The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

Fun City Editions;
$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.


1971 Candice Bergen Drama ‘T.R. Baskin’ Due on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 7 From MVD

The 1971 Candice Bergen drama T.R. Baskin will be released on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 7 from MVD Entertainment Group and Fun City Editions.

In the film, Bergen is T.R. Baskin, a naïve young woman with a droll sense of humor, who ventures from small town Ohio to the bright lights of Chicago in search of an interesting career, intellectual stimulation, true love and happiness — and instead discovers that the urban existence is as unfulfilling and lonely as the one she fled. A tender encounter with one man (James Caan) ends with an unfortunate misunderstanding. However, it leads to a therapeutic Sunday afternoon with a sincere traveling salesman (Peter Boyle), who provides hope and encouragement, as he confides in her about his own insecurities and disappointments.

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Herbert Ross (Footloose, The Goodbye Girl, Steel Magnolias) directs this wryly humorous drama from a script by Peter Hyams (Outland, Capricorn One, Running Scared, Timecop).

Special features on Blu-ray include “Get in the Tent,” a newly filmed video interview with producer/writer Peter Hyams; a booklet with a new essay by Kat Sachs; audio commentary by Ben Reiser and Scott Lucas; and a limited edition slipcover with brand-new art by Pip Carter.

1995 Parker Posey Comedy ‘Party Girl’ Due on DVD and Blu-ray March 28 From MVD

The 1995 cult comedy Party Girl, starring Parker Posey, will be released on DVD and limited-edition Blu-ray Disc March 28 from Fun City Editions and MVD Entertainment Group.

In the film, Mary (Posey, Dazed and Confused, The House of Yes), a fast-talking, under-employed New York free spirit, is jailed for throwing an illegal house party. She cajoles her librarian godmother (Sasha von Scherler, Network) into bailing her out and giving her a job as a clerk at the public library. What follows is Mary’s screwball-like journey from a life of late nights and hangovers to romance with a falafel vendor (Omar Townsend) and a potential long-term career as a librarian. Director Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s Party Girl, set amidst the thriving and vibrant club culture of ’90s Lower Manhattan, also stars Guillermo Diaz (“Scandal”), Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”), Donna Mitchell (The Ice Storm) and Anthony DeSando (Kiss Me, Guido). In addition to its quotable screenplay by von Scherler Mayer and Harry Birckmayer, Party Girl is noted for its soundtrack, which includes Tom Tom Club, Run-DMC, Deee-lite, Carl Craig and Ultra-Naté, as well as Mary’s wardrobe, which includes pieces by Vivienne Westwood, Todd Oldham, Jean Paul Gaultier and Chanel.

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Party Girl had its finger on the pulse when released in 1995 and, decades later, it’s revered as a cinematic record of a special time and place in New York City’s history. Previously only available in aged standard-definition masters, Party Girl has now been restored in 4K from its original 16mm camera negative.

Bonus features on the DVD include the theatrical trailer. Special features on Blu-ray include the theatrical trailer, a booklet with an essay and photos, an image gallery, a video interview with music supervisor Bill Coleman, a video interview with writer/producer Harry Birckmayer, a video interview with director Daisy von Scherler Mayer, audio commentary with Jake Fogelnest, and a video interview with Posey.