Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Camp Classic The Oscar (1966) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

The Oscar (1966)

Directed By: Russell Rouse

Starring: Stephen Boyd, Elke Sommer, Jill St John, Joseph Cotton, Earnest Borgnine, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Edith Head

     Film fan's know that February is the month when Hollywood's elite gets together to celebrate itself and you know also the achievements in films, known as the Academy Awards also known as The Oscars. Kino has cleverly released a brand new transfer of the cult classic The Oscar just in time for the 92nd Awards airing Feb 9th. The film follows a hot young actor named Frank Fane (Stephen Boyd) who also happens to be a hot head off the clock as well. His personal baggage and massive ego blow up when he is nominated for an Oscar for best actor. But will this new found success make the newly minted star implode before he even gets going?

     If you are a fan of over-the-top Tennessee Williams like drama set in the world of Hollywood, you`ll love the campy delights of The Oscar. The film was made at a very weird time in the industry that was still 'reeling'
from the break up of the Hollywood studio system in the late '40's and the advent of television in the 50's and the budding hippie/counter culture of the 60's. Needless to say the film business was ever changing yet the old guard would hang on and kept making big epics that felt out of touch to a younger audience. Two years after this film Easy Rider (1969) would roar into theaters and change cinema forever. And this is whats interesting about The Oscar which feels like a strange throwback to older era  big budget drama's melded with a counter establishment edge. This film is  is obviously made with Hollywood firmly behind it and as per the title credit, special permission was granted to use the famous gold statuette so I wasnt expecting a film that took a harsh or even deep introspective look into the industry like The Big Knife or Sunset Blvd and while yes its true it doesn't I was surprised that Rouse still manages to strip away some of the glitzy vainer.

Frank is such a vile character that is made even more wicked when his ego is not only fed but stroked by an ever hungry Hollywood machine. He often laments that he's treated like meat and his meat metaphor and how actors are often treated as such is rather subversive for a studio film. Though dont get it twisted-this film doesn't stray far outside of the box when it comes to drama and all the characters are either good guys or bad guys with no middle ground. This would come later in the '70s with anti-heroes like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976) or the likable but still deadly Corleone family in The Godfather (1972). Oscar doesn't challenge its audience very much, Frank is clearly a bastard with no redeeming qualities and people like Kappy (Milton Berle) his agent and Kay (Elke Sommars) his wife are the good characters that take the brunt of Frank's wrath. The film tries to justify some of Franks shitty behavior but its all very shallow in its attempt.

At two hours the film feels needlessly bloated and the dialogue is pretty laughable for the most part. Thankfully the film manages to be of the so-bad-its-enjoyable variety. Screaming mad melodrama that goes way overboard cheesy and cliched and weirdly engrossing with some great meta commentary and fun cameos this movie has it all!  The Oscar is a one of a kind film that deserves a bigger cult following. Sure it doesn't re-invent the wheel but its damned fun anyways.

     Kino Studio Classics has really out done themselves with this Blu Ray release. The picture is a stunning 4k restoration. The colors really pop and the lush big budget production value and great set designs can fully be appreciated. Skin tones look natural and any noise or artifacts have been removed.  The film temperatures do vary but its not enough to ruin the experience. I have never seen before but its safe to say this movie has never looked better. The audio is great as well with a crisp an clean 2.0 mono track. Kino has provided not one but two expert commentary tracks. The first includes actor and comedian Patton Oswalt, Josh Olson and Erik Nelson. This track is gold with all three providing a funny and wildly interesting look into this film and why its such a guilty pleasure. The second and equally entertaining track is provided by Film historians Howard S Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson. Rounding out the features is a series of trailers for other Kino titles.

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