Sunday, September 5, 2010

Classic Altman film finally arrives on DVD

“Brewster McCloud”
Review by Wayne Klein
Studio: Warner Archive Home Video
Release Date: 7/14/10
Special Features: Trailer
Rated: PG
---Review: There truly was nothing in Robert Altman’s previous films to prepare one for “Brewster McCloud”. After the success of “M*A*S*H” Altman was given the keys to the store and allowed to do whatever project he wanted to do. Altman’s film about a boy who lives in the Houston Astrodome and longs to fly was a box office disaster earning either scathing or puzzled reviews but little appreciation by anyone. It features all the hallmarks of an Altman film from the overlapping dialog to the often off-beat humor that filtered through even into his most serious projects.
***McCloud (Bud Cort of “Harold and Maude”)spends his days working on a set of wings that will allow him to escape the world. His guardian Louise (Sally Kellerman) wants Brewster to succeed keeping a close tab on the young man. A subplot involves a police officer Frank Shaft (Michael Murphy) as he tracks a serial killer. Brewster finds himself distracted by a young tour guide (Shelly Duvall)as he struggles to complete his dream project.
***Written by Dora William Canon who also wrote Otto Preminger’s odd film “Skidoo” and penned a acclaimed TV adaptation of “Brave New World”, “Brewster McCloud” remains amusing and the strangest thing directed by Altman. Unfortunately, Canon’s career petered out in 1980 a quarter century before her death in 2005. It’s clear that some of the quirky nature of the film came directly from the writer and other elements from Altman and his cast improvising on the set. Either way, this is an oddly enjoyable film that still has plenty of Altman in it.
---Image & Sound: As with all of the Warner Archive releases very little beyond trying to find a clean pristine copy of the film was done to restore “Brewster McCloud”. The film looks solid if not spectacular. Detail is good if and image quality varies a bit from soft to fairly sharp. Depth isn’t as good as it could be but, again, considering the age of the film it’s a solid if unspectacular presentation.
***The mono audio track is decent as well.
Special Features: It’s a pity that Warner sat on this for so long as since this was a favorite of Altman’s he might have participated in some special materials for a special release with him gone, it would have been nice if Warner had put together a deluxe edition. I realize that this film would have cult appeal but, perhaps, after this Warner could license this out to a small house that could assemble some outtakes (if they exist) and a retrospective featurette with Kellerman, Duvall and Cort. All we do get is a trailer.
---Final Words: A cult classic “Brewster McCloud” finally arrives on a decent looking DVD-R from Warner Archive. It’s a solid looking DVD but it could be better. That shouldn’t prevent you from getting this because I doubt we’ll see a better re-release immediately.

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