Sunday, May 11, 2014

BACHELOR PARTY: Blu-ray (2oth Century-Fox 1984) Fox Home Video

Despite the movie’s suggestion of a bachelor party being an American tradition, it’s a stretch to consider the adolescent chaos unfolding in Neal Israel’s Bachelor Party (1984) as par for the course of what every hot-blooded male’s last night out before the wedding typifies; despite Israel’s claim that he based this movie (and the screenplay, co-written by Pat Proft) on his own prenuptial fling; or rather – the one thrown on his behalf to mark the occasion. The perpetuated myth about marriage is that it marks the surrender of individual rights and freedoms to behave badly without reprisals. And certainly, everyone involved in this Bachelor Party is about as morally bankrupt and moronic as human beings can get. Nevertheless, time has been exquisitely kind to Israel’s brainchild. Bachelor Party holds up remarkably well; perhaps because in the interim since, real life has become much more bizarre. Hence, what used to appear as good-humored – if far-fetched – now instead seems to run parallel with reality…or, at least, our misguided understanding of it. 
Bachelor Party is a one-premised ribald farce; its easy-going justification of gutter depravity running the gamut from anti-religious poor taste to gratuitous nudity and dead farm animals stuffed inside hotel elevators. Remarkably, there is joy to be had in this exercise; the titillation factor never eclipsing the film’s tart, smart-mouthed zingers. The movie is immeasurably blessed by the presence of Tom Hanks – also Adrian Zmed (then considered something of an 80’s pinup and heartthrob). Together Hanks and Zmed are the soul of Bachelor Party; a winning pair of preening peacocks who know their way around this ridiculous premise and – even better – can sell abject silliness as though it were fine art.  At varying intervals, Bachelor Party is deliciously irreverent and crassly commercial.  This is a movie made to sell a lot of popcorn; arguably, condoms too – its target audience, the late-teen and early twenty-something crowd of testosterone-driven horn dogs trolling for a good time.  The trick and surprise is that Bachelor Party still manages to retain its whack-tac-u-lar charm and appeal for the older generation, even after the excitable bloom of one’s own youth has worn thin.
Bachelor Party is therefore a rarity among 80’s comedies. Although its clothing and hairstyles have undeniably dated, the movie remains as freshly amusing as ever. We’re not watching a movie like Bachelor Party for plot. Not even for character development; although oddly, there’s enough of the latter to make us forget the entire scenario is nothing better than a series of skits loosely strung together. Without a doubt, the show belongs to Tom Hanks; his subversive alter ego, bus driver, Rick Gassko, an appetizing foil for the conservative left, epitomized by George Grizzard and Barbara Stuart (hilarious as the button-downed parents of Gassko’s beloved, Debbie, played by Tawny Kitaen). Bachelor Party is also notable for Robert Prescott as the ruthlessly inept WASP, Cole Whittier, who tries to bribe and then murder Rick and his buddies so that he can have Debbie all to himself. Oh yeah – this guy has anger management issues. At 105 minutes, Bachelor Party is a spectacularly silly affair. But it has the good sense not to take itself seriously. This too is part, if not all, of its charm. 
We begin with the arrival of party-animal/bus driver, Rick Gassko (Tom Hanks), come to collect the straight-laced pupils of an all-boy’s Catholic grade school from the auspices of the decidedly dour, Sister Mary Francis (Florence Schauffler). Rick has no shame. He’s late yet again, and openly flirts with the aged nun, who forewarns he will come to no good. Rick doesn’t really care. That’s his ace in the hole. He’s his own man, living apart from the social mores of the status quo. After all, who needs propriety when Rick has friends like department store children’s portrait photographer, Jay O'Neill (Adrian Zmed), rock concert scalper, Gary (Gary Grossman), grease monkey, Rudy (Barry Diamond), suicidal, Brad Mollen (Bradford Bancroft) and illiterate fast food waiter, Ryko (Michael Dudikoff). These guys can’t see beyond their Johnsons, or rather, choose not to. The fly in their ointment is, of course Rick’s pending marriage to Debbie. In fact, Rick hasn’t even told them about the wedding yet. When he does, his decision to marry is met with abject cynicism and disgust, then finally, acceptance by the group; but only if they can give him the proper sendoff: a bachelor party.
Relaying this news to Debbie doesn’t exactly bolster her vote of confidence. After all, she knows what can – does – and ultimately, will go on if the boys are left to their own sexual smorgasbord. The news is even grimmer on the home front; Rick toying with Debbie’s dad, Ed during their prearranged tennis match. Ed openly regards Rick with jaded contempt as nothing better than a pervert who is all set to ruin his daughter’s life. Deb’s elder sister/divorcee, Sue (Cynthia Kania) has her own issues with men. She thinks they’re all pigs; all, except for Cole Whittier, whom Ed is desperately trying to put forth as a viable alternative for Debbie’s affections.  
In the meantime, Rick’s elder brother, Dr. Stan Gassko (William Tepper) has some good solid advice to impart. Don’t do it! Marriage ruins a man. It robs him of his sex drive. And Stan ought to know, married to priggish, Dr. Tina (Wendie Jo Sperber) who never misses an opportunity or a trick to verbally emasculate her man. To alleviate anxieties on both fronts, Jay coordinates Rick’s bachelor party to coincide with the bridal shower Debbie’s friends are giving at her parent’s home; thus, keeping the girls preoccupied while the menfolk run off to a high class hotel to play. Too bad Gary mixes up the addresses, sending a pair of dominatrix (complete with whips and vibrators) meant to entertain the boys to the Thompson estate instead. Disgusted, the girls vow revenge by taking in a Chippendale review. Before long, one of the male dancers has Dr. Tina gyrating on the dance floor, the spectacle observed by a close friend of Rick’s, who alerts him to the fact the girls are having more fun than he is. Rick isn’t spiteful – just playful; hiring one of the strippers, affectionate known as Nick the Dick (Brett Clark), who manages to slip his manhood inside a hotdog bun, serving it to Mrs. Thomspon on a silver tray.
Gary rectifies his earlier misfire by renting a bunch of prostitutes from an alley pimp (Ji-Tu Cumbuka); the new recruits, decidedly, not the sort of clientele the Parkview Hotel’s manager (Kenneth Kimmins) is used to entertaining. He’ll probably have a lot more difficulty accepting the inclusion of a mule, snuck in the back way by Jay and meant for a bestiality act with a buxom belly dancer. Alas, before the…uh…act…can get underway, the mule discovers Brad’s stash of pills and cocaine; snorting up and checking out – literally – all four paws pointed toward the ceiling. No matter – the bachelor party is in full swing, attracting Shriners, newlyweds and prom dates alike; everyone pretty much behaving as they would in an amusement park after dark. Gary hooks up with the girl of his dreams, She-Tim (Christopher Morley), who unfortunately pees standing up! When Gary finds out he takes a very cold - fairly aggressive - shower to scour the lingering aftereffects from his genitals.  
Meanwhile, across the way, Cole (having already failed in his attempt to bribe Rick by giving him his brand new Porsche) is preparing to murder Rick with a crossbow. It doesn’t happen, and Jay, Rick and Brad storm Cole’s suite, stripping him naked and tying him up in bed sheets to be dangled out the window; the sight of his naked behind plastered against a hotel window managing to terrorize a young couple (producer, Pat Proft and Rebecca Perle) into fleeing from their room. Meanwhile, Debbie, her mom, Sue, Dr. Tina and two other friends plot to crash Rick’s bachelor party disguised as hookers. A mix-up of room numbers leads them to another suite where they are mistaken for real hookers by a group of Japanese businessmen (Michael Yama, George Sasaki, Tad Horino, William T. Yamadera), already stripped down to their shorts in anticipation of a wild night. In the resulting chaos, Sue nobly holds down the fort, allowing Debbie and her cohorts their escape, before throwing herself to these wolves with wild abandonment.
In the meantime, Ed is lured into a back bedroom at the party, bound and gagged by a small armada of hookers. Thus, when Debbie arrives to the party, accusing Rick of infidelity, she instead discovers her own father looking as though he has been unfaithful to her mother. Rick interrupts the party to take a poll; proving to Debbie he has not been unfaithful all night – not even with his ex, Tracey (Monique Gabrielle); an exquisite physical specimen to be sure, though nevertheless vacuous blonde who Jay had hoped would be able to change Rick’s mind about marrying Debbie.  The hotel’s manager has had quite enough, telephoning the police to raid the party. They do, sending everyone scurrying downstairs and through the lobby. In the resulting chaos, Debbie and Rick are separated; long enough for Cole – who has presumably gone completely mad with jealousy – to kidnap her to a nearby 3D theater.
Rick and his buddies make chase through the auditorium while a movie is playing; their antics and climactic confrontation with Cole misperceived by the patrons as just another 3D effect. Having completely lost his marbles, Brad decides to commit suicide by driving Rick’s bus through the back wall of the theater. He survives the impact; the bus bursting forth from behind the movie screen; causing one patron to declare “this is the best 3D I’ve ever seen!” A short while later, Rick and Debbie are married in an outdoor ceremony by the kindly, Father O’Donall (Hugh McPhillips).  However, when O’Donall concludes with “You may now kiss the bride”, Rick instead pulls out a handheld eggbeater, implying some kinky foreplay/fetish that – married or not – Debbie is still opposed to indulge. Rick carries Debbie by force into his waiting school bus, draped in a banner that reads “Just Having Sex”, before driving away as his friends look on.
Bachelor Party is the ultimate example of men behaving badly; riotously unhinged, sexy good fun with just a dash of social commentary tacked on for good measure. Its last act finale – the showdown inside a mindboggling 36 screen 3D theater - is a joke about multiplexes and 3D ruining the movie industry; 3D then enjoying something of a very brief renaissance in the 1980’s. The Israel/Proft screenplay remains a potpourri for every conceivable insanity one might expect; all of it cleverly timed for maximum effect. No gag is wasted in this crazy quilt of a romantic sex comedy. A lot of movies from the 80’s tried to bottle and market this formula. A few since (like Todd Phillips’ The Hangover 2009 or Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids 2011) have attempted (mostly in vain) to recreate the vintage itself, bottled this time with a darker palette of more tasteless, though less self-deprecating humor.  Bachelor Party lives up to its title; just the sort of playfully raunchy ‘feel good’ or ‘good feel’ one might wish for that proverbial ‘last hurrah’ before ‘death did them part’.
Can’t say as much for Fox Home Video’s 1080p Blu-ray. Bachelor Party has never looked better on home video, and yet this isn’t a perfect effort from the studio. Alas, edge enhancement is everywhere, a lot of ‘enhancements’ and tinkering resulting in an artificially grainy image throughout. So, what is there to impress? For starters, color fidelity is spectacular. For a vintage 80’s release, we’re treated to accurate flesh tones, and rich, vibrant reds, blues and greens. You name it – it pops in hi-def. Wow! Too bad the other grating characteristic herein is digitized grit. While close-ups and medium shots do not suffer quite as much, long shots are awash in video noise that is distracting to say the very least. Personally, I really had a hard time warming up to this transfer, primarily because my eyes were being drawn to background information in constant flux.
The DTS mono audio is remarkably robust, given its dated characteristic; dialogue, effects and music appropriately center based but nevertheless pleasing. Equally unimpressed by Fox’s inclusion of some sloppily cobbled together ‘extras’ made at the time of the movie’s general release or shortly thereafter. The video quality of these featurettes is, in a word, abysmal; the audio for the ‘behind the scenes’ featurette alone, barely audible. What’s the point of giving us extras when no time or care has been taken to step up their video quality?!? Bottom line: I would have settled for a pristine master of the feature and let the extras alone. But with both feature and extras looking so gosh darn lousy, I’m going to have to say ‘pass’ on this one. Regrets.
FILM RATING (out of 5 – 5 being the best)


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