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Currently showing posts tagged Richard Pryor

  • Car Wash (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Car Wash (1976)

    Director: Michael Schultz

    Starring: Franklyn Ajaye, George Carlin, Professor Irwin Corey, Ivan Dixon, Antonio Fargas, Jack Kehoe, Clarence Muse, Lorraine Gary, The Pointer Sisters & Richard Pryor

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in sunny Los Angeles, Car Wash hosts a day in the life of a ragtag group of car washers and and the hilarious hijinks that ensue on the job, all to a fast-moving, body-shaking soundtrack of hits.  Scripted by Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys, Falling Down) and starring a diverse roster of character actors, musicians and comedy’s finest, Michael Schultz (Cooley High, The Last Dragon) directs this hot wax of hilarity.

    Uncontrollably fun and capturing the laughs of the blue-collar grind, Car Wash, originally intended as a Broadway musical, uses its nonlinear construction to great effect, making viewers apart of the onscreen ball-busting camaraderie and radio wave boogieing.  Best known for their “hand job” touch, the stocked staff of a busy car wash including, Justin (Leon Pinkney, Deadly Hero), an African-American constantly hassled by his girlfriend to ditch his position and return to college, T.C. (Franklin Ajaye, Convoy), an afro-rockin’ employee determined to win a local radio contest and woo the local diner’s waitress, Abduallah (Bill Duke, Predator), a Black Muslim revolutionary formerly known as Duane, Lindy (Antonio Fargas, Starsky & Hutch), a flamboyantly gay employee who dishes attitude better than anyone else and the musical, dancing duo of Floyd (Darrow Igus, Fridays) and Lloyd (Otis Day, D.C. Cab), among others all bust a move while making Cali cars sparkle and shine.  From erroneously tackling a customer thought to be a criminal bomber, fellow employee Hippo (Jamie Spinks, The Big Score) knocking the boots with a local prostitute who is hilariously pursued by an all too trusting cabbie (George Carlin, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) for skipping out on a fare and graced by the money-hungry presence of a pimp-like preacher known as Daddy Rich (Richard Pryor, The Toy), Car Wash is never in short supply of comic situations and absurdness.  Rightfully earning a Grammy for Best Album written for a film, Car Wash is never overly crude or falters due to its unconventional plot that is more inclined to let audiences hang with the gang than anything else.  Instead, the cult hit keeps the fun times rolling and holds the jive allowing for an effort doused in outrageous laughs.

    Shout Select presents Car Wash with a 1080p transfer, sporting its 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With only the faintest of speckling popping up every now and again, colors pop remarkably well with the employee’s orange jumpsuits, bright yellow taxi cabs and the establishment’s big-lettered signage all making top-notch bursts on screen.  Furthermore, skin tones are exceptional with detail evident in close-ups and white levels, most noticeably seen in Daddy Rich’s gaudy suit, looking solidly.  A most filmic representation of the musically-driven comedy, Car Wash truly shimmers in high-definition.  Matched with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is overwhelmingly audible with only occasional moments where outdoor ambiance can drown out character exchanges.  That said, the film’s constant undercurrent of music is balanced appreciatively with talky moments while, specific music-driven cues including the opening and closing titles will leave viewers singing along for days and impressed by the song’s depths.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Michael Schultz, Workin’ at the Car Wash with Otis Day (12:13) where the actor recalls a 2 week rehearsal period on the Universal soundstages that greatly developed the cast’s chemistry before filming commenced.  Understandably, Day mentions growing incredibly sick of hearing the title song on a daily basis while also praising Schultz’s direction and hailing him as someone who truly cared about the project.  Car Wash from Start to Finish with Gary Stomberg (34:22) finds the film’s producer sharing his early starts in public relations repping the likes of Ray Charles before forming his own company that would ultimately represent Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf and The Doors.  Stromberg also remembers coming up with the idea of Car Wash during a particularly loaded evening citing Robert Altman’s Nashville as an inspiration.  Understanding the music world while Universal were left scratching their heads about the film’s potential, Stromberg’s theory to spread head the project with an album produced by Norman Whitfield that would ultimately pay for the film’s making proved true and one the studio immediately responded to.  Lastly, Radio Spots (2:59), the film’s Trailer (2:21) and Reversible Cover Art conclude the release’s extras.

    Although not an original commercial success before graduating to cult accolades, Car Wash is a hilarious hangout session with the working man where pranks, kooky customers and a rhythm-splitting soundtrack take shotgun.  A groovy time capsule with funny performances from its many principal players, this lighthearted blaxploitation romp is prime picking for all 9-5ers.  Meanwhile, Shout Select’s high-definition upgrade is a filmic stunner with a smaller but, nonetheless engaging offering of extras and dynamite new cover art provided by Paul Shipper that shines the flick up nice.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Shout Select, Car Wash can be purchased ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Some Call It Loving (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Some Call It Loving (1973)

    Director: James B. Harris

    Starring: Zalman King, Carol White, Tisa Farrow, Veronica Anderson & Richard Pryor

    Released by: Etiquette Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the debut release of Etiquette Pictures, the offbeat subdivision of Vinegar Syndrome, Director James B. Harris’ Some Call It Loving is a modernization of the timeless fairy tale Sleeping Beauty.  After obtaining a most peculiar carnival act from a local barker, lonely jazz musician Robert (Zalman King, Blue Sunshine) brings Jennifer (Tisa Farrow, Zombie), a young girl reawakened after many years of sleep, home to his lavish mansion.  Welcoming his newfound love to his unique world, their relationship is tested when Jennifer desires more than Robert can provide.  Carol White (The Man Who Had Power Over Women), Veronica Anderson (The Horror at 37,000 Feet) and Richard Pryor (Stir Crazy) co-star.

    Based on John Collier’s short story, Some Call It Loving is a surrealistic tale of blind love and self-exploration set in a utopia of sexual fantasy.  Sharing a marvelous castle estate with the beautiful Scarlett (White) and their housemaid Angelica (Anderson), Robert (King) moonlights as a jazz musician while yearning for more in life.  Wandering the trashy threshold of a carnival, Robert discovers a bizarre Sleeping Beauty attraction where for one dollar, men can kiss an attractive girl asleep for many years, in hopes of awakening her.  Equally disgusted and tantalized, Robert purchases Jennifer (Farrow) for a hefty sum and whisks her away to his mansion.  Emerging from her long slumber, the young Jennifer, bursting with jovial curiosity, is a product of a more innocent era that Robert recognizes as his escape from his hapless existence.  Introduced to their peculiar role-playing games, the lines of dreams and reality become heavily blurred for Jennifer as she witnesses tap dancing nuns and crash courses in strict etiquette.  Envious of his carefree, drug-addicted friend Jeff (Pryor) and conflicted by the trappings of his own personal utopia, Robert and Jennifer’s hopeful relationship grows complicated.

    Overwhelmingly dismissed by domestic critics yet, revered in France before being revitalized years later by the now defunct Z Channel, Some Call It Loving is an uncompromised vision of unconventional sexploitation matched with arthouse class, making way for a most unusual effort.  More sexually suggestive than it is revealing, Director James B. Harris (Fast-Walking) weaves his camera like a painter’s brush capturing a dreamlike state that refuses to pass judgement on his relatable yet, flawed characters.  While its core cast including, the shy and reserved King to the charmingly green Farrow all make an impression, Richard Pryor’s scene-stealing turn as the drug addled Jeff will leave viewers aching with sympathy from his junkie ramblings and genuine sadness.  Akin to falling down a rabbit hole of strangeness, Mario Tosi’s (Carrie, The Stunt Man) evocative cinematography and Richard Hazard’s (Nickelodeon) raw score cast a dizzying spell of euphoria.  While its passionate imagery of a hollow utopia pleasantly stupefies, its abstract narrative and complex characters may leave viewers unsure of the film’s intentions.  Unflinching in its execution, Some Call It Loving will most assuredly continue to leave audiences split while, simultaneously invoking a gamut of emotions by its completion.

    Scanned in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Etiquette Pictures presents Some Call It Loving with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Glazed in a fog-entranced lighting, colors pop admirably with skin tones projecting naturally pleasing levels.  Natural grain is present, if not slightly overwhelming in several sequences, while black levels contain their fair share of speckling during dimly lit sequences in Robert and Scarlett’s mansion and the smoky jazz club.  Regardless of its occasional anomalies, Some Call It Loving rises above its previous home video releases with its finest presentation to date.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, a mild hiss stakes its claim on the track while dialogue is handled decently.  Amid several instances of cracks and pops, Richard Hazard’s score and most impressively, the jazz club sequences make an impressionable statement.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director James B. Harris moderated by Sam Prime, Some Call It History: Looking Back with James B. Harris (6:52) finds Harris recounting his early years producing his friend Stanley Kubrick’s early efforts before turning to directing.  In addition, A Dream So Real: Mario Tosi in Conversation (8:27), Outtake Footage (15:55) with commentary from Harris and Prime, a 6-page booklet with notable linear notes by Kevin John Bozelka, Reversible Cover Art utilizing the film’s original French artwork and a DVD edition of the release round out the supplemental package.

    Phantasmagorical and emotional, Director James B. Harris’ Some Call It Loving is a unique love story that leaves the viewer and its characters in an inescapable realm between dreams and reality.  From a surreal state of ecstasy to the lowest depths of emptiness, this arthouse fairy tale will leave viewers spinning by its narrative but entranced by its visuals.  In their debut effort, Etiquette Pictures resurrects this largely forgotten opus with a stunning restoration and revealing special features, raising appreciation for the film’s place in independent cinema.  Like so many abstract auteurist efforts, Some Call It Loving will leave audiences divided while, providing an unusually unique viewing experience for all.  With a commitment to preserve experimental independent features, Etiquette Pictures have made a bold first step with increased anticipation for their future endeavors.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Etiquette Pictures, Some Call It Loving can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.