May 26, 2012

The third Blake Edwards movie returned to DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive is Victor/Victoria. (I covered the other two, S.O.B. and Skin Deep, last month.) It’s also the best of the three, with its bizarre plot — a soprano who can’t get work pretends to be a female impersonator in 1930s Paris — allowing for commentary on the economic struggles of entertainers, the civil rights of homosexuals (tolerated in the theater, not so much elsewhere), and gender roles and expectations overall.


Everyone in this film sparkles, from Julie Andrews’ starving singer (who gets one of the best ever exit lines, as she shatters a wine glass in front of a club owner who’s turned her down) to Robert Preston’s gay entertainer, with his fluffy hair and touch of eyeliner and genius idea that sets all of it in motion. Don’t forget James Garner’s tough-guy gangster, immensely confused by his attraction to “Count Victor”; his moll Norma (Lesley Ann Warren), who can’t conceive of a man who doesn’t want her; and Alex Karras as the muscle with a secret of his own. One of Warren’s first lines, the simple “Yay!” when Victor is revealed, is hilarious, especially in that brassy Chi-cah-gah accent.

Dialogue is clever and snappy throughout, making this a continually entertaining movie, whenever you watch it, first time or most recent. The songs are great, too, and the musical numbers contribute to the sense of farce. The writing’s funny and impressive, and the performances amazing. (How rare it is that all the lead characters in a movie are terrific?) It’s a simply fabulous film.

Since this duplicates the original retail DVD release, the special features carry over as well. The main extra is a commentary by Andrews and her husband, director/screenwriter Blake Edwards. There’s also a cast and crew filmography listing for four people — you know, the kind of thing they don’t do any more because it dates quickly and IMDB is better for it — an award listing, and the theatrical trailer.

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