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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)

Bob: I did a terrible thing. I cheated!
Alice: My darling, you did not do a terrible thing. You told me about it. If you hadn't have told me, that would have been cheating.

- Robert Culp, Natalie Wood

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: November 17, 2004

Stars: Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliott Gould, Dyan Cannon
Other Stars: Greg Mullaney, Horst Ebersberg, Lee Bergere, Donald E. Muhich, Noble Lee Holderread, Jr., K.T. Stevens, Celeste Yarnell, Lynn Borden, Diane Berghoff, John Halloran
Director: Paul Mazursky

MPAA Rating: R for (nudity, sexuality, a scene of drug use)
Run Time: 01h:45m:21s
Release Date: November 16, 2004
UPC: 043396011441
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C D+C+C+ C

DVD Review

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw many great films that tore down the conventions of American cinema. Some of these pictures, such as Midnight Cowboy and Five Easy Pieces, are just as fresh today as they were when first released, while others are now terribly dated. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, the first film by director Paul Mazursky, belongs to the latter camp. The free-swinging stylings of its title characters look pretentious and calculated, not liberating and unanticipated.

The story begins with Bob and Carol, a married couple, traveling to a new age therapy camp, where the instructor (Greg Mullaney) tells them that there are no rules, except for a policy of non-violence. Certainly Mazursky seems to embrace this, since he unnecessarily crams in shots of nude campers during the opening credits. Bob claims he is there merely to do research, since he's a documentary filmmaker, but eventually he and Carol become highly emotional and tell each other, along with everyone else, how they feel. The weekend is a tremendous success for them, but not for the story. What follows this opening scene are 90 minutes of obvious plot twists and mind-numbingly dumb dialogue.

The script, written by Mazursky and Larry Tucker, is certainly not cinematic. Movies are a visual medium, so the film is already at a disadvantage when the majority of it consists of its leading characters discussing their feelings in the bedroom or living room. When Bob and Carol go out to eat with their friends, Ted and Alice (Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon, respectively), their newfound inner-peace evokes laughter and snide comments. However, all of this changes when Bob admits to an affair he had in San Francisco. Carol sees beauty in it, though it is hard to understand why. Nothing in the script up to this point seems to indicate that the couple, despite their new outlook on life, would tolerate such a betrayal. Certainly the wooden performances by the two actors don't fill in the gap. Perhaps this is just an excuse for the male screenwriters to live out their fantasy of an adulterous affair.

Initially, Ted and Alice are repulsed by this news. However, after an argument in bed (which seems to last forever) and a visit to the psychiatrist, even they begin to see beauty in such a things. Bob convinces Ted that he shouldn't let the next opportunity for a quickie pass him by, which prompts Ted into joining the mile high club with a nameless twentysomething. There's an element to the movie that is unmistakably misogynistic, as evident by the fact that only the women are required to strip before the camera. This might be forgivable—after all, many of the great films from this time period are horribly sexist—if it wasn't for how predictable the story is. Take for instance when Bob arrives home early from a trip to find Carol having an affair. The two of them keep talking and talking and talking, but there's never any doubt that Bob will realize his hypocrisy and fully embrace the "beauty" of Carol's affair.

There's also an element at work here that is quite destructive. The theme of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice seems to be that the notion of fidelity, particularly in the sacrament of marriage, is dead. Even the non-religious can see a problem with this, since bigamy and promiscuity carry grave emotional and social consequences, at the very least. But apart from the morally offensive tone of the picture, it aesthetically isn't particularly satisfying either. The clothing and sets, particularly the closing set piece at the Riviera Hotel and a nightclub earlier in the picture, are horribly dated and will probably draw unintended laughs. Plus, the hip dialogue and music are no longer hip—making the once risqué elements dull. Even as a testament to the era in which it was made, the movie still falls flat. Even though the 1960s still evoke strong emotions and opinions, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice does not sufficiently show the depth of what happened during that tumultuous decade.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: D+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is preserved in this anamorphic transfer. Grain is present throughout, though it is never distracting. The club scene has a lot of print defects and weak contrast. The colors come across cleanly, though they are not vibrant. It's an acceptable transfer, but nothing special.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The mono English sound mix occupies the front sound stage, but does not contain much of a presence. There is no hiss and the dialogue is easily understood. The musical score comes across well, but there's no life in this mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanese with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Seinfeld DVDs, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, Easy Rider: 30th Anniversary DVD & VHS Collector's Edition
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Robert Culp, Dyan Cannon, Elliott Gould, Paul Mazursky
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Tales of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice—an interview with Paul Mazursky at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute.
Extras Review: As opposed to the usual catalogue title from Columbia, there actually are some extras for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. First up are three trailers that play before the main menu comes up (they also can be accessed through the menu). The Seinfeld DVDs trailer begins the trio, followed by Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius (presented in 2.35:1 nonanamorphic widescreen and Dolby Stereo), which in turn is followed by Easy Rider: 30th Anniversary DVD & VHS Collector's Edition (shown in 1.33:1 full screen and Dolby Stereo).

The first supplement pertaining to the movie is an audio commentary by Paul Mazursky, Elliott Gould, Dyan Cannon, and Robert Culp. The four spend a lot of time complimenting each other and pointing out how cute they think Natalie Wood is. Gould barely registers in this commentary, uttering his statements with a passive disposition. Cannon seems to truly appreciate the nudity and all of them revel in the bawdy elements of the film. Occasionally they give anecdotes about the actual production, but mostly this is just a shameless collection of self-indulgence.

The final extra is Tales of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (17m:43s), an interview with Paul Mazursky at the Lee Strasberg Institute. Being interviewed by Strasberg's son, David, Mazursky offers some new information here that is not found in the commentary. He talks about his history as a stand-up comic, as well as his approach towards directing actors. When he speaks about Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, the relevant scene is shown in a clip. Optional Japanese subtitles are available. The interview has some valuable comments, but not many.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is simply too dated. This lackluster DVD release features adequate image and sound transfers, with rather mundane special features. Not recommended.

 


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