The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

Fun City Editions;
Comedy;
$39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Richard Dreyfuss, Jack Warden, Micheline Lanctôt, Joseph Wiseman, Randy Quaid, Joe Silver, Denholm Elliott, Randy Quaid.

If Duddy Kravitz had a literary grandshire his name would be Sammy Glick, the schmuck protagonist of novelist Budd Schulberg’s scathing rags to riches tale of a churlish slum-dweller who, at the dawn of the sound era, adopted a “no prisoners” approach, hacking his way through the Hollywood jungle to become Tinseltown’s preeminent screenwriter. Long considered unfilmable, novelist/screenwriter Mordecai Richler and director Ted Kotcheff’s 1974 effort The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz gives Sammy a run for the money.

Duddy (Richard Dreyfuss) is dream rich and cash poor, a lower-class Canadian teen when first we met, raised by his widowed father Max (Jack Warden), a topflight raconteur who spends more time talking up his older son Lennie (Alan Rosenthal) than he does Duddy. Max drives a cab for a living and pimps to make ends meet. Max rewards Duddy’s admiration for his latter endeavor with a klop to the head. Rich Uncle Benjy (Joseph Wiseman) is putting ungrateful Lennie through medical school, much to Duddy’s resentment. Of the three male role models to impact his life, his zayde (Zvee Scooler) is the only one to show the boy any affection. Grandpa’s mantra is: “A man without land is nobody.” It’s easy for the old man to extol the virtues of being a landowner from the safety and comfort of the cramped backyard garden of the family tenement.

Duddy’s gig as a waiter at an all-Jewish summer resort is marked by lessons learned — always check the roulette wheel — and outright self-loathing (“It’s Jews like Kravitz, with all their hard work, that cause anti-Semitism in the United States”) among his co-workers. In a field of memorable character performances stands Joe Silver, the rubber-faced, borderline macrocephalic mensch whose throaty rumblings never fail to delight. Farber (Silver) is Duddy’s mentor, the gansa macher of his dreams. By way of introduction, Farber rips a hundred dollar bill in two, hands half to Duddy assuring the waiter that he’ll get its companion at the end of the season providing the service is good. It takes a lot, but Farber’s charm eventually curdles when he proffers heartless advice concerning an epileptic admirer (Randy Quaid) of whom Duddy takes sore advantage. Duddy’s love interest Yvette, played by the husky-throated Canadian actress Micheline Lanctôt, means little more to the hustler than folding green and a blouse to stick his hand down. Dreyfuss was disappointed with his performance. With all the running, jumping, and itching, particularly the itching, it’s easy to understand his disdain while not sharing it. Hard though it may be to feel any pity for a guy as downright unprincipled as Duddy, but damn if it isn’t more than a bit difficult to watch the poor jerk twitching in his sleep.

The Three Stooges, Charlie Chaplin and Ernst Lubitsch were among the first in Hollywood to openly lampoon Nazis. Unlike You Natzy Spy, The Great Dictator or To Be or Not to Be, Mel Brooks’ The Producers was the first post-Holocaust release to play Hitler for laughs. Orthodox cousins on my mother’s side refused to see it. “What’s so damn funny about concentration camps?” Donald insisted. Now that you mention it, nothing. But an easily dupable American public turning a tasteless digression designed to “close on page four” into an off-Broadway sensation was considered revolutionary satire by 1967’s standards. Donald was the only Jew on Chicago’s north side who took a pass on both Mel and the big screen adaptation of Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus that followed two years later. More than a mere foray into bad taste, Goodbye, Columbus was a ferocious exploration of the “Jewveau riche” that at times painted its subjects in anything but flattering shades. The celebrated wedding sequence was a paean to gluttony; a Ritz cracker decapitated a chopped liver chicken while hordes of decked-out chazirs straddling the buffet line like a livestock feeder.

Many in the Jewish community felt as though Richler and Kotcheff were purposely casting their own people in a disparaging light by telling tales out of school. (Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever was met by a similar reaction.) If audiences were offended by the aforementioned reception, nothing prepared them for Duddy’s brief career as what has come to be known as a Bar Mitzvah videographer. Working with an on-the-skid drunk (Denholm Elliott, delightfully pompous) with artistic leanings, the final cut he demanded contained enough heavy-handed symbolism to choke Bergman. The presence of Hitler, graphic nudity, and a nod to tribalism in the form of a close-up circumcision would be unthinkable had the local rabbi not given the short his personal dispensation by proclaiming it an artistic triumph. In the end, all but Yvette are shits in wolf’s clothing, even grandpa. Watching Duddy’s world crumble under the weight of his appalling behavior is at times difficult to endure, but nothing is more damning than his becoming fodder for one of his father’s legendary deli spiels.

Extras include an audio commentary by Adam Nayman.

 

Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Adventure;
$47.99 Blu-ray, $90.99 UHD BD, 5-disc set.
Rated ‘PG-13.’
Stars Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Denholm Elliott, John Rhys-Davies, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan, Sean Connery, Julian Glover, Alison Doody, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Cate Blanchett.

 This latest collection of the “Indiana Jones” films contains some of the greatest action-adventure films ever made, and also Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Timed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first Indy adventure, 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, the set for the first time offers the four films of the franchise on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Raiders, as well as 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, have been remastered from the original negatives and are presented here in stunning 4K resolution, with upgraded color timing and sound mixing as well. The films, particular the earlier ones, have never looked this vibrant on home video before.

Raiders is undoubtedly on the short list for any discussion of the greatest action movies of all time. A throwback to classic adventure serials, the film was conceived of as an homage to classic pulp storytelling by creator George Lucas, who then brought on pal Steven Spielberg to direct.

The first follow up, Temple of Doom, was much more grim in tone, no doubt a subconscious manifestation of the personal troubles the lead filmmakers were dealing with at the time of its production.

Last Crusade follows more in the Raiders mold, bringing on Sean Connery as Indy’s father as a subtle nod to Spielberg’s desire to make a James Bond film. The film is perhaps a bit of an overcompensation for criticisms of how dark the second movie was, indulging more in humor than the previous movies.

Crystal Skull pays homage to classic sci-fi ‘B’ movies that tries to recapture the magic of the original trilogy 19 years later, but ends up feeling more like one of those reunion movies TV shows used to do, checking in on what the characters are up to years later.

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While the new remasters would be reason enough for fans to pick up this set (if they can find a copy — supplies were rather scarce its first few days of release), there are a few drawbacks to the set. The cardboard used in the packaging is rather flimsy and subject to crimping from overhandling, though it does come with a nice folded insert with a map of Indy’s adventures on one side and a collage of the four films’ theatrical posters on the other.

Also, the Ultra HD set contains only 4K discs for each of the films, no regular Blu-rays, though redemption codes for digital copies of each film are included. There is a separate Blu-ray collection available, but this appears to be little more than a re-issue of the 2012 Blu-ray collection, now with digital copies. The Blu-ray versions appear to be the same as from 2012, and not the remastered versions.

Each film’s 4K disc also includes a few trailers, but nothing else in the way of extras. As with 2012, the 4K set includes a bonus disc, which is a regular Blu-ray compiling a number of featurettes for each film. This is the exact same disc as the 2012 set, so the new collection really is basically just a 4K upgrade of the 2012 set with worse packaging. Given the number of extras from earlier DVD releases and the standalone Crystal Skull Blu-ray that weren’t included on that bonus disc, it’s a shame they were also weren’t included on this set.

However, with production on a fifth Indy film, there’s always a chance that a future five-film Indy set will be more of the true archive edition that fans would embrace.

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