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MGM Studios DVD presents
Prizzi's Honor (1985)

"Do I ice her? Do I marry her? Which one of these?"
- Charley (Jack Nicholson)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: September 07, 2003

Stars: Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner
Other Stars: Angelica Huston, William Hickey
Director: John Huston

MPAA Rating: R
Run Time: 02h:08m:50s
Release Date: September 16, 2003
UPC: 027616895530
Genre: black comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-BB- D

DVD Review

There's unquestionably a recognizable on-screen Jack Nicholson persona—the classic Nicholson character is a rapscallion, charming, devilish, a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye—he's up to something, but he's not letting on exactly what.

But one thing that Nicholson's characters rarely display is stupidity, and Charley Partanna, the role he plays in Prizzi's Honor, is the exception to that fairly steadfast rule. Nobody raises their eyebrows quite like Nicholson—with Charley, though, the joke is usually on him, and gets at some of the problems with this fairly entertaining but rather unsatisfying mob comedy.

The level of talent assembled is impressive—directed by aging lion John Huston, shot by Andrzej Bartkowiak (whose work was so beautiful on The Verdict, among many other films), with a musical score by Alex North (who performed similar chores on A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman)—but the story they're working on isn't much. Charley Partanna is a button man for the Prizzis—the head of the family is Don Corrado (William Hickey), and before the film begins, Charley and the Don's granddaughter, Prizzi black sheep Maerose (Angelica Huston), have ended their engagement. At Maerose's sister's wedding, Charley falls head over heels for one of the guests: she's Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner), a tax consultant in for the festivities from Los Angeles. That's her story, anyway, and she's sticking to it.

The whirlwind courtship and marriage of Charley and Irene take up the first portion of the movie; the rest is devoted to settling old scores, featuring mob hits, wiseguy embezzlement scams, kidnapping, breaking and entering, and lots of pasta. You're never quite convinced that the pheromones are flying between Charley and Irene, and so the double-crosses don't wound us in the manner that they're apparently bothering the characters; much of the story feels like an afterthought to giving the actors a chance to chew some scenery. (Hickey especially devours more than his share, with a set of green teeth to help the cause.) Nicholson is always welcome company on screen, but you probably won't buy that he's a cold-hearted killer or hopelessly in love with Turner, which means that there's not a whole lot left to go on. He also lathers on a thick and fake-sounding neighborhood accent—he doesn't want to end up "like youze, wid nuttin." Hey, Charley: fuhgedaboudit.

In many respects the film feels as if it wants to be a self-conscious comic remodeling of The Godfather, which isn't necessarily a bad idea—what if Kay Adams Corleone was a Mafia soldier, too? But there just aren't enough laughs here, and the movie frequently feels oddly out of time. Shot in 1985, we see contemporary cityscapes—the World Trade Center is featured prominently in some of them—but many of the characters drive Packards or cars with huge tailfins, almost as if the previous thirty years hasn't happened to them. Prizzi's Honor is especially noteworthy in film history for the participation of the Huston dynasty, too—John directed his father Walter in Walter's Oscar®-winning performance in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and here he does the same for his daughter, Angelica. In lots of ways she's the best thing in the movie—one of the repeated visual jokes is that Charley is shorter than the women in his life, and when Maerose is on screen, Charley and the whole movie shines a little brighter.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: The palette is rich and the transfer is sharp, though occasional bits of debris can be seen, along with a couple of scratches. Flip the disc over for a pan-and-scan version, which crops up the images without too much brutality—the scenes between Turner and Nicholson are generally shown only in master shots, though, so bits and pieces of them get lopped out of the frame.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The audio track is pretty clean, but some of the dialogue looping is sloppy, for Turner's performance especially—on occasion she looks as is she's performing some sort of insane Mafia ventriloquism act.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This remains a fairly bare-bones disc—aside from adding some more chapter stops and flopping the cover image from the previous Anchor Bay release of the same movie, subtitles have been added and production notes removed.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Charley Partanna is a pussycat compared to the likes of Tony Soprano, but there are some mild pleasures to be had in seeing so many talented people at work, even if the material isn't as much fun or as sharp as you might hope.


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