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WHAT'S UP DOC? ($25) is an utter gem of comedy cinema. A loving homage to the screwball comedies of the 1930’s, director Peter Bogdanovich, along with screenwriters Buck Henry, David Newman and Robert Benton perfectly recreate that type of lost movie style, in the world of its then contemporary 1972 setting. Leading lady Barbra Streisand, along with leading man Ryan O'Neal perfectly inhabit their screwball comedy characters, which goes a long way to what makes WHAT'S UP DOC? an endearing and enduring film… nearly forty years after its theatrical release. Of course, when passing out accolades for WHAT'S UP DOC?, one absolutely must tip their hat to the late, great Madeline Kahn, who made her unforgettable full length feature film debut with her wonderful comic performance.

With a plot that has a number of allusions to Howard Hawk’s classic BRINGING UP BABY, WHAT'S UP DOC? tells the story of four identical plaid overnight bags and the people who own them, and how said bags become mixed up… and the subject of the film’s hilarious climactic chase through the streets of San Francisco. The first bag, containing igneous rocks, belongs to Howard Bannister (Ryan O'Neal), a musicologist who has come to San Francisco with his fiancée Eunice Burns (Madeline Kahn), with the hope of winning a grant to fund his research. The next bag, which contains clothes, belongs to Judy Maxwell (Barbra Streisand), a somewhat madcap young woman, who begins amorously pursuing Howard… even going so far as to impersonate his fiancée at an important social function. The next bag, containing a ridiculous amount of expensive jewelry, belongs to Mrs. Van Hoskins (Mabel Albertson). The final bag, which contains top-secret government papers, is in the possession of Mr. Smith (Michael Murphy), who has somehow misappropriated them. In a game of musical hotel rooms, the plaid overnight bags become increasingly mixed up, as a government agent known as Mr. Jones (Philip Roth) attempts to recover the bag with the top secret papers, while two hotel employees, Harry (Sorrell Booke) and Fritz (Stefan Gierasch) try to steal the bag containing the jewelry. The delightfully daffy cast of WHAT'S UP DOC? also features Kenneth Mars, Austin Pendleton, Liam Dunn, John Hillerman, George Morfogen, Graham Jarvis, Randy Quaid and M. Emmet Walsh.

Warner Home Video has made WHAT'S UP DOC? available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. Kudos to Warner for giving WHAT'S UP DOC? a really terrific 1080p presentation that maintains a light natural looking grain structure, which gives one the impression they are watching living breathing impression of film, and not over-processed digital video. The image is quite sharp, nicely defined and produces very good levels of fine detail and texturing. Some softness creeps in here and there, but it is never distracting. WHAT'S UP DOC? came at the end of the era of IB Technicolor printing, and the colors on the Blu-ray come very close to capturing the richness and vibrancy of that lost format. Blacks are fairly inky, while the whites appear crisp. Contrast and shadow detail are very good for a nearly forty-year-old film. The elements from which WHAT'S UP DOC? has been transferred are free from almost all signs of age.

WHAT'S UP DOC? is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The sound is crisp, clean and effective, although the original monaural production techniques do limit sonics of the music, despite the lossless encode. Streisand does get in a rendition of Cole Porter’s You're The Top, which does sound pretty nice, but not outstanding. Sound effects are kind of tinny, but they get by. Voices are cleanly and distinctly reproduced, plus the dialogue is easy to understand. French and Spanish Dolby Digital monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras that have been ported from the DVD release. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Peter Bogdanovich. Barbara Streisand is also on hand in a more limited capacity to provide a Scene-Specific Audio Commentary. A Vintage Featurette entitled Screwball Comedies... Remember Them? (nine minutes) is also included, as is a Theatrical Trailer.

WHAT'S UP DOC? is a comic gem that looks wonderful on Blu-ray. Highly recommended.


What's Up Doc? [Blu-ray] (1972)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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