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MGM Studios DVD presents
Irma La Douce (1963)

"Who wants to be a stray dog? You got to belong to someone, even if he kicks you once in a while."
- Irma la Douce (Shirley Maclaine)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 06, 2001

Stars: Jack Lemmon, Shirley Maclaine, Lou Jacobi
Other Stars: Bruce Yarnell, Herschell Bernardi, Hope Holiday, Joan Shawlee, Grace Lee Whitney, Paul Dubov, Tura Satana, Bill Bixby
Director: Billy Wilder

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexual situations, adult themes, brief partial nudity)
Run Time: 02h:22m:50s
Release Date: September 18, 2001
UPC: 027616865908
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- DB+B- D

DVD Review

Billy Wilder made a pretty successful career out of sex comedies that constantly pushed at the boundaries of the Production Code. One of his more notorious comedies is this picture centering on prostitution in Paris. Unfortunately, while it tries hard to be daring, it comes up very short on the comedy. I hate comedies that don't make me laugh.

Shirley Maclaine stars as the title character, a streetwalker, or poule, in the Rue Casanova of the red light district. She has a tenuous relationship with her pimp, or mec, Hippolyte the Ox (Bruce Yarnell). When honest gendarme Nestor Patou rounds up Irma and the others, he finds himself in hot water and booted off the force. Before long, he has hooked up with Irma and become her mec himself. Jealous of her attentions to her clients, however, Nestor masquerades as an English noble, Lord X, and hires Irma as his exclusive poule, though all they do is play double solitaire. Hijinks ensue. Oh, boy.

Part of the problem here is the movie goes on far too long. The last 25 minutes is completely extraneous and goes off on some silly tangents. The balance of the picture contains about enough substance to fill a particularly lame episode of Three's Company. Wilder tries valiantly to generate some excitement with flashes of skin, but it just doesn't do the job. Indeed, it feels like he is trying too hard to make the material offensive. While I wasn't offended in the least (though the subject matter is not suitable for children), I was annoyed by the labored spectacle of the effort.

It doesn't help that Maclaine is as unsexy as I can possibly imagine. Between the phony black wig and the vomitous green stockings she's constantly wearing, she is an annoyance more than anything. This part might have been something special with Marilyn Monroe in it, but alas, she died too soon. Lemmon is unfunny as usual, especially when he's mugging it up as the Lord. If you thought he was unconvincing in drag in Some Like It Hot, you ain't seen nothing yet. His idea of comic delivery is to stammer. How very droll. The only merit to this mess is the redoubtable Lou Jacobi as Moustache, the slimy owner of the local bistro and co-conspirator with Nestor. He has an impeccable delivery and some lines that are actually amusing. His bemused deadpan style is right on for the part.

Since the story isn't very interesting, it's good that there are a few tidbits worth looking for. One of these is cult favorite sexpot Tura Satana of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, who plays one of the streetwalkers. Why didn't she get the lead? You might also spot a very young Bill Bixby. But between the seemingly endless, labored and unfunny fight sequences, there's precious little for amusement here. It's hard to believe that this was based on a musical; with added songs this would have me slitting my wrists long before the end. Perhaps like Lord X, you might take up solitaire instead.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture has pluses and minuses. On the positive side, the source material is in excellent condition with hardly any frame damage visible. Colors are quite good, and black levels are decent. There is plenty of aliasing and moire visible, however, especially amongst the loud striped suits of the mecs. At times this makes the screen fairly shimmer with unwanted artifacts. Otherwise the picture is quite satisfactory.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Three 2.0 mono tracks are provided. While the dialogue is clear, the music suffers badly. The bass seems improperly boosted and the treble very tinny, giving the feeling of extremes without much sound in between. Beyond this distortion, however, there's not much hiss or noise.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:18m:47s

Extras Review: A lengthy anamorphic 2.35:1 trailer is included. While that's in fairly rough shape, it includes several minutes of Freleng-style animation that's worth seeing. Chaptering is the standard MGM 16 stops. Subtitles for French and Spanish are included (where is the English?), but that's all for extras.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A lame, unfunny and far-too-long comedy, given a decent transfer but without extras. Maybe worth a rental for devotees of Maclaine, who really have a need to see her in ugly underwear, but safely skipped by normal folks.


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