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MGM Studios DVD presents
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

Freddy: I'm telling you, I didn't steal any money from her, she gave it to me!
Inspector Andre: But she filed this complaint against you, monsieur.
Freddy: She caught me with another woman! Come on, you're French, you understand that.
Inspector Andre: To be with another woman, that is French. To be caught, that is American.

- Steve Martin, Anton Rodgers

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: November 29, 2001

Stars: Steve Martin, Michael Caine, Glenne Headly
Other Stars: Anton Rodgers, Barbara Harris, Ian McDiarmid, Dana Ivey, Meagen Fay, Frances Conroy, Nicole Calfan, A•na Walle, Cheryl Pay, Nathalie Auffret, Lolly Susi, Rupert Holliday Evans, Hepburn Graham, Xavier Maly, AndrŽ Penvern, Louis Zorich, Georges Gerrard Baffos, Valerie Beaufils, Jerry Goodman
Director: Frank Oz

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 01h:50m:44s
Release Date: December 04, 2001
UPC: 027616869272
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+A-A- C+

DVD Review

"Do you have any idea what it feels like to take a woman for twenty bucks?" - Freddy

Most people of my generation were first introduced to Frank Oz through his characters on Sesame Street, where his collaboration with muppeteer Jim Henson would have him performing characters Bert, Oscar and Grover. This would carry over into The Muppet Show, but his most famous puppeteering came as the master Jedi, Yoda, in The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. He and Henson would co-direct his first feature film, The Dark Crystal in 1983. After going solo on The Muppets Take Manhatten, Oz would direct the 1986 remake of Little Shop Of Horrors. Its followup, another remake, this time of the 1964 film, Bedtime Story, would tell the tale of a couple of con men battling for turf on the French Riviera. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels paired the formidable talents of comedian Steve Martin and acting veteran Michael Caine, reprising roles first held by Marlon Brando and David Niven. Glenne Headly would take the female lead, once held by Partridge Family mom, Shirley Jones.

Andre: She's the blonde in the blue sequined dress. Extremely rich, very married, imminently corruptible, and a willing infidel.
Lawrence: Perfect.

The seaside town of Beaumont sur Mer is a vacation paradise for rich foreigners, and here, there is one man who knows how to work the ladies. Lawrence Jameson (Caine) is a master con man, suave, sophisticated and able to extract vast sums from unsuspecting ladies by posing as a prince desperately trying to fund his country's freedom fighters. He discovers that someone else is making the ladies in his vicinity a mark, though the style of one Freddy Benson (Martin) lacks all class or aspirations for the great scam, as he revels in conning the unsuspecting into buying him a free lunch—an accomplishment he openly brags about to Jameson, whose double entendres don't let on that he is in the same racket. With news of an American con man named The Jackal making his way throughout Europe, and fearing the repercussions should this uncouth upstart begin scaring away larger game, Jameson arranges for Benson to be rerouted from his intended location, only to have him return to town in the company of Jameson's next intended mark.

"You can't be too careful Andre, after all, a poacher who shoots at rabbits may also scare big game away." - Lawrence

This unacceptable situation calls for retaliation, and since the town's police inspector (Anton Rodgers) is also Jameson's right hand man, landing Benson in jail is a fairly trivial undertaking, and his release is only on the promise that he leave town and never return. However, as luck would have it, Benson stumbles on to some interesting information on Jameson, which changes the playing field, and instead of being on the run, he winds up as Jameson's apprentice. This arrangement will only do for so long however, and soon the two men find themselves in a wager for the spoils available, as an unsuspecting American soap heiress (Glenne Headly) stumbles into the middle of their schemes, and becomes a challenge both men will do anything to meet. What ensues is the kind of hilarity you could only get from a couple of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

"May I take your trident, sir?" - Arthur

I have seen this film innumerable times, and it never fails to make me laugh. The casting was a master stroke. Caine and Martin compliment each other perfectly, with Martin's over-the-top comedy contrasting with Caine's smooth and aristocratic appearances. Glenne Headly holds her own as the center of attention, as the two men try desperately to foil the other's plans. The supporting cast is equally up to the challenge, from Barbara Harris' Fanny Eubanks to Meagen Fay and Frances Conroy's parts as unsuspecting suitors. Each adds yet another dimension to our pair's underhanded maneuvering, providing ample opportunity for them to lower the depths of their despicable behavior.

"Not mother?" - Ruprect

The cinematography plays a vital role in the comedy, both by what appears on screen, and what is left just out of camera view, with the use of clever reveals throughout, changing the tone of a scene in an instant. The lush, sub-tropical landscape of the French Riviera is delivered with a wonderful eye for composition, and the judicious use of master shots and cuts punctuate the comic sense to perfection.

The pacing is flawless, carrying the commentary in a humorous and unpredictable fashion. The story's twists and turns, based on the original Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning script, keep the audience wondering what will happen next. The film is filled with priceless dialogue and gags, from Martin's dinner time antics to his sappy tale of woe that he hopes will help him claim his prize. Caine musters a few characterizations of his own to do his part in this battle of wills. Chock-full of memorable scenes, brimming with insane situations and the unstoppable and unconscionable ends each man will go to come out ahead, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a comic masterpiece, and comes highly recommended.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: MGM presents Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in a new, anamorphic transfer. The picture is extremely film-like, exhibiting visible, but natural grain, a warm and rich color palette, and no signs of edge enhancement or compression issues, even in often problematic deep blue skies. While the color fidelity is only marginally better than the older Image release, the increased resolution brings out more of the detail, and black levels appear more solid than before.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishno
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Another distinction from the former release of this title is the upgrade to a 5.1 surround track which, while not getting gimicky with the surrounds, does add more openness, giving a less confined presentation. Audio is clean with no edginess or distortion, and a natural-sounding, full range. French and Spanish stereo surround tracks are also available.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Portugese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Frank Oz
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: The big change from the original DVD release of this title is in the supplements provided.

First is a screen-specific commentary from director Frank Oz, who is obviously enjoying the film after thirteen years, which he mentions quite frequently. The commentary covers many of the technical aspects, especially Michael Ballhaus' cinematography and lighting. Script development is also well covered, noting the collaboration between Oz and his stars for capturing just the right tone for each scene. A little dry in places, there is an ample amount of interesting information contained here.

A 06m:47s making-of featurette is included as well, which is primarily interview footage and behind-the-scenes footage from the set with the principle cast and the director discussing the various aspects of the film, from the story to the characters to the art of directing comedy.

There is an original teaser trailer shot specifically for previews, which is a setup not included in the film. This has an optional commentary track as well.

The theatrical trailer rounds out the extras.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

As one of my favorite comedies of all time, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels features scene after scene of comic mayhem, as rival con men set their scheming eyes on the ultimate prize. Brilliantly scripted from beginning to end, unforgetable and extremely funny, this one gets my highest recommendation, with the added feature set making this a worthy upgrade from its bare-bones predecessor.

 


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