The First Nudie Musical appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As I watched Nudie, I actively debated whether it merited an “F” grade for picture, something I award extremely infrequently. For reasons I’ll explain, I decided against the failing mark, but make no mistake: Nudie provided a badly flawed picture.
Sharpness seemed fairly weak. Occasionally, close-ups came across as reasonably accurate, but the rest of the image appeared rather soft and fuzzy. The movie remained indistinct and bland most of the time. Well, at least this meant I saw no issues related to jagged edges, moiré effects or jagged edges.
Print flaws were a totally different issue. From almost start to finish, the movie displayed an extreme number of problems. Light grain appeared at times, but the majority of the defects took on other forms. I saw thin vertical lines, speckles, spots, nicks, streaks, grit, dirt, marks, and God knows what else. The picture wobbled much of the time, and some gaps appeared to occur, as I saw odd frame jumps at times. The final act of the film cleaned up to a moderate degree and showed many fewer problems, but that seemed too little, too late for this extremely flawed image.
Colors consistently appeared drab. The film offered bland, messy tones that never displayed any form of vibrancy or life. They could have been less lively, I suppose, but the hues nonetheless seemed flat and runny. Black levels looked pale and inky, while shadow detail was fairly thick and dense. Low-light scenes were visible, but the lackluster nature of the project made those shots tough to watch.
If you’ve gotten the impression that the picture of Nudie was a disaster, you’re right. This was the ugliest image I’ve seen in quite some time. It avoided the “death penalty” of an “F” for only a couple of reasons. I gave Image credit because they presented the movie in its original aspect ratio and also provided an anamorphic transfer. Those were the DVD’s main positives, as the picture bordered on unwatchable. I don’t doubt that the folks behind it did their best to make it look as good as possible, but the results remained ugly.
I wish I could relate positive comments about the monaural soundtrack of The First Nudie Musical, but it also presented a poor experience. The major concern related to distortion. Boy, did this track demonstrate a high level of crackling and noise! Speech came across especially poorly. Dialogue sounded very brittle and edgy throughout the movie. I still could understand the lines, but the material seemed startlingly rough. The speech also appeared fairly muffled much of the time.
Effects played a fairly minor role in the film, and they showed similar characteristics. However, because they weren’t all that important, they caused fewer concerns than did the flawed speech. Music was erratic. Most of the time, the songs and score presented the same problems heard with the rest of the track. The music seemed excessively bright and distorted and could be painful to hear. Occasionally, the numbers appeared reasonably decent, and bizarrely, the song heard over the end credits sounded really quite vibrant and rich. It stood out like a rose in the middle of a dump, as the rest of the track seemed very bad. I also heard a lot of hiss and background noise; those latter elements included hum and crackling.
As with the picture, I almost stuck the audio track of Nudie with an “F”. I avoided that mark for a couple of reasons. For one, the speech may have sounded terrible, but it remained intelligible, which was the most important factor. Also, a couple of the songs seemed decent, and that ending tune worked quite well. I hate to give out “F”s because I think they connote total failure, and I can’t say that the soundtrack of The First Nudie Musical was an absolute disaster. However, it came close, as the audio seemed very poor.
Despite the extremely obscure nature of The First Nudie Musical, Image created a shockingly extensive special edition DVD. We find two separate audio commentaries. The first features actor/director Bruce Kimmel and actors Cindy Williams and Stephen Nathan. All three sat together for this running, screen-specific track. The reunion provides some good information and is the livelier of the two commentaries, which is both a blessing and a curse.
On one hand, it’s fun to hear all three together. They interact nicely much of the time as they go over the cult product of their youths. A lot of good information appears throughout the track, mainly from Kimmel. Nathan seems to remember little about the project, and Williams often simply seems mortified by what she sees; some of this is clearly as act, but she still shows a certain shock that she participated in this movie. Kimmel adds most of the details, which shouldn’t come as a surprise; he played the strongest role in the film’s making, and he also worked on the DVD, so the project was freshest in his mind.
Probably my least favorite aspect of the commentary comes from the moderately chaotic nature of the group session. The three tend to talk over each other more often than I’d like, and this makes the material tough to make out at times. In addition, Williams and Nathan don’t offer all that much information. Kimmel makes the track worthwhile. Still, it’s interesting to hear the three actors together, so fans of the movie should enjoy the commentary.
The second audio commentary provides remarks from actor/director Bruce Kimmel, who sits with documentary director Nick Redmond for this running, screen-specific piece. Redmond occasionally acts as interviewer, but he doesn’t ask many questions because he doesn’t need to ask many questions. Kimmel recorded this track the day after the actors’ commentary, and he continues to be chatty and engaging. Probably the worst aspect of this commentary stems from the periodic repetitions. Kimmel relates a fair number of points that he made the prior day, something he even mentions once or twice. However, even with these redundant aspects, Kimmel’s track offers a lot of good information. He fills the movie with nice notes and remarks about the production. If I had to listen to only one of the two commentaries, I’d pick this one.
Interestingly, Kimmel remarks upon the poor quality of the prints available for Nudie. Apparently, the original negatives have been lost, so the DVD culled from a couple of other sources. He seems pleased with the results, which makes me wonder how horrible prior video issues of Nudie looked.
After this we locate a new documentary called From Dollars to Donuts: The Undressing of The First Nudie Musical. This 54-minute and 25-second piece consists of movie clips, production stills and archival materials, and new interviews with a roster of participants. We hear from director/actor Kimmel, choreographer Lloyd Gordon, co-director Mark Haggard, and actors Williams, Nathan, Alan Abelow, Leslie Ackerman, Diana Canova, Greg Finley, Jeff Harlan, Vern Joyce and John Kirby.
To call “Donuts” a quirky documentary would be an understatement. It includes some frankly bizarre moments, such as a running gag in which interviewees ask why various well-known (to DVD geeks, at least) DVD documentary producers aren’t there. We also find a minor trashing of the Oscar-winning director whose cameo I mentioned earlier. The participants allude to his alleged anticipated involvement in the interviews, but he never shows. At one point, we see someone wipe his feet on this person’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star - subtle!
However, the irreverent nature of the documentary works well much of the time. “Donuts” offers a somewhat formless piece in that it doesn’t strictly cover the project from start to finish. Nonetheless, it goes over a lot of the necessary details, and it avoids too much repetition with the commentaries. When movie clips appear, they usually show up as exclamations to mock the interview subjects, or they illustrate an issue under discussion. “Donuts” provides an unusual documentary, but it mostly seems entertaining and informative.
In a very novel touch, “Donuts” can be screened with or without commentary from Bruce Kimmel and documentary creators Nick Redmond and Michael Rosendale. The three sat together for this running, screen-specific track - sort of. An irreverent documentary earns an irreverent commentary, and this amusing piece fits the bill. Mostly the trio - dominated by Kimmel and Redmond - toss out running gags like their belief that this is the first-ever DVD documentary commentary, and the three generally offer low-key humor. We also learn that Kimmel’s a massive DVD geek; when he discuss the format, he clearly knows of what he speaks. Don’t listen to the commentary if you want hard data, but if you’d like to have a little fun, it’s a witty and entertaining piece.
Next we locate two deleted scenes. “The Plumber Scene” lasts three minutes and 17 seconds, and it appears in an anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 ratio. The clip shows an example of John Smithee’s direction and is mildly amusing as an example of intentionally bad filmmaking. It would have dragged the movie to a halt, though.
Entitled “Where Is a Man?”, the second deleted scene provides a musical number from tubby and lonely script girl Eunice (Kathleen Hietala). She croons her song of neediness during this four minute and 58 second piece. It appears fullframe and comes from a poor videotaped master. The number also deserved to be cut, because a) the song stinks, and b) no one cares about Eunice.
Both deleted scenes can be viewed with or without commentary from Bruce Kimmel. He continues to offer a chatty presence, as he relates some anecdotes about the scenes. More importantly, he also offers the reasons why he dropped the segments.
In addition to the movie’s theatrical trailer, Nudie provides a Photo Gallery. This program appears as a running video piece that lasts 187 seconds. We see a mix of posters, advertising materials, production stills, script pages, ad sheets, and other pieces in the decent little collection. One annoyance: you can’t fast-forward through the images, though the DVD does permit pausing.
Lastly, Nudie features a couple of Easter eggs. From the main screen, click to the right and you’ll activate a donut. This allows you to listen to a 30-second radio spot for the movie. From the “Special Features” menu, use a similar method and you’ll encounter an audio-only version of a deleted song called “I’ll Kick You With Boots”. Neither seems essential, but they make nice additions to this terrific set. (By the way, during the commentary for the documentary, Kimmel seems to allude to additional eggs, but I’m not sure if he meant bonuses during the documentary or if he referred to these ones I just listed.)
A product of its era, I seriously doubt a modern studio would produce something as outrageous as The First Nudie Musical. A lot of the film seems dopey, but it offers enough goofy charm to work for fans of silly, broad comedy. Unfortunately, the DVD displays an absurd number of problems. Picture and sound seem badly flawed and are barely tolerable. However, the DVD includes a terrific roster of extras.
How do I deal with a recommendation of this thing? On one hand, I think Nudie offers a moderately amusing experience, and I love the fact that Image took the effort to create an elaborate special edition for such a tremendously obscure film. However, I find it hard to believe someone couldn’t do more with the picture and sound quality, which seem miserable. Yes, Nudie is getting a little old, but 1976 wasn’t that long ago. I’m sure it also suffered from a low budget, but that doesn’t excuse the messy image and audio either.
So what do I recommend? I don’t know. This DVD has some good qualities but some bad. I find it hard to endorse a disc with such terrible picture and audio. However, I expect that without major restoration work, the film probably will never look or sound any better than this. Fans of the movie will likely be happy with the disc, and those less certain of their interest may still want to give it a look.