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Anchor Bay presents
Prizzi's Honor (1985)

"This drop of blood symbolizes your birth into our family. We are one until death. We protect you, so must you protect Prizzi honor."
- Don Corrado Prizzi (William Hickey)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 10, 2000

Stars: Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner, Anjelica Huston
Other Stars: Robert Loggia, John Randolph, William Hickey, Lee Richardson, Michael Lombard
Director: John Huston

MPAA Rating: R for (language, violence, contract killings)
Run Time: 02h:08m:59s
Release Date: June 15, 1999
UPC: 013131083392
Genre: black comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-B-B+ D-

DVD Review

Sometimes passion can take one into places that are dark and dangerous. This goes doubly so for members of the mob and hired killers, or so John Huston would have us believe. His Oscar®-winning 1985 film, Prizzi's Honor, shows just what can happen in such a relationship, and the darkly funny consequences that are possible. But at bottom is the obligation to the Family and the oath of mutual protection that comes with it, and the defense of the family's honor.

The always entertaining Jack Nicholson stars as Prizzi family hitman Charley Partanna. His father Angelo (John Randolph) is the longtime consigliore to Don Corrado Prizzi (William Hickey), and Charley is the Don's godson. At a wedding of the godfather's granddaughter Theresa, Charley spots a mysterious blonde, Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner) and before you know it they're head over heels in love and on impulse get married. There are, however, a couple problems with their relationship: Irene is a killer for hire herself, who happens to have stolen a sizable amount of Prizzi money, and the Don's other granddaughter, Maerose Prizzi (Anjelica Huston) still wants Charley for herself, and will stop at nothing to get him back. A series of nasty crosses and double-crosses ensues, putting both Charley and Irene at risk of losing it all.

The film was justifiably nominated for eight Academy® Awards, and Anjelica Huston won Best Supporting Actress for her dry and cold-blooded portrayal of Maerose. All the performances are terrific, however, including Lee Richardson and the ubiquitous Robert Loggia who play the two sons of the Don. William Hickey's Don is a gaunt, ghastly lecherous but sly old creature that looks like he escaped from Night of the Living Dead. John Randolph is spot-on as the trusted family advisor torn between loyalty to The Family and his own family. Turner's smoke-enhanced throaty voice makes her sound as if she could believably be a stone-cold killer, and her affections for Charley are not overdone or oversubtle; she captures the madness and simultaneous insecurities of a fresh infatuation. Nicholson puts on a passable Brooklyn accent and nicely captures the sense of duty and honor to the family as well as the passion for his wife.

Huston's direction is surehanded throughout, from sprawling epic wedding scenes to intimate romantic scenes and lonely telephone conversations. Alex North's score quotes liberally from The Barber of Seville overture by Rossini, underlining the black humor in the film with a bouncy and irreverent feel appropriate to the comic text. Even with the deluge in recent years of mobster films, this one holds up quite well with its unique mixture of suspense, black comedy and character drawing. One does wonder how much United Airlines paid for product placement, however: it seems like one of their planes is on screen every few minutes. I can't remember such blatant commercial promotion in a film by a major director before, which detracts a little from the viewing experience.

While not a slapstick, gutbusting comedy, Prizzi's Honor is a drily witty and overtly nasty humorous piece.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: The widescreen nonanamorphic picture is quite soft and indistinct. Edge enhancement is rampant, indicating that the softness is a problem with the master. The source print, however, is very clean and free from damage. While colors are generally good (Irene's red Excalibur car looks fabulous), skin tones often take on a pasty hue. Black levels are quite good throughout. Bit rates are fairly low; perhaps a better transfer could have been obtained if an RSDL disc had been used. The other side contains a Pan & Scan transfer which adds a tiny sliver to the top and bottom, while cutting significant picture information off at the sides.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The only audio track is DD 2.0. It does have good range, with the organ's low notes in the wedding sequence coming through nicely, while the soprano's version of Ave Maria is clean and free of distortion. There is some mild directionality, but not a distracting amount. Hiss is minimal. Alex North's score is rich and full; the quotations from Rossini are unmistakable and lend the film a good deal of its humor.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Production Notes
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only extra is a set of scant production notes on the enclosed booklet. Not even a trailer is to be seen. Chaptering is inadequate for a movie of this length, and there are no subtitles. Thankfully Anchor Bay has improved greatly since this release a-year-and-a-half ago.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

An engaging and bitterly funny gangster comedy, but it's given a very much barebones treatment. Worth at least a rental, however, just for the film itself.

 


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