• Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: January 22nd, 2019.
    Director: Frank Oz
    Cast: Steve Martin, Michael Caine, Glenne Headly, Barbara Harris, Anton Rodgers
    Year: 1988
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    Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Movie Review:

    Freddy Benson (Steve Martin of The Jerk) is a low-level American conman travelling through Europe scamming women out of twenty bucks here and there and maybe a free meal. Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine of Pulp) is essentially his classy British counterpart, although he’s far more successful and works on a much higher level, even going so far as to conning rich women into believing he’s a prince trying to fund the freedom fighters back in his homeland. When they meet on a train from Germany to the French Riviera, Lawrence plays it cool while Freddy boasts about his conquests. When Lawrence learns that Freddy intends to scope out the small town where he’s already established his operation, unaware that Lawrence has the town’s police chief, Inspector Andre (Anton Rodgers, who played #2 in The Prisoner way back when), in his back pocket. Lawrence tries to get rid of Freddy, but it doesn’t work.

    Eventually, when Freddy meets ‘Lady Fanny Eubanks Of Omaha’ (Barbara Harris of Nashville), he becomes wise to Lawrence’s game and shows up at his mansion refusing to leave. Eventually, Lawrence agrees to tutor him in his methods but only on the condition that he do exactly as instructed. Freddy agrees, and before you know it, he’s been classed up and learned from the best and he’s playing the part of the Prince’s ‘special brother’ Ruprecht and proving to be a great way to convince Lawrence’s female marks that he’s not quite the man they wat to marry. Things get complicated when Janet Colgate (Glenne Headley of Dick Tracy), the ‘American Soap Queen’ arrives in town. A charming, kind and attractive woman, she manages to catch the eye of both men at which point a wager is made between the two of them – whoever can con her out of $50,000.00 first will win, and the loser must leave town for good.

    Things get complicated from there.

    Martin and Caine are perfect together in this film. While the idea of taking a low-class character and pairing said character with his or her fancy rich counterpart might not be the most original idea by modern standards, director Frank Oz and writer Dale Launer manage to keep the story fresh and engaging even if it isn’t all that tough to figure out the ending well before we get there. As predictable as this might be, the audience is left in very capable hands and the film remains a genuinely funny picture even thirty years since it hit theaters.

    Production values are strong. The film had a decent budget and it shows. The location photography is frequently gorgeous and Jamieson’s Riviera estate and the surrounding area always beautifully photographed. The cinematography is often times quite impressive and the sound design in the picture is also quite strong.

    A big part of this, of course, is the cast. Martin gets most of the laughs here, the part he plays allowing him to show off his unnaturally amazing penchant for physical comedy quite frequently, whether it by when ‘Ruprecht’ urinates under the table at dinner or when a supposedly disabled Freddy gets out of his wheelchair and walks for the first time. Martin is hysterical here, he’s just a joy to watch. Caine is more of the straight man here, but he too has excellent comedic timing and proves to be the perfect foil for Martin’s oafish character. And while she didn’t get top billing, Glenne Headley certainly deserved it. She really is the third lead in the film and as Janet, she’s very good indeed. She’s cute, to be sure, but there’s more to her presence in the movie than that. Her chemistry with both of her male co-stars, Martin in particular, adds a whole lot of charm to the film’s character dynamic and she’s also very funny in her own quirky way.

    Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed in the film’s original 1.85.1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio taken from a new 2k scan of unnamed elements. Regardless of the source used, the transfer is a solid one. Color reproduction looks perfect, particularly those scenes that show off the beautiful oceanside locations, while black levels are nice and strong. The image is free of compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction and retains a nice, film-like quality throughout. Natural film grain is visible here but there’s no noticeable print damage at all, the image is pretty much pristine. Detail is quite strong and there’s good depth and texture here as well. No complaints, the movie looks great.

    English language options are provided in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound with optional subtitles offered in English only. The 5.1 mix opens things up a bit with the score and occasionally with sound effects as well where the 2.0 track can’t, but both options sound fine. Dialogue stays crisp, clear and perfectly audible while the levels are properly balanced throughout. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the included subtitles are easy to read.

    Carried over from the previous releases is the audio commentary with director Frank Oz that’s worth checking out for those who haven’t heard it prior. He gives a lot of credit to cinematographer Michael Ballhaus here and also praises his cast quite frequently, making sure we understand just how much of a group effort this film’s success really was. He covers a lot of ground here, from the locations that were used for the shoot to what it was like on set to the importance of the sound design used in the film to the quality of Dale Launer’s script. It’s a thorough, interesting and occasionally quite funny talk.

    New to this Shout! Factory release is an interview with writer Dale Launer that runs twenty-three-minutes. He talks about getting his start on Ruthless People, a few other early projects including one that he passed on, how Dirty Rotten Scoundrels had some rights issues early in its development, getting a director on board for the project, working with Frank Oz, his thoughts on Martin and Caine’s work in the film, how some of the earlier drafts of the script differ from what wound up on screen, the biggest laughs in the movie and how he feels about the quality of the writing in the film and much more.

    Also carried over from the DVD release is a seven-minute behind the scenes featurette (essentially an EPK though it does feature quick interview clips with Frank Oz, Michael Caine, Steve Martin, Glenne Headly, Michael Ballhaus and Dale Launer), a teaser trailer and a theatrical trailer. Menus and chapter selection options are also included and Shout! Factory packages this release with a slipcover and some reversible inner sleeve cover art.

    Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – The Final Word:

    Dirty Rotten Scoundrels remains a charming and very funny take on the ‘odd couple’ formula thanks to some great writing, smooth direction and some excellent performances from the three leads. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release adds a new interview to the existing set of extras and presents the film with a beautiful transfer and very fine audio. This one remains a lot of fun – recommended.

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