Herbert Ross’ The Secret of My Success (1987) is a guilty pleasure; a delightfully screwball and nonsensical comedy about getting a leg up in the 'steal little/steal big' corporate greed of the business world with little to no experience. In the era of booming ‘Reganomics’ this sort of corporate fantasy-scape populated by clueless executives, wily rich gals and aspiring wannabes made for many a spirited jaunt and wish fulfillment for those still slugging it in the steno pool.
‘Success’ stars Michael J. Fox as Brantley Foster – a Kansas farm boy who upon graduation takes on the Big Apple…or that is, the Big Apple takes one hell of a bite out of Brantley. On the day he is set to start his new job, Brantley learns that the company that hired him has been liquidated. Determined not to return home until he is the success he's dreamed of, Brantley taps his Uncle Howard Prescott (Richard Jordon) for a job. Howard is a ruthless executive and CEO who does not recognized Brantley’s potential. Nevertheless, he hires Brantley on a whim, then relegates him to the mail room.
Brantley soon becomes the focus of a ravenous and unwanted sexual passion from Vera Prescott (Margaret Whitton) – his aunt by marriage to Howard! When he’s not ducking Vera or eschewing his current work duties to adopt the persona of Carlton Whitfield – an alias that places him in the center of the boardroom – Brantley fantasizes about cool number-cruncher, Christy Wills (Helen Slater) – his uncle’s mistress.
Light on detail but heavy on its Cinder-fella-like transformation, the film is a potpourri for ham actors doing their utmost to out-'camp' one another. Fox’s performance is the most understated; Whitton’s, the most gregarious. Her worldly, though playful goading and corrupting of small town innocence is quite riotous and effective, leaving one with a rather guilty closet full of ‘secrets’ that are more than a little tempting to revisit.
Revisiting this title on DVD should be the order of the day for executives at Universal Home Video. Their current disc is quite unacceptable. Not anamorphic, the widescreen image exhibits a generally dated characteristic with rather dull colors and an incredible amount of film grain sporadically peppered throughout the transfer. Film grain is not undesirable if it is part of the general presentation.
However, the image on this disc fluctuates from a relatively smooth characteristic to a very gritty texture – sometimes not even from scene to scene but from cut to cut! This is not as originally intended and it makes for a very inconsistently rendered image. Fine details can be nicely realized at times but occasionally the image appears quite soft and undefined. Edge enhancement exists throughout and is distracting. The audio is 2.0 stereo and quite acceptable though a 5.1 Dolby Digital remix would be preferred. There are NO extras.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)