Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 1st, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1988
Director: Charles Crichton
Writers: John Cleese, Charles Crichton
Cast: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson, Patricia Hayes
BluRay released: September 18th, 2017 (UK), October 3rd, 2017 (USA)
Approximate running times: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA) / £24.99 (UK)
A Fish Called Wanda was co-written and directed by Charles Crichton whose other notable films include, Dead of Night, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Stranger in Between. Key collaborators on A Fish Called Wanda include, cinematographer Alan Hume (Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, The Legend of Hell House) and composer John Du Prez (The Meaning of Life, Once Bitten). The screenplay for A Fish Called Wanda was co-written by John Cleese, who is most known for Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers.
In my youth there are few things that made me laugh more uncontrollably, than Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And when I first became aware of A Fish Called Wanda, the thing immediately made me interested in this film, was the involvement of Monty Python’s Flying Circus alumni, John Cleese and Michael Palin. They have an undeniable chemistry that makes them arguably one of the best comedic duo’s to ever grace the silver screen.
On the surface, A Fish Called Wanda takes what appears to be very conventional plot and turns its on its head by making the moments, more important than the journey that unfolds. And when it comes to the humor in this film, there is not subject or no one who is off limits. Needless to say, humor does not get more politically incorrect, than it does in this film.
And when discussing this film, one must not overlook or undervalue the cast, who all deliver pitch perfect performances. With none shining brighter than John Cleese in the role of a barrister named Archie Leech (this character’s name also serves as an in joke). And all of the mannerisms that one would expect from a John Cleese are on full display.
Not too far behind John Cleese’s tour de force performance is Michael Palin in the role of Ken Pile, a accident prone stuttering half-wit. Other cast members of note include, Kevin Kline in the role of Otto, an American criminal for hire who has a short fuse and Jamie Lee Curtis in the role of this films Wanda Gershwitz, the woman who has four men all tied up in knots.
Throughout the history of cinema, far too many comedies are built up around whatever comedian is in vogue at that moment. And because of this, the majority of these comedies don’t hold up well over time. With timing, being the key ingredient that the most celebrated comedies all have in common. Ultimately A Fish Called Wanda is a text book example of how important timing is to the comedy genre.
A Fish Called Wanda comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The transfer for this release was sourced from a brand new 4K restoration from the original negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release. Colors and flesh tones look accurate, details look crisp, black levels remain strong throughout and grain looks natural. And when compared to previous Blu-ray releases, this new HD transfer is an improvement in every way.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in English. Both audio mixes sound, clean, clear, balanced and robust when they need too. With the stronger of these two mixes being the LPCM stereo mix. Included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a trivia track, an image gallery, a trailer for the film (1 minute 28 seconds), an introduction recorded for the film’s original release with John Cleese (4 minutes 56 seconds), 24 deleted / alternative scenes with introductions by John Cleese (29 minutes 37 seconds), a documentary on the film’s locations titled Fish You Were Here (16 minutes 31 seconds), a 1988 documentary on the making of A Fish Called Wanda titled John Cleese’s Final Farewell Performance (48 minutes 3 seconds), a 15th anniversary retrospective documentary titled Something Fishy (30 minutes 32 seconds), an appreciation by Vic Pratt of the BFI National Archive (16 minutes 55 seconds), an interview with production designer Roger Murray-Leach (7 minutes 31 seconds) and an audio commentary with John Cleese.
Topics discussed in the extras include, the origins of the film, Ealing comedies, the screenplay, director Charles Crichton, the cast, locations, the visuals / key moments, onset memories, other production related topic, critic reaction to the film and their thoughts about the film.
The extras are exhaustive and insightful. With this film’s standout extra being the audio commentary with John Cleese.
Rounding out the extras is a slip cover, a reversible cover art and a forty-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled Laughing and Not Laughing at A Fish Called Wanda written by Sophie Monks Kaufman, an essay titled Wanda Lust written by John Morrish and information about the restoration / transfer. Overall A Fish Called Wanda gets a sold release from Arrow Video.