) and "Little Red Riding Rabbit" (HD).
-Patriotic Short: "Food and Magic" (HD)
-Musical Shorts: "Three Cheers for the Girls" and "The United States Army Band"
-Vintage Newsreel: "Hollywood Canteen Celebrates First Birthday" (Silent)

-Audio-Only Bonus: Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Radio Broadcast (9/27/1943).

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