A Fish Called Wanda

Studio: Arrow Video

Oct 04, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Throughout the 1980s, A Fish Called Wanda was a labor of love for comedian John Cleese, developed over six years as he searched for his next direction following the success of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers. For its writer and star, Wanda was intended as a throwback to Ealing Studios’ British comedies of the 1950s, a genre with which his septuagenarian director, Charles Chrichton, was quite familiar, having helmed a number decades earlier. The Ealing Comedies, as they’d come to be remembered, were known for characters being hustled in and out of doors as cheating husbands (or wives) frantically attempted to hide their indiscretions from spouses. It was a style of comedy not quite as prevalent in the United States, where the highest-profile example would likely have been the very first Pink Panther movie. (It’s not hard to imagine an alterna-world series of Wanda sequels starring Kevin Kline’s deranged Otto character, much in the same way Peter Sellers’ wacky Inspector Clouseau immediately became the star of those films.)

At the start of Wanda, a quartet of criminals – Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis), Otto (Kevin Kline), Ken (Michael Palin), and George Thomason (Tom Georgeson, haha) – pull off a perfectly-planned diamond heist; perfect, except for that lovers Wanda and Otto (posing as siblings) have plotted to betray their partners as soon as the deed is done. Mastermind George had the foresight, though, to move the loot to a new hiding spot before his partners secretly tipped off the police to his whereabouts. With the only person privy to the diamonds’ whereabouts now in prison, Wanda romantically plays both George and his defense attorney, Archie Leach (John Cleese), for clues about the stash.

The key to Wanda’s comedy is the ever-shifting loyalties of its four nutty main characters – Wanda, Otto, Ken, and Archie, with George behind bars – and their uphill struggles to cover their true intentions. Cleese masterfully plays the sort of stuffy, simmering aristocrat he’s known for; Palin a dopey, stuttering, pet-loving goon totally unsuited for the hit job he’s tasked with for most of the movie. It’s Curtis’ Wanda, though, as the film’s smartest character (and relative straight person) who finds herself the cause of many of its funniest scenes, while Kline’s madcap, delusional killer, Otto, steals the movie. Kline, who misquotes Nietzsche, barks most of his lines, and performs some of the most over-the-top, enthusiastic humping ever committed to film, went on to win Best Supporting Actor for the film, while the director and screenplay also earned nominations at the 1989 Academy Awards.

A Fish Called Wanda is a wonderfully funny film, certainly worthy of its cult status. Arrow Video have finally brought it to Blu-ray in a sharp-looking and extras-packed special edition. They’ve wisely ported over all of the most valuable supplements from the previous special edition – including Cleese’s commentary track, a half-hour retrospective doc filmed in 2003, vintage featurettes, deleted scenes with Cleese introductions, and a trivia track – and add several new features, including interviews with crew members, a video appreciation by a member of the BFI National Archive, and an essay-filled booklet. It’s easily the best the film’s likely looked in thirty years, making this version worthy of upgrade consideration, even if the extras aren’t all new. Any British comedy fans who haven’t seen the movie should check this one out – it’s great – and consider the hours’ worth of bonus material to be heaps of icing on the cake.

www.arrowvideo.com/product/a-fish-called-wanda/830 




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