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Warner Home Video presents

I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968)

"The very thought of cantors in stereo instead of a mono cantor appeals to me."- Harold Fine (Peter Sellers)

Stars: Peter Sellers
Other Stars: Jo Van Fleet, Leigh Taylor-Young, Joyce Van Patten, David Arkin
Director: Hy Averback

MPAA Rating: R for (adult situations, drug references)
Run Time: 01h:33m:29s
Release Date: 2006-06-20
Genre: comedy

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


DVD Review

The late, great Peter Sellers is best known for his multiple comedic roles in Dr. Strangelove and as Inspector Jacques Clouseau in Blake Edwards' Pink Panther films. A few actors (including the most recent Clouseau, Steve Martin) have attempted to fill Sellers' shoes but can never really come close to matching his subtle wit and impeccable comedic timing. Despite those memorable roles, though, Sellers had his fair share of movie missteps. One glaring example is 1968's hippie-fest, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas.

Sellers is Harold Fine, a generally unhappy lawyer who isn't necessarily in love, but is nonetheless pressured into marrying his secretary (Joyce Van Patten). Harold is the epitome of straight-laced; a square, if you will. That all changes and his life becomes extremely hectic when he reunites with his hippie brother, Herbie (David Arkin), whose girlfriend Nancy (Leigh Taylor-Young) is an instant object of this mild-mannered man's affection. Harold's new love for Nancy results in the discovery of "Alice B. Toklas Brownies," which she laces with a "special ingredient," opening up a whole new psychedelic world for Harold.

It's difficult to tell whether the filmmakers are going the all-out comedy route or simply trying to appeal to the hippie culture of the time. Sellers' presence suggests a comedic persuasion, but he's nowhere near as zany as he's been in his more memorable films, seeming to simply go through the motions here. You can't really blame him, though; the story is extremely thin and never materializes into anything concrete or engaging. With about 10 minutes left in the film, we are quickly taken back to a key moment, and it seems as if the story might be saved by a daring, appealing ending. Then right before the end credits roll, that key moment is virtually repeated, and we're left scratching our heads as to why the filmmakers even bothered with this scene at all. It's as if they saw the opportunity to make a special twist ending, and then just couldn't pull the trigger. They would have been better off axing this sequence altogether.

Once Peter Sellers dons full hippie garb, I Love You Alice B. Toklas becomes even more difficult to watch. I'm not sure whether this project was an easy paycheck for Sellers, but this is far from the kind of performance that made him a legend. In the first half of the film, the mousy, Woody Allen-esque Sellers is in play, but once the first batch of drug-laced brownies are digested, the film falls off the handle. Back in the late '60s, such hippie-speak might have been common place, even in the movies. But even then, this movie must have been considered a misfire by Sellers and everyone involved.

Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen presentation is full of flaws, including a mostly excessively soft image. There's also a ton of dirt and grain that take quite a bit away from the trippy color scheme. The color rendering is fine, given what it has to overcome, and is full of the wide range of bright colors that symbolize the pop/hippie culture. It's just too bad a bit more clean-up work hasn't been done given the nostalgic potential of the film.

Image Transfer Grade: D+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio is what we expect from the format, with nothing in the way of dynamic range or bass. While the track's dialogue clarity is a plus, it does mean we can crisply hear the annoying lyrics of the theme song, which is one of the worst in film history.

Audio Transfer Grade: C- 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extra is the fun original trailer.

Extras Grade: D

Final Comments

Preheat the oven because Warner Home Video has released the hippie comedy, I Love You Alice B. Toklas on DVD. Unfortunately, the great Peter Sellers is not so great here. Still, Sellers completists will want to add this to their collection, but be warned that the audio and video presentations are lacking.

Chuck Aliaga 2006-06-20