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Buy from Amazon

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HBO presents
They All Laughed (1981)

Charles: She's gonna knife you one day.
John: Oh, what can you do? It's love.

- John Ritter, Ben Gazzara

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: October 17, 2006

Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara, John Ritter, Dorothy Stratten
Other Stars: Colleen Camp, Patti Hansen, George Morfogen, Blaine Novak, Sean Ferrer, Linda MacEwen
Director: Peter Bogdanovich

MPAA Rating: PG for disturbing images, violence, some nudity, thematic material, drug references and sexual content
Run Time: 01h:55m:14s
Release Date: October 17, 2006
UPC: 026359060823
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BCC C+

DVD Review

It's no fault of the filmmaking, and it's not intended as a criticism, but this may be the saddest romantic comedy you will ever see. It's wistful for a New York that doesn't exist anymore, one wallpapered with Gershwin tunes and Checker cabs, one that may have existed only in the movies; and a number of the more notable actors in the cast (Audrey Hepburn, John Ritter) have since passed away. But no doubt what marks this film particularly is the presence of Dorothy Stratten, a Playboy Playmate of the Year brutally murdered by her jealous svengali of a husband after principal photography but before the movie's release. She was all of 20 years old, and it's hard not to imagine what might have been, or just to get out of your mind thoughts of inexorable loss. (Stratten's life was the stuff of tabloid fodder, of TV movies, and of Bob Fosse's brutal feature, Star 80.) It may be too much to claim that she would have been another Carole Lombard (has there ever been another Carole Lombard?), but it's hard to stop thinking about the violence.

Nonetheless, on its own terms, Peter Bogdanovich's movie has its charms—it's never riotously hilarious, but it's full of smiles. The setup is almost for a film noir, and not a comedy—the action revolves around a detective agency specializing in cases of infidelity, but the conceit of the picture is that the private eyes all fall a little bit in love with the women they've been hired to tail. John Ritter plays Charles, fending off the advances of his colleague Christy (Colleen Camp) as he follows and falls for Dolores (Stratten), who's running around on both a husband and a boyfriend. The same thing happens to John (Ben Gazzara) as he trails Angela (Hepburn); he also parries with a looker of a cabdriver he calls Sam (Patti Hansen). There are lots of crosses and double-crosses, mix-ups both accidental and deliberate; on occasion it can feel a little forced and schematic, but it's pretty much all quite pleasant. Scenes with Gazzara and his daughters feel a little forced and inorganic; similarly, the tales of Christy climbing the charts as a country singer strike a discordant note in this film that's so resolute about being north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

But even if you're not a New Yorker, or were born after the film was made, watching this will still make you want to live back in a world of cocktails, and of bellhops paging you for a phone call. Almost to reinforce that sense of transience are a handful of background shots that include the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. This is in many respects Bogdanovich's valentine to his hometown, though you do sort of have to blot out his own personal history with Stratten and his subsequent marriage to her sister, to revel in the memories of old times, even if they're not your own memories. Bogdanovich has been a hired hand for the last couple of decades, essentially, and his films have been of variable quality; but you realize, watching this one, that he's a romantic at heart.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: The colors are drab, and the resolution is off—for instance, in one extended scene with Colleen Camp, Ritter wears a tweed jacket that should be private-eye rumpled, but instead throws off lots of glare.

Image Transfer Grade: C

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The soundtrack is great—Sinatra, Benny Goodman, the title song—but the mix is askew, with the music all too often subsuming the words. An uneven job at best on the technical front with this one.

Audio Transfer Grade: C

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Peter Bogdanovich
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The film's reputation has been burnished over the years by younger filmmakers—the DVD case features an exuberant quote from Quentin Tarantino ("a masterpiece"), and Bogdanovich sits for an interview (27m:13s) with Wes Anderson, and it's a pleasure to hear the directors talking shop. Bogdanovich is candid about the deliberate parallels between his actors and their characters, and about tailoring the roles for them; he calls this "my personal favorite among my pictures." (I remain partial to The Last Picture Show). He also provides a commentary track, which is actually pretty pedestrian—it's a step up from his ghastly, content-free tracks on other directors' movies (like Citizen Kane and Bringing Up Baby), but it's not nearly as revealing as others he's done on his own movies, such as his commentary on Daisy Miller.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

A wistful comedy that has its charms, one that seems almost by design to get you thinking about what might have been, or what was and is no more.

 


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