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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, German, Greek, Hungarian, English - Hearing Impaired, Turkish, Croatian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, German - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Writer/actor John Cleese
  • 4 Featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Trivia track

A Fish Called Wanda: SE

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 108 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Attenzione: Desideriamo raccomandare che estremamente il crapissimo occasionale tenta a “Pythonesque” l'umore può seguire...

Smarting somewhat from the essentially complete and utter failure of his film Clockwise everywhere pretty much other than Sweden (we wonder if their Prime Minister got to see it?), always the glutton for punishment John Cleese went back to the drawing board to work on a little idea he had. This idea was known as A Wish Called Fonda, all about his desire to get a certain lithe American actress and fitness queen firmly within his nefarious clutches to create a series of videos about silly-aerobics. After a few minutes of thought, however, Cleese decided that this idea was rather stupendously moronic, and so he went back to the drawing board once again. This time he came up with the idea that was to become A Fish Called Wanda, and it’s a good thing he did, for it is still one of the most diabolically evil little comedies – with a delightfully wafer-thin hint of sweetness – that emerged from the mostly filmic wasteland we know as the 1980s.

Drafting in renowned director of what are known as the Ealing comedies (think The Lavender Hill Mob and their ilk) Charles Crichton, who he had worked with on his rather well-loved job training films, and mixing the cast up with a few Yanks for over the pond appeal, Wanda is the not necessarily so simple tale of a diamond heist, with a sort of “who gets the girl” slightly skew-whiff love story added to the mix. It’s a tail, erm, tale of a group of four baddies – ringleader George Thomason (Tom Georgeson – really!), possessor of a killer stutter Ken (Michael Palin), an American girl with a thing for languages called Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis – not to be confused with a fish) and Otto – an utterly psychotic Anglophobe who thinks reading Neitzsche makes him not stupid (Kevin Kline). Their job goes without a hitch – until Wanda and Otto, who have a thing going it would seem, dob George in, with intentions of skipping the land of Limey with the loot all to themselves. However, having not counted on the English ringleader’s lack of trust and his having had Ken move said booty, a rather complex plan to find it becomes necessitous. This involves Wanda inveigling her way into the life of Archie Leach (John Cleese), George’s lawyer, however what starts out as a simple spot of good old using somebody to further her own means becomes more complicated as Wanda’s attraction to this somewhat repressed and sweet (in a pompous sort of way) Englishman grows. Oh, and then there’s Ken’s little project to dispose of the only witness to their heist…

"What was the, err, middle thing?"

Sprinkled with the kind of devilish humour Cleese is revered for, A Fish Called Wanda became one of 1988’s most successful films. It scored more BAFTA Awards than Cleese could possibly ever eat, and when you think that this comedy garnered Oscar nominations, and eventually a win for 'Best Supporting Actor' to Kevin Kline, you should get some idea of its impact – how many comedies have even been given a sniff at one of those snooty little gold blokes since?

Speaking of Kline, he is simply amazing in his role of the nutball Otto. Previously known only for serious works, a rich vein of comic talent was revealed, in fact he steals the comic limelight almost entirely from Cleese, who plays it pretty much straight save for the odd key scene. Michael Palin is superb as the hapless K-K-K-Ken, and Jamie Lee Curtis does a fine job in making Wanda nefarious but curiously beguiling at the same time - when she’s not snogging anybody within the film who moves.

  Video
Contract

When originally released on DVD, A Fish Called Wanda was fed a fairly average, non-anamorphic transfer. This 'Special Edition' release makes amends with a new, anamorphically enhanced print that does it quite a bit more justice.

One of the most striking things about it all is how clean the print actually is. All too often we’re witness to films of a similar vintage swimming in a sea of speckles and blobs, hairs, crunchy frog wrappers and more, however Wanda displays very few blemishes, and those which do crop up are both small and fleeting. Colour is, well, decent but quite British looking – it isn’t as bright and shiny as many - however skin tones are good, even the ruddier types like Ken, while blacks are quite nicely not grey. The layer change skated by unnoticed, which would lean one towards suspecting that it is rather well-placed (especially when one such as I is usually such a harpy about these matters), and while there is a tendency towards quite fine grain, which affects detail a little, in all this really is a quite pleasing presentation. Oh dear, how dreadfully polite that all was!

Bollocks!

Ah, now that’s much better.

  Audio
Contract

Discard that rubbish originally released disc with its mono transfer, for this here baby’s got a Dolby Digital 5.1 English mix to munch on! Oh, hang on a mo – it isn’t actually that good. “But it must be, it’s in 5.1!” I hear somebody cry. Well, the film wasn’t made in 5.1, so naturally this would have had an effect when making its audio as much. This effect has been, in essence, a subwoofwoof that scarcely emits the slightest of whimpers (perhaps it’s cowering in fear of Ken?), and rear channels that only really pump out a bit of the score at appropriate times. When it comes to dialogue, sound effects etc they’re all firmly placed up the front like the girliest of girly swots in English class, but most importantly all is nicely mixed and speech is decidedly clear, almost too much so on occasions where looped dialogue becomes a tad obvious. For those into languages there’s also a German 5.1 mix, however sadly Italian and Russian have been overlooked.

As for that soundtrack, it’s really the only thing that markedly dates the film (although anally retentive plane-spotters may claim one or two other things do – oops, I’ve said too much!) – but curiously not just to the ‘80s. Composer John Du Prez concocted a bizarre mix of musical styles ranging from utter “hooray for rennet!”, more cheesy than anything you wouldn’t find within the National Cheese Emporium stodge reminiscent of crap ‘80s keyboard preset demos, through to brass, brass and more brass ‘60s type fare to tunes reminiscent of ‘50s Britcoms. It may be a great film, but it’s not exactly one to have you making a mad dash to your local CD vending establishment in order to purchase the soundtrack disc.

  Extras
Contract

Let’s face it, when it came to bonuses, the first release of Wanda on DVD stiffed us big time. Thankfully this two-disc set more than makes up for that with an absolute cavalcade of extra bits and bobs – which should have owners of the original release pulling faces such as if they’d just eaten a decidedly unripe fish.

Disc One

Audio Commentary: Jolly good show, a commentary by the one and only, the incomparable, possibly singularly most incredible comic genius history has ever given us, John Cleese, recorded just last year. Luxury! Well, it sounds like him – but he is a tad, well, boring. Surely it isn’t a stretch to expect a little bit of humour to creep in from a gentleman of such comic renown? However sadly he plays this remarkably straight, between increasingly larger gaps as things progress. Much production information is delved into, along with a few downbeat anecdotes, and a lot of time is spent toasting the late director Charles Crichton, however unfortunately in the end it seems that even four million volts wouldn’t make this commentator voom.

Trivia Track: Now this is more like it – these little thingies seem to be becoming more common, and all power to them, for they offer fabulous entertainment. Living up to its title with much aplomb, everything from pertinent film information to silly shooting goss to stuff about Jamie Lee Curtis’ patent on a baby nappy (sorry, “diaper”) pop up on screen in little brownish-orange boxes with pleasing regularity, along with liberal sprinklings of Nietzsche quotes to keep all the pseuds out their slapping their thighs in unbridled glee.

Disc Two

Featurette - John Cleese’s First Farewell Performance (48:08): Decidedly British from the outset (how many such creations from Americans use the word “denouement”? In fact how many Americans even know the word for that matter?), this is a kind of ‘making of’ created back when Wanda itself was being created. As such it features all manner of behind the scenes peaks into filming and rehearsals, plus interviews with all of the principal cast members and the director – and, joy of joys, John Cleese is at his silly best. Python fans will be “ni”-ing with glee at the Lumberjack Song in German, plus there is a selection of clips from the film and a rather jarring look at Kevin Kline being all serious-like in Cry Freedom.

Featurette - Something Fishy (30:31): As it’s only February at the time of clickety-clacking this review, and with a copyright date of 2003, it’s possibly more than fair to say that this little special was put together quite recently. Very recently in fact. In actuality so recently that perhaps it isn’t even finished yet and it’s a figment of our imaginations. Or something. At any rate, it features recent interviews with the likes of Cleese, Palin, Curtis and Kline, plus all manner of production types, reliving the whole Wanda experience 15 years (or thereabouts – ha, thought you got me, didn’t you?!) later. As the commentary alludes, John Cleese is looking and sounding a little old – which of course is completely natural and his right to do if he so wishes – he’s just always been one of those people you never expect to age, so it kind of hits you like a walrus flipper to the buttocks to discover that he is, in actual fact, human. Kind of like when you realise one day your parents are getting on a bit, and won’t be around forever and ever. But now I’m getting maudlin... To sum it all up, it has its entertaining moments, and if you cut through the backslapping there’s still enough left to make it worth investing half an hour of your own personal trip to the world of grey hair and wrinkles in.

Featurette - Fish You Were Here – On Location (16:31): Presented by a drier than the driest of dry things English person named Robert Powell, and with the odd bit of opinion added by “film expert” Mark Adams, this is a recently concocted little feature which visits many of the London locations used in Wanda, complete with liberal sprinklings of flickets from the snip – sorry, snippets from the flick. It’s so recently made in fact that it’s in a ratio of 1.78:1 and 16:9 enhanced.

Deleted and Alternate Scenes (27:33): A quite incredible 26 extra bits and pieces are on offer here, complete with very laidback intros from Mr Cleese. They can mercifully be played as a chunk, or selected individually if you have that much time on your hands. A lot of inclusions are slight variations on final scenes, including a chunkier ending, plus there are a lot more manic Otto moments. Cat lovers gleeful at the treatment of those poor old doggies in the film may be advised not to view this, however...

Featurette - A Message From John Cleese (4:43): Or is that Jack Cheese? Or Meryl Streep perhaps? A delightfully humorous little creation designed for the US on the film’s release, which in a nutshell explains why Wanda would become a very big hit. With the benefit of hindsight, luckily a certain six foot-plus gentleman doesn’t look all eggy-faced...

Theatrical Trailer (1:24, 1.85:1, pocket protector enhanced): Complete with a remarkably understated, almost comatose voiceover, this, believe it or not kiddies, is a trailer that was used to promote the film to cinemagoers back in the late ‘80s. How clever!

Gallery: Or Portrait of a Fish if you prefer, this is divided into five fillets. Thrill at Key Scenes (with 11 piccies), wow at Behind the Scenes (22), goggle at Deleted Scenes (5), swoon to the sight of The Stars (34) and sob uncontrollably as it’s all about to end with Publicity Images (8). Some even have annotations, which is a very nice thing indeed, oh yes.

Ah, it was nearly a thing that was forgotten to be mentioned that most all of the extras have subtitles in English (in case you're as deaf as a post sir, it’s presumed), German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Ni. Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll type that again – English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Dutch. That's it, I'm sacked.

  Overall  
Contract

While many comedies of similar vintage have proved themselves rather wrinkly and haggard under our super-critical 21st century gazes, A Fish Called Wanda remains a true comedic diamond, complete with more fish than you’ll ever find in a Meryl Streep film. Presented here in a marvellous, quality-packed two-disc set, there is absolutely no reason why any fan of the film should be at all disappointed

Unless, of course, you already bought the first release – honestly, sometimes these film companies can be such assholes!


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=2371
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      And I quote...
    "A delightfully piquant little DVD set, rich with the finest of extras and featuring the world’s first great taste... of fish."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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