On the surface, Nuts would appear to be a film about a woman facing a first-degree manslaughter charge, but there is more to it than that. In question is her capacity to stand trial for the crime, based on her aggressive nature and anti-social personality. It seems the only person who is even remotely of the belief that she is capable of standing trial is the woman herself, and she is determined to do so. She is hiding something, but no one is sure quite what.
Claudia Draper (Barbara Streisand) is a high-price call girl, one of the best if you believe her own sales pitch. She certainly lives a swish lifestyle, so she must be doing something right. When one of her 'johns' won't take no for answer, she is forced to defend herself. The 'john' pays the ultimate price, but too bad for him, huh?
Already in the hands of the 'psycho rangers' when the film opens, she is convinced they are all conspiring against her, thereby inducing her supposed paranoia. A catch 22 or what? When her appointed lawyer drops out (after being punched out), Aaron Levinsky (Richard Dreyfuss) is appointed to defend her when he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Draper convinces him that she is not crazy and not only able to stand trial, but willing. After much toing and froing in their relationship, Levinsky happens across the core issue that Claudia seems not only reluctant to discuss, but downright determined to stop him from dragging up. Her mother (Maureen Stapleton) and step-father (Karl Malden), seem as puzzled as everyone else as to why their daughter has always been rebellious and withdrawn. As Levinsky chips away at Claudia's wall, everyone else seems determined to put her in the hands of the medical 'professionals' to get the psychiatric help she needs. Eventually, she cracks, but what is uncovered is merely the tip of the iceberg.
There is much good and some truly ordinary in this film, and depending on what you want to focus on, you are either going to hate or love it. If you enjoy a good emotive performance or two, a solid supporting cast, some interesting, explosive dialogue, and a slowly revealed story, then you're going to enjoy it. If you are a lawyer type, or have more than a passing interest in courtroom procedures, need a water-tight storyline, and a movie where the best dialogue is shared around a bit and the ending is not too predictable, you are advised to look elsewhere.
Babs had quite a hand in Nuts as star, producer, uncredited co-director, and responsible for the music (it only has 13 minutes of score though). It shouldn't be too hard to work out that really is her vehicle. Is that a bad thing? Not really. This is not the best film doing the rounds, but it might just be the best of Babs' films. Her performance is strong, even if she does hog most of the best bits, and Dreyfuss has the ability to lift any dross out of the mire. The film is tightly edited, and moves along nicely, and should hold the attention of most.
Nuts is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16:9 enhanced. Like many of Babs' classics that have been released of late, it looks pretty damned fine. There has been restoration work carried out and, basically, it has been worth it. The film is very clean, and is as close to dirt and mark-free as it can be. Grain is very minimal and should not bother anyone, certainly not Babs' fans. Black levels are also strong, however shadow detail in some of the longer court scenes and the infirmary scenes are quite dark. Skin tones appear a little red at times, but are quite acceptable. The image overall is a little on the soft side by modern day standards, but a whole let better than other films of similar vintage.
There are no compression artefacts to speak of, and shimmer and aliasing is minimal. There is a layer change at 53:16 and it's noticeable without being too clunky.
The only audio option is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track and all in all it sounds fine. Although it offers little in the way of audio 'pow', this is the kind of film that essentially doesn't miss a 5.1 audio all that much. A lot of the action is character-driven with solid dialogue, often in court, so a big 5.1 audio would be wasted. What is on offer is loud, clear, has a decent sound range considering the lack of 'action' and there are no problems with synchronisation.
There is some noticeable separation, loud, clear ambient sounds (albeit in stereo) and there should be no reason for anyone to go 'nuts'. Oh dear...