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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Harry And Walter Go To New York (1976)

Harry: The trouble with you and me, Walter, is that we think too small.
Walter: The only trouble with you and me, Harry, happens to be you.

- James Caan, Elliott Gould

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: July 31, 2002

Stars: Michael Caine, James Caan, Elliott Gould, Diane Keaton
Other Stars: Carol Kane, Lesley Ann Warren, Burt Young, George Gaynes, David Proval, Kathryn Grody
Director: Mark Rydell

MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 01h:51m:26s
Release Date: July 09, 2002
UPC: 043396078543
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- D+B-B+ D

DVD Review

In our zeal to see absolutely everything released on DVD, we get a good amount of chaff with the wheat, and here's a pretty fair example. The level of talent assembled for Harry And Walter Go To New York is high, but there's a reason it doesn't carry the stellar reputation associated with many other films made by the same participants. Unsuccessful movies can be as instructive as successful ones; they're generally just not a whole lot of fun to watch.

Walter (Elliott Gould) and Harry (James Caan) are a couple of vaudevillians whose act is bombing on the Massachusetts circuit at the end of the nineteenth century; their onstage antics seem deliberately reminiscent of some of the Hope/Crosby/Road pictures. The boys are busy supplementing their income pickpocketing their customers, which lands them in the hoosegow, but they luck into a pretty sweet prison gig: they become the personal manservants to Adam Worth (Michael Caine), world famous bank robber temporarily inconvenienced by a brief stay in the slammer.

Harry and Walter inadvertently destroy Worth's blueprints for his biggest heist yet, of a Massachusetts bank brimming with cash. In a series of "comic" complications, they all get out of jail, and set about, from opposite sides, tunneling into the bank vault.

The problems with this movie are many, but the biggest one is that insurmountable obstacle for a comedy: it's shockingly unfunny. It's a movie in which people yell at each other, a lot, apparently attempting to make up in volume what it lacks in punch lines, and in which the notion of a sight gag has been confused with merely blowing stuff up. Nitroglycerine is a sorry substitute for a joke.

The next charge against the movie is against the two main characters, and the lack of distinction between them. Harry is a bumbling idiot; Walter, on the other hand, is a bumbling idiot. Goodness knows I don't want to point to it as a paragon of movie comedy, but Ishtar at least had something going for it on this score, albeit something deeply misguided—in that movie, legendary womanizer Warren Beatty couldn't talk to the girls, while his pal Dustin Hoffman was the notorious playboy. At least those guys had something, some sort of premise to start from. Gould has been funny elsewhere (M*A*S*H, for instance), but I don't know that Caan has; in any event, they're unlikely to have been the first (or second or third) choices to play a couple of song-and-dance men on the lam.

Diane Keaton as the principal love interest fares no better. She's all stammers and outrage, and in the absence of any decent material she's got nothing to hang her hat on. Her performance as a humorless crusading left-wing journalist is in some respects the parodic version of a deeply felt and fine acting job she would turn in just a few years later in a similar role, in Reds. As is true with Keaton, Michael Caine can't conjure up a character or performance out of nothing, and while he demonstrates a certain amount of screen charisma, you almost get the sense that he knows that the material isn't worthy of him. There are some talented actors wasted in smaller roles, too, including Charles Durning as a priapic bank manager, Burt Young as an absurd prison warden, and Carol Kane as a heavily-accented revolutionary: "Ahh seeenk eet eess bah za bed."

Curiously enough, given the title, very little of the action takes place in New York, but then I suppose Harry and Walter Go To Sudbury doesn't have quite the same ring to it. It's some sort of indication, though, of the movie's problems—Northeastern geography aside, the filmmakers should have been on the hunt for some more jokes and a better story.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The fine work by director of photography Laszlo Kovacs is shown off to good effect in this transfer: the black and color levels are excellent, and the resolution is particularly fine. But the print doesn't seem to have been spruced up at all for DVD, as there are a good amount of scratches (in the second half of the movie especially), and the reel change indicators can be seen with numbing regularity.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The stereo mix is a pretty lush one, surprisingly enough, and it seems as if a sound mixer somewhere was having a good time with this. Buzzing and hissing are generally absent, though the ambient noise level can occasionally be too high. Balance and dynamics are a couple of rungs above adequate as well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Murder By Death, For Pete's Sake
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The original Harry And Walter trailer is presented in widescreen, and the other two are full frame, but other than that, there are no other extras on the disc.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Walter and Harry may have to go to New York, but you're probably better off if you don't go with them. Some fine photography and a respectable transfer can't make up for the fact that the great majority of the "jokes" in this "comedy" fall pancake flat.


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