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- Published on Amazon.com
Having seen this film many times over the years in its broadcast TV incarnations (three to be exact - the 121 min. complete cut, the 115 min. theatrical release that begins with "Which?" and the hasty 98 min. re-edit following the yank from theaters), a few things blew me away when viewing the Blu-ray.
First, the absolutely unexpected reprise of "From Alpha to Omega," which I never even knew existed. Having two more minutes of Kahn to treasure was too much to expect. It's a joy.
Second: how absolutely charming Duilio Del Prete is in this film. His name has always gotten lost in the shuffle when people discuss the movie, for reasons easy to understand, but Del Prete is a sprite of good humor and effervescent charm in a film dependent on these traits. So little is known of his life, and the remainder of his career was spent in Europe, so AT LONG LAST LOVE is precious to me because Del Prete was a special performer, incredibly endearing, and this film captures his essence so beautifully.
Finally, there is a revelation that had never occurred to me until now: I had always assumed, like most people, that the project was simply done at the wrong time, with a cast ill-suited to the genre, but that's simply not the case. In retrospect, Cybill Shepherd is the only fish out of water among a cast that is pitch perfect and to the era born. Despite any lack of musical gifts, Reynolds glides through his role with a sense of fun that could only be mustered by a man coasting on his position as the top box office star in the world. Kahn and Brennan were rooted in musical theatre, so their bountiful contributions are to be expected. Del Prete, as aforementioned, glows. And Hillerman and Natwick bring years of memorable character work to the table. In high-def, restored and resplendent, it is Shepherd alone whose tone is off. Her every instinct is mistaken, and one gets the feeling that Bogdanovich was so blinded on a personal level that he couldn't see her with objectivity in the rushes. The role of Brooke is not as fleshed out as the others, and Shepherd's reading of it is best summed up by the scene in which she raps Reynolds with her fist and he cowers, "You're strong, do you know that?" She's actually right for the role physically, and if Brooke had been written and Cybill directed with a sure and steady hand, one gathers she could have tapped into the same pool of charm as her fellow performers did. But she's the one wrong note, and the sheer amount of footage in which she appears ends up setting an unfortunate tone for the whole enterprise. It's a shame, because she has some terrific moments - anything having to do with the eyeglasses, the "I Loved Him" duet with Kahn, and "You're the Top" with Del Prete. While her colleagues have accessed the time machine to venture back to 1935, she seems left behind in the 1970s, in look, in style, in appeal. And I speak as a fan of hers.
While appreciating the blu-ray, the finished product sets up two glaring mysteries: why Bogdanovich didn't (a) include Natwick and Brennan's excised numbers in some capacity on this release and (b) do an audio commentary, when he seems to pop up, ascot in tow, hat tipped in tribute, in the special features of every disc on the market. It would seem this whole experience may have been too painful to relive with the world at large, frame by frame. But I am thankful for his recent blogs about this film. It's hard to explain - those of us who are attached to it to such an extent when it continues to be reviled by the greater population. Maybe you had to be there. AT LONG LAST LOVE remains a brave experiment by a man who loves movies, but who loved Cybill just a little more.