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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Hanky Panky (1982)

"The best liars look the most innocent."
- Kate (Gilda Radner)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 11, 2002

Stars: Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner
Other Stars: Kathleen Quinlan, Richard Widmark
Director: Sidney Poitier

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: PG for (some language and violence)
Run Time: 01h:47m:14s
Release Date: September 24, 2002
UPC: 043396078895
Genre: comedy

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

DVD Review

Hanky Panky has quite an interesting history behind it. Originally conceived as yet another buddy film for popular duo Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor (the two had starred together in the successful Stir Crazy and Hear No Evil, See No Evil), plans for the pairing were scrapped when Pryor had to drop out because he was too busy lighting himself on fire in a drugged out haze. His role was rewritten to accommodate a woman, and Gilda Radner, fresh from Saturday Night Live, stepped in to take his place. Wilder and Radner hit it off, and eventually wed, after filming a few more pictures together. It's good that such a happy couple resulted from the production, since a worthwhile comedy most certainly did not.

The plot is basically a clone of the Pryor/Wilder mistaken-identity comedies, which themselves borrowed heavily from Hitchcock classics like North By Northwest. Wilder plays Michael Jordon (no, not that one, not even a comedic genius like Gene Wilder could pull off playing a 6'6" black man), a regular guy who gets wrapped up in intrigue and government conspiracy when he grabs a cab with the wrong woman. The FBI is convinced that she has passed him a "computer tape" vital to national security, and it's not long before he's framed for murder and on the run from the law. Enter Kate (Gilda Radner), a snooping reporter on the trail of a scoop. Michael convinces her he's innocent, and the two work together to figure out why the government is trying to kill him and what is on the ultra hi-tech "data tape." Will they solve the mystery in time for Jordon to score 63 points in the playoff semi-finals against the Celtics? Probably not.

Radner and Wilder make a great comedic team (and they'd continue to do so, playing opposite one another in two more films), but their cracking chemistry can't save a convoluted script that's densely plotted but devoid of humor. The conspiracy subplots are totally over the top, but are played too serious. Director Sidney Poitier never quite manages to find the funny, contributing little to the film other than a muddled visual style and a leaden pace. In scenes sans Radner, he allows Wilder to run off at the mouth and shrilly scream his every line, not the best way to endear him to an audience that's supposed to fear for his life.

If Hanky Panky were actually as lighthearted as the premise suggests, it might have been an enjoyable caper. As is, it's a messy mix of faux suspense and scarce humor. Hitchcock-light, but not light enough.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Video quality is about average for a film of this vintage. Colors look a bit washed out, and black level is only fair. Softness is a bit of a problem, as is damage to the source materials, which show quite a bit of grain and some scratches here and there (not that grain is necessarily bad; this print just looks dirty). Artifacting isn't much of a problem, but the compression required to fit both a widescreen and a full frame transfer on the same side of a DVD-9 has resulted in some noticeable aliasing on hard edges. Speaking of, edge halos are occasionally apparent, but not really intrusive.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in fairly lifeless English mono. It's not a horrible track, as mono mixes go, but it sounds pretty dated. Dialogue is always audible, but occasionally muffled or unsupported and shrill (particularly when characters yell). Reproduction of the score could likewise be better; the track lacks fidelity and support in the high ranges.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring A League of Their Own, Manhattan Murder Mystery
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: In typical "catalogue title" style, extras are limited to the trailer and bonus clips for A League of Their Own and the delightful Manhattan Murder Mystery, and we can certainly see why they've chosen those two particular films to highlight. Er.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Hanky Panky has a misleading title; it's a dull comedy totally bereft of both "hank" and "pank." Even the chemistry between soon-to-be-wed Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner can't generate much entertainment. Columbia TriStar's DVD adequately hoists the film into the digital era, but the high price and lack of supplements will likely deter all but the most hardcore fans. Stanky!


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