Posts Tagged ‘Gene Hackman’

DVD Geek: Lucky Lady

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

In 1975, the heavily promoted Lucky Lady, sporting three big boxoffice names, was intended to be a Twentieth Century Fox blockbuster.  Directed by Stanley Donen, Liza Minnelli, Burt Reynolds and Gene Hackman play Prohibition Era rumrunners on the Pacific Coast, who fall into a comfortable Design for Living ménage relationship as they battle competitive gangsters and the Coast Guard.  Full of witty one-liners and some decent slapstick (especially from Reynolds), it followed the movie company formula for success precisely, but audiences quickly sniffed a turkey and the stars couldn’t save it.  Outside of a few pining-for-her-mother enclaves, nobody actually liked Minnelli as a movie star, and unless Reynolds was driving fast cars and speaking in CB talk, nobody really liked him, either.  As for Donen, well he had just finished The Little Prince, and Saturn 3 was on the horizon, so the quality portion of his career was receding quickly in the rear-view mirror.  Panicking, the studio tried out two new endings after the movie hit the theaters—another flag of disaster, to be sure (one of the endings, where the cast was wearing terrible old age makeup, was just awful)—but nothing could rescue the film and it sank without a trace.  The problem is that it sank too deeply.  The film is a little messy and rather silly, but it isn’t all that bad, and certainly deserved more post-circulation on television and such than it received.  Truth be told, Minnelli is positively delectable (she even has several teasing near-topless scenes), and her opening musical number alone is worth the price of the Shout Factory DVD release.  The witty one-liners may seem labored upon, but they are delivered with flair by the cast, who all do genuinely professional jobs to justify their big-score salaries.  The action stunts are decent, the antique boats are fun, there is a fine supporting cast including Robby Benson, John Hillerman, Geoffrey Lewis and Michael Hordern, and the ending that was settled upon is satisfying (although it is a shame the DVD did not include the others).  In the year of Jaws, the film represented Old Hollywood ways and means being eviscerated by the new, but now it is simply a pleasant amusement from the past and an easy way to spend 118 minutes free from the stresses of the modern world.

The film’s production designs and costumes are fabulous, but the cinematography is absolutely horrible.  Most of the shots are so gauzy, they remind one of trying to see things in the morning when suffering from a severe eye infection, in both eyes, or trying to read with your glasses after eating greasy chicken.  Applied haphazardly but substantially, the effect is atrocious and looked terrible in the theater, but is even worse in these days of computer-crisp video transfers.  That flaw acknowledged, the color transfer is as good as it can possibly get.  The image is letterboxed with an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback.  Hues look fresh and fleshtones are palpable.  The monophonic sound is smooth and strong, but the quality tends to magnify the massive dialog overlays and alterations, and there is no subtitling.  Along with three trailers and a TV commercial, there is a 10-minute production featurette (the film was shot on water, thus extending its shooting time to two-thirds of a year, something Reynolds repeatedly jokes about) and a 7-minute featurette.