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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)

Mpudi: So how did the land rover get up the tree?
Andrew Steyn: Do you know she has flowers on her panties?
Mpudi: So that's how it got up the tree.

- Michael Thys, Marius Weyers

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: June 01, 2004

Stars: Marius Weyers, Sandra Prinsloo, N!xau
Other Stars: Louw Verwey, Michael Thys, Nic De Jager, Fanyana H. Sidumo, Joe Seakatsie, Brian O'Shaughnessy, Vera Blacker, Ken Gampu, Paddy O'Byrne, Jamie Uys
Director: Jamie Uys

MPAA Rating: PG for (brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:48m:43s
Release Date: June 01, 2004
UPC: 043396061088
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

South African filmmaker Jamie Uys created a sleeper hit with his 1980 venture, The Gods Must Be Crazy, which would become the most successful film out of Africa, and make its unlikely central character a global celebrity. I can remember rolling on the floor with laughter at my first exposure to it when it reached home video, and it still remains one of the funniest films I have ever seen. Columbia had previously issued this and its sequel, The Gods Must Be Crazy II, as a double-disc set, but have now released each title sepearately.

Deep in the Kalahari Desert there are tribes of bushmen who have never experienced the outside world. Theirs is a simple, peaceful existence, living off the dry and inhospitable lands, making do with the limited natural tools available. They have no concept of evil, and believe that the gods have only put good things in their world. One day, a passing airplane drops an object into their territory, and what a marvel it is, this gift from the gods. Harder than anything they have ever seen, the item soon becomes indespensible for everything, but it also begins to erode their community with jealousy and conflict they have never known. At a tribal meeting, Xixo determines that the gods must have made a mistake in sending this item, and sets out to the ends of the earth to return it.

Meanwhile, Kate Thompson is a school teacher newly assigned to a remote village, whose journey becomes even more complicated when she meets Andrew Steyn, the field biologist enlisted to transport her to her new place of employment. Normally an educated and fairly together sort of person, Steyn has a predisposition to becoming a bumbling idiot when in the presence of a woman, and several run-ins with the local animal population escape Thompson's attention, while leaving Steyn in embarrassing situations, and due to his affliction, he has no grace with which to explain his actions.

There is also much political unrest in the region, as an armed rebel band are making their way into the desert after a botched assassination attempt, the army hot on their tails, and it is inevitable that all their paths will cross...

How this all comes together is extremely funny. Uys weaves the three seperate storylines with a narrative voice-over, which gives it an almost documentary feel, and helps explain Xi's actions and reactions since he does not speak English. Each plotline has its own comedic sense—Xi's honest, naïveté bewilderment upon meeting those he considers gods; the Steyn/Thompson thread brimmed with slapstick; the rebel story adding jeopardy and still more zany characters to mix things up. The sight gags are made more pronounced by Uys' near nonstop manipulation of the film speed, which adds a surrealism to the film. The natural beauty of the locations comes across wonderfully in the wide aspect ratio.

Uys spent three months looking for his lead, which he found in an authentic bushman, N!xau, whose natural acting ability and charisma are instantly captivating, and his reaction to the trappings of civilization—like driving—are truley priceless. The chemistry between Weyers and Prinsloo works brilliantly as well, as their awkward relationship winds its way through a plentitude of misunderstandings.

The Gods Must Be Crazy is undoubtably a comedy, but it is also a biting commentary on the "progress" of the civilized world, contrasting the primitive yet placid society of the bushmen with the complicated and conflict ridden West. The film sparked a lot of interest and controversy at the same time. For many, the stunning settings of the Kalahari and its tribal inhabitants presented an attractive ideal, spawning an eco-tourism industry with thrill seekers flocking to spend time amid these primitive people, but although Uys' depiction of the bushmen may have been accurate decades before, the encroachment of civilization had already begun when the film was made. Others saw it as racist, and in some senses glorifying the benefits of colonialisation to the extent it was banned in several countries. Regardless of all of this, The Gods Must Be Crazy is a unique and brilliantly crafted comedy which I have long awaited in a decent home video release.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Overall image quality is quite good, however, the elements used for this transfer are not in the best of shape. Color fidelity is fine, with decent saturation and black levels. Detail is very good, though the film does have a softer quality to it. Grain is quite pronounced, and there are numerous scratches, dirt and other print defects, most of which are fairly minor. That said, it is is far better than any previous version I've seen.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Mono audio is clear and clean for the most part. There is some slight excess sibilance, and the narrative can be a bit muddy at times, but this seems source originated. There is no hiss to speak of, and distortion is minimal.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Japanese, Korean, Portugese, Spanish, Thai, Chinese with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Cops and Robbersons, Ghostbusters, So I Married an Axe Murderer
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo gallery
Extras Review: The principle extra is Daniel Reisenfeld's 2003 Journey to Nyae Nyae (25m:36s), a documentary on the film's star, which takes us to northern Namibia, near Botswana. Reisenfeld first travelled here to visit with N!xau (aka G/ga'o) in 1990, then returned 13 years later for his final visit, during which G/ga'o finally succumbed to tuberculosis. The feature includes interviews with G/ga'o, plus G/ga'o's visit to the school in Baraka, where he shares his thoughts on why the film was important. The feature concludes with G/ga'o's funeral. One thing to note here is that the subtitles default to off, but are necessary to understand what is being said.

There is also a small photo gallery from G/ga'o's trip to the Baraka school.

Trailers for Cops and Robbersons, Ghostbusters and So I Married an Axe Murderer are also included.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

The Gods Must Be Crazy is one of my all time favorite comedies, with its clash of cultures, slapstick routines and underlying social commentary. Finally available in widescreen on home video, this edition, with its sombre tribute to its star, makes an essential addition to the library.


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