Blake Edwards is probably best known for his film adaptations of The Pink Panther and his presentation of middle-aged men in mild crisis in films such as 10. Edwards always reminded me of a filmmaker not unlike Robert Altman with a sillier sense of humor. He made some classic comedies in his time, many of which managed to balance mature themes with slapstick humor. Too many of his films have been lost with the test of time and audience’s unwillingness to enjoy dated movies. Three of his greatest forgotten accomplishes have finally been released on DVD for the first time, despite the remarkable quality and popularity when originally made in the 1980s.
S.O.B., which stands for Standard Operating Bullshit, is one of Edwards’ crowning achievements in satire. After the difficulty that Edwards had with the studios in releasing two flops, he made a comeback with a film that poked fun of the manner in which the studios handle art as a business. The film business is an easy target to poke fun of, and Edwards’ aim is impeccable. Even though the telephones may be outdated and the costumes absurd, there is still relevance in the biting humor of S.O.B., a film which carries a great deal of true personal baggage within the storyline.
Richard Mulligan stars as Felix Farmer, a successful Hollywood director whose latest and greatest film exploit has ended in absolute failure. It is his most expensive and biggest flop, and this causes a personal identity crisis along with a studio panic. Edwards’ real-life wife, Julie Andrews, plays Farmer’s wife and the star of his latest failure. She also changed her image drastically from the Mary Poppins wholesome films to this flesh-exposing role. Farmer must find a way to save his film, and he does so by changing his wife’s image, just as Andrews did for this film. It is a mind-bending art-imitates-life scenario which adds to the relevance of the storyline. The film also co-stars William Holden in his final film role, Robert Preston, Robert Vaughn and Shelley Winters.
Victor/Victoria is one of those rare musicals to make it into the 1980s, somehow still carrying the feeling of many classic musicals of yesteryears. The main difference in the flippancy with which homosexuality is addressed. Robert Preston and Julie Andrews star as a pair of struggling cabaret performers in an impoverished
. Both are unsuccessful in their attempt to make a living by singing, until they devise a plan to change that. Victoria (Andrews) becomes Victor, pretending to be a man impersonating a woman. Everyone thinks that this is a sign of talent, but it is actually her ability to appear slightly more masculine that convinces audiences that she is a man pretending to be a woman instead of a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. France
There are plenty of fantastic musical numbers within this film, helped a great deal by the Academy-Award-winning score by Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse, though it is
Preston’s performance which elevates the final number to excellence. James Garner co-stars as a gangster who risks his reputation when he falls in love with , while she is playing Victor. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, it is shocking that this classic is only now making its way to DVD. Victoria
With themes that are not far off from 10, Skin Deep is the story of a middle-aged man who must face the reality of his situation. John Ritter stars as womanizer Zach, whose unhappiness stems from his inability to find lasting love or motivation to write a second novel. Though he is determined to win back his ex-wife, this doesn’t stop Zach from self-destructively sleeping with every available woman that comes his way.
There is plenty of slapstick and one unforgettably shocking sequence, and though the humor is very much directed at adults, it still manages to resemble the Pink Panther. Verbal wit also takes over, as our protagonist is an author. In many ways, Skin Deep is like the film version of the hit television series, “Californication.” Though dated with 80s clothing and music, all of the plot points and character attributes line up in the same way.
All of these three films are being released through the Warner Brothers Archive Collection, which releases the movies in the best available condition without any restoration or attempts to create special features.