Nutty Professor, The (50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition)
Released by: Warner Brothers
Released on: June 3rd, 2014.
Director: Jerry Lewis
Cast: Jerry Lewis, Stella Stevens
Purchase From Amazon
Co-written by, directed by and starring Jerry Lewis, 1963’s The Nutty Professor celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year (a year late, somehow!) and Warner Brothers has rolled out the red carpet in honor of this goofy comedy classic. The story revolves around a chemistry Professor named Julius Kelp (Jerry Lewis in a performance that was obviously the inspiration for Professor Frink on The Simpsons – in fact, on one episode of the show Lewis himself provided the voice work for Frink’s father!), a strange looking, introverted man who is as clumsy as he is socially awkward. After a football player in one of his classes tosses him into a closet, he’s helped out by the kind and pretty Stella Purdy (Stella Stevens), another student.
Frink can’t help but like her, and he decides after seeing a Charles Atlas style advertisement in a magazine that he’ll head to the gym and start working out. After a running into a few beefcakes there (one of whom is Richard Kiel from Moonraker) and mishaps on both the weight machine and the bowling alley, he realizes he’s not cut out to be a gym rat. So Kelp uses what he’s good at – chemistry – to fix his problem. After he mixes up a few ingredients and tests things out he finally decides to experiment on himself and after a Jekyll and Hyde style transformation, he emerges a new man. Handsome, suave, debonair – he heads to the nightclub called The Purple Pit where he promptly puts the moves on a confused but intrigued Stella after thrilling the crowd to a rendition of Black Magic on the piano. When she asks him his name he tells her ‘Buddy… Buddy Love… of the Los Angeles Loves.’
As Buddy persists in his pursuit of Stella, his obnoxious behavior becomes as much of a turn off as a turn on and yet something about him seems familiar to her. The next couple of times Buddy appears at the club, the formula starts to wear off and his voice goes from smooth to whiny and nasally. Kelp knows that Buddy is a troublemaker but he becomes hooked on the attention that he gets as his alter ego, the kind that has eluded him his entire life up to this point. When it comes time for the big prom, all the kids want Buddy to play. The man in charge, Doctor Warfield (Del Moore) agrees, but only if he can meet Buddy that afternoon at 3pm…
A movie that ought to appeal to anyone who has ever felt ostracized or ever been picked on, The Nutty Professor is hokey, corny and more than a little goofy but it’s hard not to love the movie. The Jekyll & Hyde dichotomy is exploited effectively for laughs but underneath the rampant silliness of the concept and the execution there’s some decent heart. Kelp likes Stella, he just lacks the confidence to realize that she might actually feel the same way in return. As such, he literally has to become someone else in order to find the stones to ask her out. Of course, by the time that the end credits (which are quite funny on their own) roll, all has been set right. The movie is completely predictable in that regard even by the standards of its day, but really, would you want it to end any other way? It’s a feel good movie and a great one at that.
Lewis is in fine form here as both Kelp and Buddy. His knack for rubber faced physical comedy allows him ample opportunity to ham it up as both personas and the musical numbers he performs in the picture showcase his talent for musical comedy. He’s charming and likeable here and he has an interesting chemistry with the beautiful Stella Stevens, a gorgeous woman who also turns in fine work. Some nice supporting effort from Del Moore also works well in the context of the story being told. On top of that, the movie has a great ‘pop’ look to it. There’s bold and brash use of color and lighting throughout the movie evident in the costumes props and sets employed. This makes it an eye catching picture but it’s Lewis’ ridiculous characterizations here that make this one the classic that it is.
Warner Brothers presents The Nutty Professor on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in 1.78.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc and it looks excellent. This is a remarkably colorful movie and that really comes across in this new transfer right from the start. Scenes such as the one where Kelp ‘transforms’ for the first time to find himself rolling in the spilled chemicals on the floor of his lab really pop and the purple hues in the night club also stand out. The red and green chemicals in the beakers and flasks in the lab look great as well. Skin tones are nice and lifelike here, never to hot, while black levels stay solid throughout. There are no obvious compression artifacts nor is there any evidence of obvious noise reduction, though grain is very hard to see indicating that maybe some sort of filtering has been applied here. If it has, however, it doesn’t really seem to hurt the detail or result in any obvious smearing. At the same time, the picture is clean and free of any noticeable print damage. Detail and texture are both quite obviously above and beyond what standard definition can provide and all in all, the picture quality here is fantastic.
Audio options are provided in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in the film’s original English as well as in French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 options. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The 5.1 mix doesn’t completely envelop you with constant effects but it does spread out the score really nicely, particularly during the musical bits that take place in The Purple Pit. There’s also some decent surround activity during some of the more effects-intensive scenes. Dialogue stays anchored in the front of the mix as it should while levels are nicely balanced and the track is free of any hiss or distortion.
The special features on the Blu-ray release of The Nutty Professor are extensive, to say the least, starting with an audio commentary by Jerry Lewis and Steve Lawrence carried over from the previous DVD release. Now, this isn’t the most in-depth discussion of film history you’re ever going to hear but it is amusing. Lewis and Lawrence seem more interested in having fun here than in really getting into the nitty-gritty of the behind the scenes happenings but their enthusiasm is infectious. Lewis does offer up bits and pieces throughout, tales of what it was like on set, working with the different cast members and some tidbits into the musical bits featured in the movie. Lewis also notes a few things he isn’t happy with about the picture as it stands and talks about what he’d change if he were to do it all over again. He and Lawrence also seem pretty impressed with how foxy Stella Stevens was when she and Lewis made this movie together!
The disc features a new documentary on it entitled Jerry Lewis: No Apologies, which is a pretty interesting look at Lewis’ life and career, his methods and tactics and his influence as a performer and comedian. It runs roughly twenty-one minutes and features recently shot interview footage with Lewis from 2013 and shows off some equally recent clips of his live show (still going strong) alongside a wealth of archival clips and interview snippets.
Also carried over from the last DVD release is The Nutty Professor: Perfecting The Formula, a sixteen minute long featurette made up of interviews with Jerry Lewis, Stella Stevens, Lewis biographer James Neibaur and Jerry Lewis ‘historian’ (in fact, Lewis’ son) Chris Lewis. There’s a lot of behind the scenes info here, plenty of archival pictures and some fun stories shared by the two leads. The half hour long Jerry Lewis At Work featurette from the last DVD issue is also here, it’s a really interesting piece that cover his rise to fame as a solo artist, the years he spent working with Dean Martin, and then the feature films he would wind up making with Paramount. There are a load of interview clips here not only with Lewis but with many of the people that he’s worked with over the years and this is well worth checking out as it is thorough, interesting and often times quite funny.
Also carried over from the last DVD release are some shorter but no less amusing bits and pieces like the short clip of Jerry at Movieland Wax Museum where a wax figure in his likeness was unveiled. His son, Chris Lewis, provides commentary over this footage. We also get some Behind-The-Scenes Footage, a half dozen Deleted Scenes (most of which were better left out of the feature but are interesting to see regardless), screen tests for Julius Kelp and Warfield, four minutes worth of promo clips featuring Lewis and Stevens, thirteen minutes of vintage bloopers from the set, a few minutes of outtakes and a couple of trailers for the feature. Menus and chapter selection are also provided.
Also included in this boxed set are two previously released DVD versions of Lewis films, Cinderfella and The Errand Boy. Both are presented in anamorphic widescreen and feature commentary tracks by Lewis and Steve Lawrence again. Both discs also feature some amusing bloopers. On The Errand Boy there are also some promo spots and a trailer. These would appear to be identical to the DVD versions that were issued individually some years back and it’s a little irritating that they weren’t at least given Blu-ray releases alongside The Nutty Professor.
Also included in this set is a CD containing Jerry Lewis’ ‘Phoney Phone Calls’ made over a stretch of time from 1959 through 1972. This is basically just what you’d expect, Lewis making crank calls similar to what The Jerky Boys would do decades later, and harassing various victims who obviously have no idea they’re on the receiving end of a prank. This CD was originally released in 2001 on the Sin-Drome label. The track listing on this CD is as follows:
McIntosh Clothes / Turner's Drugs / Camera Shop / Borgia Liquor / Mr. Segal / Contest Winner / Pan Am Reservations / Vic Tanny Bodybuilders / Crying for His Bird / Lost Watch / Record Shop / Bill Lynch
Most of this stuff is pretty funny and as the CD has been out of print for quite a while, its inclusion here is welcome. Now, for review purposes WB sent only the discs that make up this set, they did not send packaging of insert material. According to the press release, however, final retail versions of this set will include:
-Recreated "Being A Person" book – 96-pages made up of drawings and quotes inspired/written by Jerry Lewis and drawn by his personal illustrator. 250 copies of this book were originally made and distributed to members of the cast and crew of The Nutty Professor after the director heard of general conflicts among them.
-48-Page Storyboard Book
-44-Page Cutting Script with Jerry's notes
-Directors Letter – A letter specially written by Jerry to present this new collection
The Final Word:
Well, it definitely would have been nice to get The Errand Boy and Cinderfella on Blu-ray and not just reissues of the previous DVDs but the HD presentation of The Nutty Professor, which is the reason most buyers will be interested in this set, is fantastic. The movie holds up really well, the disc is loaded with extras and the presentation is gorgeous.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!