Blake Edwards’ S.O.B.
Blake Edwards’ infamous S.O.B. (1981) has returned to DVD courtesy of Warner Archive.
Edwards’ wife Julie Andrews plays a character loosely reminiscent of her real-life self, an actress best known for her family-friendly saccharine musicals. Richard Mulligan is her husband, Felix Farmer, a producer who’s just made his first flop. (Reportedly, the story was inspired in part by the experiences of Edwards and Andrews making Darling Lili.) Farmer has a nervous breakdown and tries to commit suicide, but after failing multiple times, he hatches an outrageous plan: he will remake his failure of a movie as a porn film, and his wife will appear topless (which, yes, Andrews does).
This is a classic of Hollywood satire, a significant film in the genre of “movie makers make movies about how messed up the industry is”. At the time, it was intended to be black comedy, wicked in its spilling of secrets, but modern watchers of the business won’t find it quite as shocking. Many of its revelations — movie people are crazy, greedy, motivated by sex, on drugs, or all of the above — are now common knowledge, making the movie even darker.
(Today’s viewer might snicker, though, at how upset everyone is getting over losing a few million dollars, given the scale of current film disasters.) Instead, what surprises is the casual acceptance of varying sexual partners and business alcoholism; that, the deliberate pacing, and the fashions, especially the one-piece pantsuits on the men, all mark this film as from another era. (So does, more disturbingly, the plot twist that Andrews’ character says no to the nudity until she is drugged.)
None of the characters in this film are likable, but all are entertaining, due to the many strong performances. Mulligan doesn’t even talk until 45 minutes into the two-hour movie, but his expressions are something to behold. S.O.B. also stars Robert Vaughn (as the studio president), Larry Hagman (studio executive), Robert Preston (Farmer’s smoking/drinking/injecting doctor, stealing every scene he’s in), Loretta Swit (gossip columnist), and in his last movie, William Holden (a director). Rosanna Arquette has a small role as a teenage hitchhiker; she also gets topless. It’s an old white man’s world in this movie.
Special Features are minimal, just the theatrical trailer and a list of Blake Edwards’ credits.
I squeeed when I saw this in the Warner Archive release email(I was also happy to see that Sony Choice is releasing Wilder Napalm). I remember catching this on HBO back in the day and loving it, and that was before I knew about the actual backstory that informed the movie.
What surprised me was that a movie as well received and fairly well-known as Victor-Victoria was also being released as Warner Archive instead of a more traditional release. S.O.B. and Skin Deep I can see, as they were not hits by any means, but V/V was critically well received, nominated for awards and even eventually adapted for the stage if I remember correctly. I guess the Warner Archive concept is gaining some traction if they are releasing films of this caliber using the methodology.
All three of those Edwards movies had conventional DVD releases around 2002, but they went out of print. The Warner Archive is a way to bring them back without all the effort of another full manufacturing run. Now, you can get them for $20 (or less, on sale) instead of the $50 used dealers were asking.
I thought that I’d seen V/V available for sale before, but I must have completely missed S.O.B. I had no problems seeing Warner Archive for S.O.B. or Skin Deep – those are exactly the sort of movies that programs like Warner Archive are perfect for.
I’m still a little surprised that V/V isn’t considered worthy enough for a manufacturing run to keep it in print conventionally. But then again, they have the sales records to justify these decisions, and it’s much better to have it available, no matter how.
of course, with Walmarts carrying fewer and fewer discs, Blockbusters going out of business and Best Buy supposedly thisclose to imploding, I’m not sure that conventionally manufactured wide releases are going to be that common for most long tail movies.
I think that’s it, exactly — if it’s not a new release, there may not be interest or support for shipping to stores, especially since people seem to be buying catalog titles only at low price points. By making themselves the only retail outlet, Warner Archive can better control the price they expect to get.