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HALL OF FAMEon February 14, 2006
Blake Edwards had a unique style of film; all the films seemed to have a certain atmosphere while each maintaining an individual character. Of course, Julie Andrews was a frequent actress in his films - Edwards and Andrews are married, and have been since 1969, an astonishing longevity for Hollywood.
In 'Victor/Victoria', Edwards returns to a Parisian settings familiar to fans of his work in the Pink Panther series - there is some minor elements of slapstick (the clutzy waiter, the bumbling detective, perhaps a nod in the direction of the Pink Panther films), but the real narrative plot is drawn along by the stylish comedy of Julie Andrews (Victoria Grant/Victor) and Robert Preston (Carroll Todd), in one of his last films.
The film is actually based on a much older piece, from 1933, written by Reinhold Schünzel, a German actor and writing, known in Europe primarily from the 1920s to the 1950s (perhaps English-speaking audiences would know him best from his role in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Notorius'). This was not the first, nor the last remake of this piece.
Preston plays an aging, gay, musical theatre man-about-town, who we take it is various a performer, talent scout, and director. Through a strange set of circumstances, he happens to be in a restaurant with a down-on-her-luck singer, who has just flopped at her last audition, and was willing to sell her virtue to the hotel manager for a meatball. She has captured a cockroach, and intends to plant the bug in the salad, thus avoiding payment of the bill - Carroll Todd ('Toddy' to his friends) and Victoria escape the restaurant, and come to share a room together while figuring out what to do.
Toddy comes up with the idea of dressing up Victoria as a man to then present her as the greatest drag queen, with the absurd name of Count Victor Grezhinski, a gay Polish count. 'Who would ever believe it?' Victoria protests. 'A woman pretending to be a man pretending to be woman.'
'It's perfect!' Toddy insists.
'Everyone will know he's a phony,' Victoria insists.
'Exactly! Everyone will know HE's a phony.'
Victoria as Victor auditions for Andre Cassell (John Rhys-Davies), the greatest talent and booking agent in Paris. He schedules Victor to open in a grand venue, and the deception seems complete. That is, until King Marchand (James Garner), a Chicago gangster and nightclub owner, arrives, complete with bodyguard (Alex Karras) and moll in tow (Leslie Ann Warren). He doesn't believe the act, and is determined to discover the truth.
While Victor/Victoria is not a musical in the sense of 'Cats' or 'Showboat', it does have some really stunning musical numbers, as one would expect from a Julie Andrews production. 'Le Hot Jazz' and 'The Shady Dame from Seville' are excellent numbers (Preston does his own reprise of 'The Shady Dame' for the big finale), and other numbers are fun; Leslie Ann Warren does her own over-the-top tribute to Chicago. The original music is done by Henry Mancini, and thus another Pink Panther connection.
The costumes (done by Patricia Norris, a very experienced and wide-ranging costumer) are perfect, both for the stage production numbers (dramatic and with flair, as might befit a drag queen, then or now), and off the stage - the period setting of inter-war Paris, with the genteel poverty of some and the opulence of others side-by-side is very well done.
This is the first film in which I recall major gay figures - it was a popular film in part because the primary actors were well know, and the issue of gay life was presented both in a distant and a non-controversial manner. If there are politics in it at all, it is that sex shouldn't be a political issue. King Marchand, a bit upset at being identified as someone who might date a man (Victor) has one scene in which he re-affirms his masculinity (by going to a seedy bar and picking a fight), only to discover that people aren't always what he thought they were.
This could be a theme throughout the whole film - people are never what you think they are, and life never turns out as expected. The tone of the film is rather lighthearted throughout, and the situations play very well. Does King Marchand get the girl/guy? Does Carroll Toddy become the toast of Paris? Does Chicago get an airport?? See the film and find out.
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on July 5, 2004
There is one word that best describes this film, and it's RIOT. The film is one big and grand RIOT. The cockroach-instigated riot scene in the restaurant is memorable. Mr Edwards shot this from the outside so that we get to see a third-person view of what is going on inside through the windows. Also, look at that RIOTY performance by Leslie Ann Warren: the scene where she walks down the train aisle spurting out vehement %$&*$# should be made a classic!! Again, this was shot using a third-person view so that we see inside the train windows but never actually hear her. The film delights in its RIOTS, we get the feeling that it makes fun of its characters in this way, albeit a tender way.
But beneath all the film's RIOTS, is a warm heart (highlighted by Henry Mancini's score.) This warm-hearted attitude transcends even through all those nightclub brawls; and I believe that without this formula, the film might not have been able to handle the issue of homosexuality so well. Excellent performances by Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston (in a delicious drag queen finale,) Leslie Ann Warren (show stealer) and the whole cast. The musical numbers are also winners. Certainly not for the Lazy Afternoon viewing, but for the Friday/Saturday night film. To those who are offended by gay contents, be warned, the film insists. This is one GAY & RIOTY film.
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on July 19, 2004
I remember sitting through it in 1983 in the theatre with Mama and Grandmother. We all LOVED it. With Poppins, Maria and Gertrude; Julie`s Victor/Victoria is HER BEST effort on celluloid. Leslie Ann-Warren, James Garner, Robert Preston, Blake Edwards, Henry Mancini & Leslie Bricusse ALL excell in this comedy. It may be a trifle long and the Hercule Poirot-imitation unnecessary; but it really is the last of the GREAT MGM MUSICALS(although it was shot i England, released by MGM). The set-designs are a treasure 2 behold.
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on July 14, 2004
Although he has just recieved an honorary Oscar, Blake Edwards is often looked upon as a purvayer of low comedy. Although he is the genius behind such sparkling classics as The (original) Pink Panther and Breakfast at Tiffanys, many people frown upon him for his later films such as S.O.B., Blind Date and Switch (let's not mention the post-Sellars Panthers). Victor / Victoria falls, chronologically, between the two sets of films and, in my view, is Edwards at his peak.
Edwards directs his wife Julie Andrews (never better and that includes being a nanny and a nun), in a tale of a [woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman]. The central plot serves as an excellent backbone on which to hang a wonderfully farcical script, some hilarious set-pieces and the fantastic song-and-dance numbers (Bricuse and Mancini's score makes you wish they'd worked together more often).
Andrews, as I say, is flawless coming somewhere between the innocence of Poppins and the lewdness of S.O.B. and giving a fantastic performance. From under her very nose though, the film is stolen by the ever-watchable Robert Preston as Toddy. Preston brings great depth and love to a part that could quite easily have been, as he is refered to in the film, 'a pathetic old queen'. James Garner commendably plays the straight-man (in more ways than one!) with a twinkle in his eye and Lesley Ann Warren hilariously chews every bit of scenery she lays her hands on.
The script, which bears Edwards' name as a co-writer, is as witty and moving as anything written in Hollywood's 'Golden Era' and the musical elements have as much vibrancy as MGM's in their hey-day. Musical highlights include Le Jazz Hot and The Shady Dame from Seville (not to mention the riotous reprise as performed by Preston for the films finale). One-liners don't come much better than "A lot of men can't get it ... up to now, you've been fine", "You look like a raccoon" (you need to see it) and the entire scene in the restaurant that leads to the line "It is a moron who takes advice from a horse's arse" (Edwards regular Graham Stark at his dead-pan best).
The extras on the DVD are limited to trailers and a commentary. The commentary by Edwards and Andrews is informative, if a little disappointing considering the wildness of the film and mainly consists of Edwards enjoying watching the film and Andrews making sure that all of the on and off-screen talent is name-checked.
A real unsung gem that deserves to be seen as often as possible. Tell your friends!
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on September 12, 2002
VICTOR/VICTORIA is an interesting mix: a big movie musical with a cozy feel, broad slapstick with a message, a sexual farce so widely palatable and unobjectionable that it borders on family entertainment. And it works on every level. The script is funny and smart, the music memorable, the cinematography lush and warm, the physical comedy perfectly choreographed. There are no standout performances here: everyone from Julie Andrews to the bit players are uniformly superb.
The commentary by Ms. Andrews and Blake Edwards is largely self-congratulatory, and there are frequent long lapses where they seem to forget what they're supposed to be doing and merely sit silently watching the movie. It all seems too off-the-cuff. They might have previewed the film and given a little thought to what they were going to say before the recorder was turned on. But this is quibbling. There are plenty of DVD packages out there with more and better bells and whistles than VICTOR/VICTORIA, but when it comes right down to it the movie's the thing, and there are few that are finer.
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on June 24, 2002
This movie came out at about the same time that I was married and the DVD came out the day before my 20th anniversary. It was a symbolic thing, but we HAD to have it & we made it part of our anniversary. We had been awaiting the anxiously because while Julie Andrews has been my idol since I was old enough to know who she was, and the Broadway cast was excellent, the movie in 1982 was one of those combinations in Hollywood that can't be decribed or explained, but is just accepted as BRILLIANT! We were worried about the quality, since the VHS quality was not so great, but the wait was well worth it. The picture (letterbox) is SUPERB, as is the sound. Great care was clearly taken in the transfer of this movie to DVD and I would have gladly paid twice the price for one of our all time favorite movies. After watching it the first time, my husband looked at me and said "we're never going to watch the video-tape copy again are we?" We have even purchased a back-up DVD copy incase the first one ever gets scratched or broken or lost. I can't wait until my sons are old enough to see this movie because this is one of the greats of all time. Actors, plot, music, scenery, costumes & director. "Who could ask for anything more?"
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on June 22, 2000
Julie Andrews wowed audiences once again in the 80s with this succulent, stylish, gorgeous, hilarious, sophisticated, tuneful and witty musical movie. Catapulting musical movies into a new era with sexy banter, a transsexual/homosexual/whatever sexual candy box assortment of players, Blake Edwards put his considerable gifts for farce and style to wonderful, transporting use here. There is nary a stumble, and the Mancini score is filled with those rare kinds of songs that seem nostalgic, yet they are new -- or at least were new in their day. The settings and costumes place you in a delightfully plush Paris; you can practically smell the wine and smoke. And the performances -- well, each is a revelation, beginning with Julie's delightful -- and skillful -- cross-dresser; James Garner will surprise you with humor and not a little sly wit; Leslie Anne Warren is one of those saucepots who steals virtually every scene she appears in, easily. You will laugh, be moved, tap your toes, and be thoroughly enchanted with V/V. Unfortunately, the musical production, also directed by Mr. Edwards and originially starring Ms. Andrews, is not nearly so perfectly arranged -- it is thin, flat and somehow squeezes the life out of the story, so be warned, since they do share the same name and many of the same contributors, when you are buying!
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on June 10, 2002
Take the British Nanny with a voice of gold, sprinkle in the uproarious comedy from the inventor of Inspector Clouseau, add the bright patter of the Music Man, and you have the recipe for one of the finest musical comedies ever filmed. It's all there in stellar performances by the likes of sexy Lesly Ann Warren (highly underrated for her hilarious additions to the film); straight-man James Garner who in his gut knows his attraction for a guy MUST mean she's a girl; Robert Preston, as straight as any man, but playing an aging queen who sees his final chance to grab the spotlight, and some of the gold; and finally, our beloved Julie Andrews, whose magnificent voice is toned down to Alto, to sing the show stopping, "Le Jazz Hot", just one of the songs from the brilliant and bouncy score of Mancini and Bricusse. Based on an original story by German screenwriter, Reinhold Schunzel, this brassy bedroom farce is one of the funniest movies Blake Edwards ever put on film, and a must for any serious collector.
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on June 21, 2001
Julie Andrews plays the gender-bending Victoria Grant in husband Blake Edwards' musical comedy gem VICTOR/VICTORIA.
Victoria Grant is a penniless soprano in Paris circa 1934, when she meets Toddy (Robert Preston - THE MUSIC MAN), a gay nightclub entertainer. She spends the night at his flat. An unexpected caller triggers the accidental discovery that with the right clothes and voice, Victoria could become "Count Victor Grazinski", a gay Polish female impersonator!
Soon Victoria (or "Victor") is the toast of Paris, when American impresario King (James Garner - MOVE OVER DARLING, THE THRILL OF IT ALL) and his moll Norma Cassidy (Lesley Ann Warren - THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE), come close to blowing the ruse.
Things become even more complicated when Victoria finds herself falling for King, and Toddy falls in love with King's bodyguard Squash!
With Andrews, Preston and Warren in fine musical form, the story fairly brims over with delightful songs, hilarious quips and top-notch performances.
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on February 28, 2003
Is she a women pretending to be a man, pretending to be a women? Blake Edward's hilarious gender-bender has Julie Andrews impersonating a count, who is hired to perform as a female impersonator in a posh Paris nightclub circa 1920's. If you think it sounds confusing, it does, but so magnificently pulled off that one hardly minds stretching the mind to believe that anyone could ever mistake the fabulous Ms. Andrews as anything but all woman. The musical numbers are as hot as the comedy. Robert Preston plays Toddy, a gay impressario who is destine to make "Victor" the toast of Paris. James Gardner is a big time bootlegger who discovers the truth and falls in love with Victoria. Leslie Ann Warren is a hilariously, if at times grating, dumb blond.
Warner Brothers has done a wonderful job remastering this DVD. Colors are warm, rich and vibrant. For the most part, details are sharp. The newly remastered 5.1 stereo mix thunders across in the musical sequences and is very ambient throughout. Not much in the way of extras but oh, what a treat to see and hear this fun loving flick as never before.
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