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Anchor Bay presents
"This is a job for Condorman! Ahhh! Harry! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
DVD ReviewIn 1981, the floundering Walt Disney studio released their first "PG" rated comedy, Condorman. Michael Crawford (a.k.a. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera) stars as overworked comic book creator Woodrow Wilkins, on a quest to create an international superhero. Insisting that "Condorman" not do anything in four-color Benday print that he couldn't do in real life, he ventures into danger and becomes mixed up in European spy business when he meets the beautiful Natalia Rambova (Barbara Carrera) while running an errand for his CIA file-clerk friend Harry (James Hampton.) Woody bumbles his way from fantasy into reality as he helps her elude her Soviet boss Krokov (Oliver Reed) and defect to the United States, using gadgetry of his own design.
This comedy-adventure film was a resounding flop in theatrical release, failing to compete with other studios' more adult comedies. But the film plays reasonably well for a family audience today. It opens with a cleverly animated credits sequence and features some beautiful European locations. Crawford is an appealingly physical comedian who manages to raise smiles even when the script's situations run out of steam, and genuine romantic chemistry is created between Natalia and Woody. Veteran character actor Oliver Reed as Krokov doesn't get to do much—he mostly stands around, looking dour and making threats—but his expressive face is still fun to watch. Director Charles Jarrott films many dialogue scenes in one long take, allowing his actors room to work, although judicious editing would have been a good idea in some scenes.
The film's "PG" rating derives from the film's frequent but innocuous explosions, crashes and gunfire. Jarrott seems more comfortable directing action than actors, and the film features solid stunt and pyrotechnics work, with Woody's James Bond-esque vehicles and gimmicks providing several surprises as the lovebirds flee a growing list of enemies. Condorman's episodic plot moves along well, and the occasional slow moment or obvious rear-projection shot passes by quickly. The comedy isn't out-and-out hilarious—it relies mostly on Cold War spy gags and slapstick reminiscent of the Herbie movies—but it does have its moments, and it's all harmless enough. Kids will enjoy the action, and parents will appreciate the absence of foul language and other explanation-requiring content.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay presents Condorman in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio with a non-anamorphic transfer, also including a 1.33:1 full-frame pan-and-scan transfer (with letterboxed opening credits) on the flipside. The source print has some scratches and flecks here and there, with visible grain in optical shots and a suprising amount of dirt around reel changes, but the transfer is generally clean and sharp (aside from visible artifacting on small bright spots and thin edges.) Color is rich, black level is solid, complex textures are well rendered and this is a good transfer overall.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Condorman is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, with surprisingly vivid directionality and front-to-back panning (it's a shame that Anchor Bay's DVD packaging only lists "Stereo" audio.) Dialogue is centered with a heavy ADR presence typical of Disney's vintage live-action efforts, but atmospheric sound and Henry Mancini's energetic (if repetitive) score are nicely handled. The digital transfer is clean and hiss-free with solid bass, preserving the Dolby Stereo theatrical soundtrack with great fidelity.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Anchor Bay's Condorman DVD features a title screen and 17 chapter stops with picture menus, with no other on-disc supplements. A full-color keepcase insert contains some worthwhile production notes, but this is a bare-bones presentation with no trailers, subtitles, commentary or other extras.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsCondorman isn't a lost Disney classic by any means, but it's kid-safe and entertaining in its mild-mannered way. Anchor Bay's widescreen DVD transfer is very solid (and the malevolent presence of an additional cropped full-frame version makes this a great educational tool for the little ones.) No significant supplements, but worth a Saturday-afternoon rental.
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