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MGM Studios DVD presents
"There's nothing wrong with my back, if you'd just get off it!"
DVD ReviewBilly Wilder's The Fortune Cookie stars Jack Lemmon as Harry Hinkle, a hapless CBS cameraman bowled over by halfback Luther "Boom Boom" Jackson (Ron Rich) while broadcasting a football game. During his brief stay in the hospital, Hinkle's shyster lawyer brother-in-law Willie Gingrich (Walter Matthau) decides it just might be worth suing CBS, the Cleveland Browns, and Jackson for a cool million dollars. He just has to talk the relatively uninjured Hinkle into going along with the scheme, and enlists the aid of Harry's sorely missed ex-wife Sandy (Judi West) to help keep him off the straight-and-narrow.
The setup is classic Wilder and Lemmon/Matthau stuff. Matthau has a great deal of fun in his Academy Award®-winning Supporting Actor role, as he mugs, schemes, steals dimes from the Unwed Mothers charity box, and generally makes a sleazy nuisance of himself. Lemmon does his usual righteous indignation bit before succumbing to the hope he can win Sandy back, while the guilt-ridden "Boom Boom" brings him flowers, assists him with physical therapy, and cooks meals for him. Supporting performances include very funny work by Cliff Osmond as a private detective assigned to monitor Hinkle's actions, and Lurene Tuttle as Hinkle's mother, who cries at the drop of a hat.
Unfortunately, the premise never quite gels into the comic gem promised by the stellar cast and director. Hinkle's dilemma doesn't evolve much after he gives in to Gingrich's exhortations, leaving Gingrich himself with little to do beyond negotiating with the insurance company lawyers and spending Hinkle's settlement prematurely. Sandy is so transparently selfish that her motives are never in doubt, and "Boom Boom"'s brief flirtation with alcoholism is downright depressing, with no compensating levity.
Perhaps some judicious editing and tightening would have helped, but as it stands, the two-hour-plus The Fortune Cookie contains some very funny moments but doesn't quite work as a whole.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: MGM farmed this transfer out to a mastering facility I haven't heard of before, by the name of Modern VideoFilm. While the 2.35:1 widescreen original aspect ratio is maintained and the image is rendered anamorphically, it just doesn't look very good, despite the dual-layer transfer. The opening credits are so soft the fine print is unreadable, and the image suffers from shimmer and moire effects on fine textures, obscured details, motion artifacts, some edge enhancement and apparent "blooming" on bright areas. The source print is damaged in a few spots, and "cigarette burn" reel-change markers turn up as well. Just not up to standard (though it is clear enough to show crew members reflected in a window in one shot!)
Image Transfer Grade: D
Audio Transfer Review: The Fortune Cookie features its original monophonic English audio, in Dolby Digital 2.0 format for ProLogic-decoding to the center speaker, as well as a French 2.0 mono dub. The audio seems to have an inherently clipped character, and a few scenes are "boomy" where dialogue was recorded live. The track is otherwise cleanly transferred, just audibly dated.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Layers Switch: 01h:03m:42s
Extras Review: Another MGM rush job, with no extras beyond 16 picture-menu chapter stops (which at least do align to the 16 intertitles Wilder uses to structure the film), French and Spanish subtitles, and the film's original theatrical trailer, in 2.35:1 letterboxed nonanamorphic format drawn from a damaged print.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsThe Fortune Cookie starts with a funny premise but doesn't do much with it, despite fine performances by Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. MGM's DVD features a rather poor transfer and few supplements; recommended for rental only.
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