• Harry And Walter Go To New York

    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: February 24, 2018
    Director: Mark Rydell
    Cast: James Caan, Elliott Gould, Diane Keaton, Michael Caine, Jack Gilford, Charles Durning, Dennis Dugan, Carol Kane, Burt Young, David Proval, and Lesley Ann Warren
    Year: 1976
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Imagine a mash-up of The Sting and Ocean’s Eleven, but without the clever plotting and star chemistry of the former and the finger-snapping cool and playful irreverence of the latter, and you have something close to Harry and Walter Go to New York. A breezy yarn set in the late 19th century, Harry and Walter came to life courtesy of director Mark Rydell (The Rose), with two of the 1970’s finest male movie stars – James Caan and Elliott Gould – in tow. Along with a pre-Annie Hall Diane Keaton as the female lead and Michael Caine, fresh off John Huston’s smashing classic adventure The Man Who Would Be King, as the film’s adversary, Rydell’s comic crime caper promised audiences of the time some good old-fashioned Hollywood entertainment and little else, and that’s pretty much what they got.

    Caan and Gould star as Harry Dighby and Walter Hill, a pair of scam artists occupying the bottom of the underworld totem pole who use their guise as song-and-dance men in 1892 Massachusetts to fleece their unsuspecting audiences. After one such ruse ends in arrest for both our lowly heroes, they’re shipped off to prison where they became the cellmates and willing servants of Caine’s gentlemanly bank robber Adam Worth, who is planning to take down the nation’s most impenetrable bank even as he enjoys first-class treatment in the clink. While feisty newspaper woman Lissa Chestnut, played by Keaton, is visiting the prison to interview Worth, Harry and Walter managed to snap a photograph of the bank’s security layout in Worth’s possession, destroy the master copy, and make a daring break from the slammer. They head to New York – so sayeth the title – and meet up with Chestnut, ultimately convincing her to help them rob the bank before Worth, who was paroled prior to their escape, catches on to their plot and beats them to the punch. You got all that?

    Everybody involved with this movie seems to be having a good time. If only that sense of jubilation translated to an enjoyable feature. Harry and Walter Go to New York, scripted by John Byrum and Robert Kaufman from a story Byrum wrote with Don Devlin, has good intentions and a top-notch cast and crew trying to make a work, but it never comes together as either a comedy or an intelligent yarn. The humor comes intermittently throughout the 111-minute running time, what little can be found amidst Rydell and company’s vain attempt to organically craft the comic lunacy and excitement the movie sadly lacks where it really counts. Caan and Gould are terrific actors and commanding movie leads and they make a plausible team, but the script lets them down in giving their characters actual motivations, not to mention anything funny to say or do that doesn’t involve fast-paced arguments and screaming that don’t make sense and fail to generate anything memorable.

    Rydell allows many scenes to get away from him, and some judicious editing would have been welcome to pare down an excessive length that didn’t have enough story to sustain it. The four leads make a valiant effort to make the time pass with fun and frivolity, but all the movie star charisma in the world couldn’t make that happen no matter what. Keaton is a delight to watch as the fearless defender of the Fourth Estate who sees aiding and abetting two wannabe bank robbers as the service of a greater good, ably matched by Caine’s dastardly and debonair professional crook. Caine is able (tee hee) to steal a great many scene with a cool line reading or his winning smile, leaving Caan and Gould to shoulder most of the film’s comedic heavy-lifting with mixed results. The leads are supported by a galaxy of wonderful character actors given little to do but succeeding beyond meager expectations to make the most of their limited parts and camera time.


    Twilight Time presents Harry and Walter Go to New York in a new 1080p high-definition transfer correctly framed in the 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio in which the film was shot and theatrically exhibited. The source used for the transfer looks to have been a pre-existing video master, perhaps the one used for the 2002 DVD release, since it doesn’t come close to resembling a fresh HD scan of original film elements. For the most part, the picture looks solid, though as unexceptional as the film itself. Colors are warm and don’t bleed, favoring rich browns and deep reds for the interiors and steely greys for the exteriors. Due to filters used in the cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs (Easy Rider) to give the film an intentionally aged look, grain content is high but maintained consistently the entire time, and there are no traces of permanent print damage.

    The English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track does well in replicating the original theatrical mono sound mix with noteworthy results. The track keeps the frantic dialogue and David Shire’s (The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three) period-appropriate score front and center and allows for the sound effects portion of the mix to mesh well with the other components without either clashing or creating distortion. English subtitles have also been provided.

    Supplements are limited to a new audio commentary featuring film historians Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo, the original theatrical trailer (2 minutes), and an isolated DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 music track spotlighting Shire’s score with crisp precision. The commentary is laudable for the sheer volume of information related to the film and its talent on both sides of the camera by the well-prepared historians, and the track rarely suffers from stretches of dead air. Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo also contributes another excellent booklet of liner notes offering a detailed appreciation of this feathered fowl of a motion picture.

    The Final Word:

    Harry and Walter Go to New York is fine but forgettable entertainment in which a good director and a bevy of gifted professionals in the acting and technical departments go about the business of earning an easy paycheck while crafting such a lightweight endeavor. The limited-edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time at least offers fine picture and sound quality and some decent extra features for some much-needed added value. Recommended if you have an urge to check out an offbeat lark from a decade that could use all the optimism and joy it could get.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!