on April 5, 2004
The first screwball comedy to be a box office blockbuster since the early forties, WHAT'S UP, DOC? fills it's 94 minute runtime with so many terrific one-liners, double innuendoes, and visual puns that the average viewer will probably have to watch the film a couple of times before he or she catches all of the jokes! Apparently the film inspired repeat viewing even during it's initial release - Doc was the third-highest grossing film of 1972 (right behind THE GODFATHER and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE). In all honesty, I think this film has a higher laugh-per-second ratio than any film before or since.
This film was the perfect (and surprising) way for director Peter Bogdanovich to follow-up his cinematic landmark THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, and he keeps the film's momentum running right at the perfect speed. He also knows how to cast a film flawlessly. Buck Henry's marvelous screenplay contains many scenes with overlapping dialogue and double reverses, and the entire cast never misses a beat. Barbra Streisand literally radiates with magnetism throughout the entire film! Anyone who still wonders why she was the highest grossing actress of the seventies definitely needs to see this film; Streisand's performance in DOC is what being a movie star is all about. Many critics complained that Ryan O'Neal was miscast when the film was originally released, and those critics obviously missed out on the joke. The fact that O'Neal was considered a heartthrob at the time was all part of the fun in seeing him cast as complete goof; and I don't think anyone can deny the fact that he throws himself into the role completely.
As most viewers already know, Madeline Kahn has her finest screen role in Doc, and steals nearly every scene she's in (and she wisely knows just how far to push the characterization without going over the edge). The rest DOC'S supporting cast also could not be improved upon, Kenneth Mars, Austin Pendlrton, and Liam Dunn give just three of the standout performances in this perfect supporting ensemble. As with most comedies, DOC was snubbed at the Academy Awards (Bogdanovich, Streisand, and Kahn all deserved nominations in the respective categories in my opinion), but time has been good to DOC and remains far more popular than many of the films that did get Oscar noms in 1972. Arguably, the best comedy of all time.
About the DVD: The picture quality is very good - a tad soft at times, but very natural and true to the film's original look. The sound is mono, but it's well-rendered. It's great to have the trailer and vintage featurette preserved on disc, and while Streisand's brief commentary isn't very illumenating, Bogdanovich's full-length track is very informative and entertaining.
WHAT'S UP, DOC?  [Blu-ray] [US Import] The Screwball Classic That's A Beautiful Disordered Farce! A Crazy Comedy, The Way They Used To Make Them!
`What's Up, Doc?' Is a joyously recaptures the bubbly style of 1930s screwball comedies - and firmly establishes Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal as a romantic duo uniquely endearing in screen history. Included are a daffy luggage mix-up plot, dippy dialogue exchanges, a marvellous example of the art of hotel-room demolition and one of the funniest chase sequences ever, all over San Francisco. Dexterously written with a surefooted sense of the ridiculous by Buck Henry, David Newman and Robert Benton, directed by Peter Bogdanovich with giddy affection and cast with awesomely hilarious players, including film-debuting Madeline Kahn. `What's Up, Doc?' is no idle question. Among comedy films, it's the top. The final scene in the film makes fun of "Love means never having to say you're sorry," a famous line from `Love Story.'
FILM FACT: The film won the Writers Guild of America 1973 for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen Award for Screenplay for Buck Henry, David Newman and Robert Benton. Madeline Kahn in her first feature film role, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe® Awards. The film ends on a suitably romantic (and silly) note as Howard and Judy share an airborne kiss while their in-flight film is the Bugs Bunny cartoon that gave the film its name.
Cast: Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Austin Pendleton, Michael Murphy, Philip Roth, Sorrell Booke, Stefan Gierasch, Mabel Albertson, Liam Dunn, John Hillerman, George Morfogen, Graham Jarvis, Randy Quaid, M. Emmet Walsh, Kevin O'Neal, Eleanor Zee, Paul Condylis, Fred Scheiwiller, Carl Saxe, Jack Perkins, Paul B. Kipilman, Gil Perkins, Christa Lang, Stan Ross, Peter Paul Eastman, Eric Brotherson, Elaine Partnow, George Burrafato, Jerry Summers, Mark Thompson, Don Bexley, Leonard Lookabaugh, Candice Bennett, Sean Morgan, Patricia O'Neal, Joe Alfasa, Chuck Holison, John Byner (uncredited), Shep Houghton (uncredited), Kenner G. Kemp (uncredited), Bruce McBroom (uncredited), Clyde McLeod (uncredited), Monty O'Grady (uncredited), Murray Pollack (uncredited), Tony Regan (uncredited), Hank Robinson (uncredited) and John Allen Vick (uncredited)
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Producers: Buck Henry, Peter Bogdanovich and Robert Benton
Screenplay: Buck Henry David Newman, Peter Bogdanovich and Robert Benton
Composer: Artie Butler (uncredited)
Cinematography: László Kovács
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, French: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono [both Castilian and Latin] and German: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
Running Time: 94 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: From the title, all the way to the very end scene, 'What's Up, Doc?' never hides the fact that at its core it's just a live action "Looney Toons" episode. The film, starring a very young Barbra Streisand, harkens back to the screwball farces of yesteryear, where characters dash around after something, while running into each other again and again in increasingly bizarre situations.
The setup: four different guests converge on the same hotel, all traveling with the same plaid carrying case. Dr. Howard Bannister [Ryan O'Neal] has come for a musicology conference; his plaid bag is full of prehistoric rocks. Judy Maxwell [Barbra Streisand] is a con-woman who prises her way into situations in order to get stuff for free. Her bag contains women's underwear. A rich old lady checks into the hotel, her bag is full of precious gems. Finally, a man who is about to reveal top secret evidence about the government checks in, his bag is full of sensitive government documents.
It's true that you can sit there and wonder how exactly all these people have the same peculiar bag, and it may take you forever to try and figure out which bag is where as they start switching around. Maybe that bag was all the rage back then, who knows. All we have to know is that the bags are MacGuffins, that switch hands from one player to another. As the mix ups continue, the situations become increasingly strange, leading up to a hilarious scene where Judy hangs from the building ledge in only a towel as Dr. Howard Bannister accidentally begins burning down his hotel. There's not much to get when it comes to farces. You just have to sit back and enjoy what they throw at you. Some farces rely far too heavily on situational humour and not enough on pure character interaction, but that's where 'What's Up, Doc?' really succeeds.
The chemistry between the fun-loving Barbra Streisand and the uptight Ryan O'Neal is perfect. Barbra Streisand delivers her lines at a lightning fast pace, it are almost hard to keep up with her she's talking so fast. The banter between the characters is reminiscent of the back-and-forth performed by Abbot and Costello when they did their "Who's On First" routine. That's what makes 'What's Up, Doc?' such a fun little comedy film. Director Peter Bogdanovich previous film includes 'The Last Picture Show,' has not only put together a film with numerous comical situations, but he's also able to maintain a sense of underlying cleverness in the dialogue.
The action is fun and plentiful; culminating into a car chase that rivals some of the best performed even today, and this was made in 1972. Screwball comedies like this can be very entertaining if you're in the right mood. After seeing a subpar farce like the newly released 'Dinner for Schmucks' I was ready for a film that really knew what it was doing when it came to situational humour and this is it.
The supporting members of the ensemble cast are all wonderful. Austin Pendleton and Mabel Albertson, as well as the always-hilarious Madeline Kahn, is extremely funny in this film. Her reaction is priceless, when she arrives at the dining room, only to be humiliated when Howard says he doesn't know her. Waiters have to drag her out, over her loud, funny demonstrative protests are particular standouts. Another one of my favourite sequences of scenes takes place during a wild, wacky, and really well choreographed chase scene through the streets of San Francisco. From the glorious rendition of Cole Porter's, “You're The Top” over the opening credits, to the final “That's all folks.” This is a non-stop celebration of total silliness, but in a good and hilarious way. A timeless comedy classic that can be watched over and over again, and believe me I speak from experience. This film will cheer up anyone and improve anyone's mood. It is great entertainment meant for the entire family.
Blu-ray Video Quality – For a film from 1972, Warner Bros. really seems to have taken good care of 'What's Up, Doc?' and the film looks about as polished and perfect as it possibly could. Being an older catalogue title I wasn't expecting much, but this encoded 1080p image presentation is just short of amazing. You'd expect a title this old to be littered with source noise, but the entire image, as far as I could tell, was wiped clean of any distracting noise. A thin layer of grain persists throughout the whole movie, but that just adds to its old cinematic charm. Sure soft shots run throughout, but the overall clarity of the picture is brilliant. Fine detail on textures like the plaid bag or Streisand's many outfits is outstanding. At one point Madeline Kahn is dragged from the conference with her heels scraping along the floor, leaving a long black line on the hardwood. It's striking how clear that line is while she's being pulled out of the room. One of the many times you may be wowed during this presentation.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Yes it's true that 'What's Up, Doc?' features a 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono sound presentation. Too bad it's only using one speaker the entire time. Yes, I understand that the recording methods of the time didn't allow for surround tracks and all that, but this is a movie that would have greatly benefited from future sound technology. As it is the 1.0 track does a commendable job. Granted its range is very limited, higher sounds like screams and crunching car metal against metal give off an almost high-pitched screech. Dialog though, is presented cleanly and clearly. Even though it's coming through the same channel as each and every sound effect and even though Barbra Streisand delivers her lines as fast as she can, each word is still audible. For being just a mono-track, Warner Home Video has done a great job restoring the sound so we can hear everyone talk and enjoy the symphony of sounds that happen when the action reaches top speed. Even though a track like this would never be used as demo-material to the casual movie watcher, finely tuned audiophile ears will find a lot to like in this simple yet effective audio presentation.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Director Peter Bogdanovich: Peter Bogdanovich lends his voice to this rather sombre commentary affair. Peter Bogdanovich is very knowledgeable about films and film making, but his solo track isn't too lively. Still, fans of the film and of the director will want to listen to this as Peter Bogdanovich describes how the film came to be and how certain scenes were filmed, and he talks about the actors involved and what it was like working with them.
Scene-Specific Audio Commentary: Barbra Streisand lends herself to a scene-specific commentary that only totals about twelve minutes throughout the entire film. This commentary is far too short and too bland to provide and substance behind the film. Chiming in every now and then, Barbra Streisand finds herself just lightly narrating a few scenes. It's hardly worth the time.
Special Feature: Vintage Documentary: Screwball Comedies... Remember Them?  [480i] [9:00] Mostly just some behind-the-scenes footage of the cast and crew acting out scenes and such. I was disappointed, since after seeing the name of this feature I was thinking we were going to get some type of history on screwball comedies and why we don't see them anymore. Appearing in this documentary are Peter Bogdanovich, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Ryan O'Neal and Barbra Streisand.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [4:00] The theatrical trailer is included, but it isn't the trailer we're used to seeing nowadays for film trailers. More like a sort of behind-the-scenes thing, with a narrator discussing what's happening, rather than a trailer full of quickly edited scenes from the movie. Here you can see footage of the film that isn't cleaned up. Source noise is everywhere. Makes you appreciate the restoration of the film that much more.
Finally, 'What's Up, Doc?' shows us what we're missing in today's screwball comedies. It's a hilarious ride on the coattails of Barbra Streisand, who completely takes over the film in her own captivating way. Couple with this great film and a stellar 1080p video presentation and an adequately restored mono-track audio presentation and you've got yourself a great catalogue title is worth a hell of a recommendation, especially ever since I saw it originally in the cinema and has been a big all-time favourite film of mine, that is a laugh from the start of the film, to the eventual end of the film when the credits roll up the screen and I never tire of watching this brilliant screwball comedy, that again is missing from up today comedy films. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on November 14, 2003
WHAT'S UP, DOC? has to stand as one of the finest remakes of a great original ever made. By and large, remakes of classics are profoundly stupid. Although the remakes virtually never match the originals (and admittedly this one is no exception), most are merely pale imitations. Although this one does not come close to supplanting BRINGING UP BABY, it nonetheless manages to bring enough originality to make it utterly delightful. Ever since I first saw it, it has remained my favorite Barbra Streisand film, and is delightfully kooky in a way completely different from the way that Hepburn is kooky in the original. Ryan O'Neill is indeed a pale imitation of Cary Grant, but then, who wouldn't be? But Madeleine Kahn, on the other hand, is a remarkable addition to the storyline. This was, for all practical purposes, her film debut, and she makes the most of it.
This was director Peter Bogdanovich's second hit film in a row, following his marvelous THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. The next year he would make PAPER MOON, and for all intents and purposes he seemed to be the next great American director. But then for whatever reason his gifts seemed to desert him, and while he has occasionally reemerged with a decent film, he has never managed to reascend to the level of these three films. He has, however, managed to write a great deal of film criticism, along with one of the greatest collections of interviews with directors ever published. But in this film his direction was fine, and if the comedy towards the end sometimes seems less screwball than Keystone cops, I find it easy to forgive him.
I repeat that this is my favorite Barbra Streisand film. I know people are divided on her looks, but when I look at her in this one, I think she is remarkably beautiful, and her personality is so infectious that she manages to dominate the screen every second she is onscreen. She was so superb in this film that I wonder why she didn't try to undertake similar parts in the future. She did the follow up to FUNNY GIRL, but she never really tried anything this goofy again. It's a tremendous loss, because she obviously excelled at it.
I'm surprised at how well this film has aged in thirty years. Sometimes you go back and see a film two or three decades after you first saw it, and it can be shocking how aged it appears. I had that experience with both TOOTSIE and ROXANNE, and both now seem hopelessly outdated. But this one, despite the early seventies clothes and decor, remains truly fresh.