A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

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Released:  Friday, July 15, 1988  
Length:  108 minutes
Studio: MGM Studios
Genre: Comedy
Rating: A Fish Called Wanda is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of AmericaUnder 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


Synopsis

In 1988, John Cleese, former Python and the mastermind behind Fawlty Towers, teamed up with the veteran Ealing Comedy director Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob) to produce another classic of British comedy. 

Cleese plays Archie Leach, a weak-willed barrister who finds himself embroiled with a quartet of ill-matched jewel thieves - two American con artists played by Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, Michael Palin's animal-loving hitman and London gangster Tom Georgeson - when Georgeson is arrested. Only he and Palin know the whereabouts of the diamonds, prompting plenty of farce and in-fighting as well as some embarrassing nudity and the unfortunate demise of some innocent pooches... 

Nominated for three Academy Awards and winning one for Kline's outstanding supporting turn as the psychopathic Otto, A Fish Called Wanda has stood the test of time, earning its rightful place among its creators' remarkable comedy pedigree.

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A Fish Called Wanda Blu-ray Review


It's been almost 30 years since A Fish Called Wanda was in movie theaters. Co-written, co-directed and starring John Cleese (Monty Python and the Holy Grail), the smart comedy was nominated for three Academy Awards with Kevin Kline (Dave) winning for Best Supporting Actor. Arrow Video decided the movie needed a remastering and rerelease so they are offering the movie on Blu-ray and packaged it with a special booklet commemorating the successful film.  For those who fell in love with the movie back in 1988 and laughed at it, this is a good chance to update your DVD collection and move over to Blu-ray.

The story centers mainly around four individuals who rob a diamond exchange in London and the barrister (Cleese) who defends one of them when he is accused of the heist and winds up in jail. Georges (Tom Georgeson; Notes on a Scandal), Wanda, (Jamie Lee Curtis; True Lies), Otto (Kline), and Ken (Michael Palin; Monty Python and the Holy Grail) carefully plan and pull off a jewelry heist but Georges ends up in jail when Otto anonymously calls in a fake report to the police that Georges was the one who stole the diamonds.  Wanda appears distraught by this turn of events, though she is really a backstabbing con artist who, along with Otto plans on double-crossing Georges and Ken and taking all the jewels for themselves.

However, Georges has double-crossed them as well and moved the diamonds to another location.   Wanda must now cozy up to Georges' barrister, Archie, to try and find out where the diamonds are so she can steal them out from all the other players.  In the end, she does get the diamonds and Archie gets out from under his boring life and marriage and the two fly together to South America.

A Fish Called Wanda has almost a cult following and I can see why.  It is very well written with dialogue and laughs that seem to have stood up to the test of time.  Every time Kline's Otto mutters, "Don't call me stupid" you want to recite the phrase along with him and his performance, as the psychotic, philosophical, jealousy-ridden thief is the work of pure genius.  His Academy Award is well deserved in this case.

The rest of the cast is a well-oiled machine and have a good chemistry that adds to the overall effect of the film.  Director Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob), in the last film he directed, does some terrific work with brevity of movement, good flow, and varied camera angles.  His vision and style are apparent throughout the movie.

The Blu-ray has a number of extras, though many are previously released features.  They include Audio Commentary with Cleese, John Cleese's Final Farewell Performance, a documentary from 1988 on the making of the movie, Something Fishy that revisited the film 15 years later, On Location, two brand appreciation interviews with Vic Pratt and Roger Murray-Leach, 26 deleted / alternate scenes, a message from John Cleese from the original release, Gallery, Trivia Track and Theatrical trailer.  There are hours of videos to watch and enjoy that include all the main cast and crew.

Arrow Films also added a 39-page booklet that is broken down into four parts.  The first discusses the cast and crew, the second is an article called Laughing and not laughing at A Fish Called Wanda, the third is a 1988 article called Wanda Lust and the last part includes the restoration details.

The specifications state the original 35mm camera negative was scanned onto 4K then cleaned of dirt, debris and scratches and, finally, image stability was improved.  The audio has both the original mono and 5.1 mixes.  The overall effect is a solid audio/visual experience.

The movie is a new classic that people remember and love and was a good choice for the new Blu-ray "makeover" and re-release.  If you loved the movie back in 1988 this version will surely please you. 

Grade: B

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