Paramount Studios presents
First Monday in October (1981)
"But I've never been prejudiced by sex. Entertained, yes, but prejudiced never."- Justice Dan Snow (Walter Matthau)
Stars: Walter Matthau, Jill Clayburgh
Other Stars: Barnard Hughes, Jan Sterling, James Stephens, Joshua Bryant
Director: Ronald Neame
MPAA Rating: R for (sexuality, nudity, language)
Run Time: 01h:38m:35s
Release Date: 2004-07-06
DVD ReviewWhen this film was released in 1981, the notion of a female Supreme Court justice was still firmly in the realm of fantasy. That didn't last long, however, since not long afterwards Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed to the Court, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg after her. But this "dramatic comedy" has a few other tricks up its sleeves, perhaps as a hedge against that inevitability.
Liberal Supreme Court Justice Dan Snow (Walter Matthau) is enthused to hear that the new appointee to the Court will be a woman, until he finds out that it's Ruth Hagadorn Loomis (Jill Clayburgh), a staunch conservative and author of numerous censorious opinions. The two immediately butt heads over a case on obscenity and another on antitrust. But when Snow's wife Christine (Jan Sterling) leaves him, other sparks begin to ignite between the two justices.
Walter Matthau makes for a supremely curmudgeonly if somewhat sloppy justice. Obviously modeled after William O. Douglas, Matthau's character is a First Amendment absolutist and enemy of giant corporations. Clayburgh's character has a steel-trap mind but little humanity as she keeps referring to corporations as "great" and other sentiments that would not be out of place on the modern Court. Matthau's always fun to watch, though Clayburgh just seems a little whiny at times. Although she was at one time considered the Great New Actress, she's pretty much dropped off the radar since, and this film's a good example of why that happened. The chemistry between them is a little uneven, with the age difference between them being rather blatant.
The legal discussions in the first hour are fairly plausible, with among other topics a recusal discussion that would warm the stony heart of Antonin Scalia. However, the last half hour not only involves highly implausible investigations by a justice, but complete overreaction that is quite nonsensical. I suppose it's a necessity to the drama as it's set up here, but as an attorney it just left me rolling my eyes.
This picture originated as a stage play, and although there are several segments plainly intended to broaden up the mise-en-scene (including a poorly-stitched-on opening that finds Matthau mountain climbing), the picture still feels rather stagebound. Altogether too many scenes just feel static and lacking in visual interest. That's symptomatic of the screenplay (by the playwrights), which isn't very funny or even interesting for the most part. What little humor is present is derived from the liberal-conservative conflict, particularly thanks to Matthau.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The Panavision image looks excellent for the most part, though the opticals under the titles have a bit of excessive grain. Otherwise the film has nice detail and excellent textures on display. Color is acceptable and black levels are quite decent.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Only a 2.0 mono track is provided, but it generally sounds acceptable for what is primarily a talky drama. The ADR-produced segments stick out like a sore thumb and sound quite ugly. The track is reasonably clean and free from hiss and noise. The music is limited for the most part to Sousa marches, and they have a nice brassy sound to them with good extension.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Extras Review: Paramount doesn't respect this picture much either, and doesn't bother even to include a trailer. Chaptering is a little thin, but adequate.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsA dreary and unfunny political comedy, given a nice transfer but absolutely no extra materials to warrant anything more than a rental. Today the only fantasy part is the idea that there could be a liberal Supreme Court Justice.
Mark Zimmer 2004-07-06