Oscar [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (15th September 2018).
The Film

In trying to honor the dying wish of his father (Spartacus' Kirk Douglas), gangster Angelo "Snaps" Provolone (Rocky's Sylvester Stallone) has resolved to go straight by becoming a banker. His lack of participation in recent gangland activity, however, has raised more suspicions than it has quelled, with both rival Vendetti (Mean Streets' Richard Romanus) and fame-hungry police lieutenant Toomey (Robocop's Kurtwood Smith) believing on the flawed intel of a stuttering stool pigeon (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York's Eddie Bracken) that Snaps is planning to form a partnership with the Irish O'Bannion gang. On the day that Angelo is to meet with the board members of the city's biggest bank (Ghostbusters' William Atherton, Animal House's Mark Metcalf, Michael Clayton's Ken Howard, and 10 to Midnight's Sam Chew Jr.) – who feel that they must lower themselves for the influx of his capital – everything that can go wrong, of course, does go wrong. Angelo's accountant "Little Anthony" Rossano (Rumble Fish's Vincent Spano) asks for the hand of his daughter, planning to support her on the fifty-thousand dollars he has embezzled from Angelo's business dealings. Angelo at first balks at the proposal and the stolen money until his defiant daughter Lisa (My Cousin Vinny's Marisa Tomei) pretends that she is pregnant. When a young woman named Theresa (Adrenalin: Fear the Rush's Elizabeth Barondes) shows up and reveals that it was actually she that Anthony proposed to and that she lied about being his daughter to impress him, Angelo schemes to get back the money, even if it means tricking Anthony into marrying Lisa when his wife Sofia (Flash Gordon's Ornella Muti) insists that he find her a husband after she reveals that the father of her nonexistent unborn child is former chauffeur Oscar who has since joined the army and shipped overseas. Even without the scandal of premarital sex, Lisa's engagement to pimply Bruce Underwood has gone up in smoke when fiery maid Nora (The Mambo Kings' Joycelyn O'Brien) announces that he has fallen in love with her. When she mistakes her bag of underwear for Anthony's bag carrying the precious stones he has bought with Angelo's money – and subsequently the bag of cash he tries to use to buy them back – Angelo's attempt to retrieve the jewels and the cash back are frustrated by the confusion of trusted thugs Aldo (Moonstruck's Peter Riegert) and Connie (Bullets Over Broadway's Chazz Palminteri). Meanwhile, Anthony tries to get out of his forced engagement to Lisa by pushing her towards Angelo's elocution instructor Dr. Thornton Poole (Clue's Tim Curry). Also adding to the confusion are Father Clemente (Cocoon's Don Ameche) seeking donations, the Finucci brothers (Jurassic Park's Martin Ferrero and The Simpsons's Harry Shearer) fitting Angelo for a new suit, and the new maid Roxanne (Dallas' Linda Gray) who is about to spring a shocking secret on the family. The various comings and goings, including multiple ones by Anthony and Nora with lookalike bags, naturally has Toomey thinking he is about to execute the bust of the century while Vendetti has decided that Angelo and the O'Bannion gang need to be wiped out.

Based on a stage play by Claude Magnier – adapted at least three times previous for television and twice for the screen, most notably Édouard Molinaro's 1967 film starring comedian Louis de FunèsOscar seems like an odd property to be dusted off for a Stallone star vehicle, but the Razzie nominations should in no way suggest to viewers that this nineties guilty pleasure is of the so-bad-it's-good variety. It was an attempt by director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) to blend the French farce of the original play with Old Hollywood comedy, even to the extent of playing like a barely opened-up set-bound play on sets by Bill Kenney (Tango & Cash) that simultaneously look lush and artificial under the heavy-on-the-eye-light retro cinematography of the dependable Mac Ahblerg (Innocent Blood). Some of the broader comic gags are a sign of the adaptation by The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson/Late Show with David Letterman writing teamMichael Barrie and Jim Mulholland, but there is as much to savor from the barnstorming of Stallone, Muti, Tomei, and O'Brien to the ham of Curry and Palminteri or the understated likes of Riegert and Spano – and a hilarious guest appearance by Douglas – not to mention a supporting cast that includes the likes of Yvonne de Carlo (Brute Force) and Art LaFleur (WarGames). Oscar may not have played as well for this viewer as it did upon release, but it is part of that more scattershot post-eighties period of Touchstone Pictures comedies that gave us that ranged from underrated titles like Noises Off (another play adaptation), The Ref, and Green Card to the popular (Sister Act), the odd (Cabin Boy), and the desperate (Three Men and a Little Lady and My Father the Hero).

Video

Previously available on DVD from Buena Vista Entertainment, Oscar comes to Blu-ray in a 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen transfer looking quite good for the most part. Fine detail like the patterns of thirties suits and the studio artifice of the settings come through strongly while skintones can look a bit pink (apart from Stallone who seems to have put on a couple coats of bronzer).

Audio

The sole audio option is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo track of the original Dolby Stereo mix that highlights the opera passages and Elmer Bernstein's musical accents but is mainly directional with people (mainly Stallone) rushing back and forth across the sets, people bursting through doors, and atmosphere from rainfall to passing cars. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided.

Extras

Besides the film's theatrical trailer (1:23), the only other extra is an interview with director John Landis (15:24) in which he reveals that the French play had been produced by Carlo Ponti - whose brother Alex served on the film as executive producer - and Landis was enamored of the farce but not the play or the sixties film version. He does not name the original star, but it seems as if he is not talking about John Belushi who he considered when he first tried to get the project off the ground in 1982, but mentions that casting Stallone lead to more freedom in casting the supporting roles. He also reveals that he approached Victor Mature (The Robe) but his agent demanded one million dollars for a day's work. When he was able to get Douglas for the role, Stallone told him that Douglas agreed to do it just to be able to hit him onscreen after being fired from First Blood where he was replaced by Richard Crenna (Breakheart Pass).

Overall

 


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