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Jerry Lewis
Jerry Lewis, Stella Stevens, Del Moore, Kathleen Freeman
Writing Credits:
Jerry Lewis and Bill Richmond

What does he become? What kind of monster?

To improve his social life, a nerdish professor drinks a potion that temporarily turns him into the handsome, but obnoxious, Buddy Love.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Restored Monaural
Spanish Dolby Digital Monaural
French Dolby Digital Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $44.99
Release Date: 6/3/2014

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director/Actor Jerry Lewis and Singer Steve Lawrence
• Three “Behind the Scenes” Featurettes
• Five Deleted Scenes
• Three Promos
• Bloopers
• “Jerry at Movieland Wax Museum” Featurette
• Test Footage and Other Footage
• Trailer
Cinderfella DVD
Errand Boy DVD
Phoney Phone Calls CD
• Director’s Letter
• Recreated “Being A Person” Book
• 48-Page Storyboard Book
• 44-Page Cutting Script with Jerry’s notes


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Nutty Professor: Ultimate Collector's Edition [Blu-Ray] (1963)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 11, 2014)

Probably Jerry Lewis’s best-known film, 1963’s The Nutty Professor introduces us to nerdy chemistry professor Julius Kelp (Lewis). After a student bullies Kelp, co-ed Stella Purdy (Stella Stevens) encourages the professor to muscle up and become tougher.

Smitten by sexy Stella, Kelp hits the gym but fails to develop the brawn he desires. A scientific genius, Kelp invents a potion to alter his physique, but this comes with side effects. When he swigs his creation, Kelp transforms into “Buddy Love”, a suave, smooth and obnoxiously arrogant ladies man. We follow the battles between Kelp’s natural personality and his Buddy Love side along with the wacky consequences.

As someone born in the late 1960s, I never experienced Lewis in his cinematic prime. I suspect folks of my generation know him best via his annual Labor Day telethons, as he essentially retired from movies not that long after my birth. He took a long hiatus before he returned with 1980’s Hardly Working, and for people my age, 1983’s dramatic King of Comedy likely ends up as the movie with which we connect him.

That means that for viewers like me, we tend to know of Lewis a lot more than we know his actual work. His material lives on via remakes like 1996’s Nutty Professor and the “Professor Frink” character from The Simpsons.

All of this becomes a long-winded way for me to say that I was curious to watch the original Professor, as I believe this is the first Lewis comedy film I’d ever seen. Did it show me that I’d been missing out for all these years?

Not really, though I admit I enjoyed it more than I expected. Again, I grew up with the cliché of Lewis, the wild, broad, spastic comic arguably more mocked than admired. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I felt Lewis was seen as a goofy anachronism whose material didn’t translate well to the modern era.

With Professor, we get arguments for and against that belief, though they reside much more in the “against” category than I anticipated. Actually, my biggest problem with Professor doesn’t relate to Lewis’s performance. Instead, the movie’s largest issue stems from its length. No, 107 minutes doesn’t provide an extremely extended running time, but it seems like too much for this particular tale.

Professor delivers a pretty simple narrative, and it can drag pretty severely at times. This seems especially true as we wait for Kelp’s transformation; a lot of the build-up comes across more as sluggish pacing than as narrative exposition. I think that if the film moved in a brisker fashion, it’d be more enjoyable.

That said, Professor still fares reasonably well, largely due to Lewis’s comedic talents. Of course, he goes pretty broad as Kelp, but he still finds room for quieter moments. One of the movie’s best sequences occurs when Kelp finds himself in the dean’s office. Much of the scene plays in silence, and the mix of mannerisms and facial expressions provides nice comedic material, all far from the mugging and slapstick we expect from Lewis.

I also rather like his performance as Buddy. Lewis plays against type in a role widely interpreted as a spoof of his old partner Dean Martin. Lewis apparently denies this, and it doesn’t really matter, I suppose; whatever the inspiration, Lewis makes Buddy a delightfully smarmy, sleazy hipster. Most of the flick’s best moments come from Buddy’s overbearing demeanor.

All of this adds up to a fairly entertaining little comedy. While it does drag too much, Professor still comes with enough laughs to make it a pretty enjoyable experience.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus A+

The Nutty Professor appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a mostly positive transfer but it tended to be somewhat erratic.

Sharpness delivered the most inconsistent side of the image. Much of the movie displayed good clarity, but occasional soft shots materialized. Some of this appeared intentional – such as with close-ups of Buddy – but other slightly fuzzy shots made less sense. Overall, the image remained pretty well-defined, but it came with exceptions.

No issues with jaggies or shimmering appeared, and I witnessed no edge haloes. With a layer of natural grain, I didn’t detect digital noise reduction, and print flaws remained absent. <

In terms of colors, Professor went with a peppy, bright palette. At times the hues could look a little messy – largely due to the presence of somewhat heavy grain – but the tones usually came across as pretty vibrant. Blacks were dark and tight, and shadows showed reasonable smoothness. This ended up as a largely good but not great presentation.

Along with the movie’s original monaural soundtrack, the Blu-ray came with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. This offered a surprisingly solid experience, especially in terms of how it reproduced music. The score and songs broadened to the side and rear channels in impressive fashion, as we got good delineation and stereo presence.

Effects had less to do but added a little involvement to the track. Those elements became prominent mostly via louder sequences like explosions in Kelp’s lab. The effects usually stayed monaural, but they expanded in a satisfying manner when necessary.

Audio quality was good for its age. Speech remained reasonably natural and lacked edginess or other issues. Effects showed nice clarity, and music sounded very good, as those elements seemed lively and rich. This was a wholly satisfying remix.

Packed full of extras, this “50th Anniversary” set launches with an audio commentary from writer/director/actor Jerry Lewis and singer Steve Lawrence. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific piece.

Why does Lawrence participate in this chat? I don’t know, as he didn’t work on Professor. I guess he’s a friend who Jerry brought along so he wouldn’t have to comment alone.

Whatever the rationale, Lawrence mostly does the Ed McMahon thing here, as he laughs along with the film. Lewis tells us about directing the movie, cast and performances, some character/story areas, sets and locations, effects and camerawork, and general thoughts.

While Lewis gives us some good notes, this remains a spotty track. We get an awful lot of dead air, and both Lewis and Lawrence simply chuckle at the movie too much of the time. We do learn a mix of useful insights, but we have to wade through a lot of dullness to get to them.

Under Behind the Scenes, we find three featurettes. These include “Jerry Lewis: No Apologies” (20:56), “The Nutty Professor: Perfecting the Formula” (15:46) and “Jerry Lewis at Work” (29:59). Across these, we hear from Lewis, The Jerry Lewis Films co-author James Neibaur, son/family historian Chris Lewis, art director Henry Bumstead, TV personality Lloyd Thaxton, and actors Connie Stevens, Anna Maria Alberghetti and Stella Stevens.

The programs provide reflections on Lewis’s life and career, inspirations and influences for Professor, aspects of the film’s development, cast and performances, cinematography, and other Lewis movies. Only “Perfecting” tells us much about Professor, but all three shows offer fairly good information. With its movie career overview, “Work” may be the most interesting of the bunch.

Five Deleted Scenes fill a total of six minutes, 48 seconds. A few feel like throwaways, but a couple of them work well. I like the silly scene in which Kelp mistakes a child’s head for a bowling ball, and we get a fun cameo from Lewis’s son Gary.

Under Promos, we get three clips that feature Lewis and Stella Stevens. They offer an amusing way to sell the film – and we even get some outtakes from the sessions.

A collection of Bloopers goes for 13 minutes, 29 seconds. These tend toward the standard assortment of goofs and laughs. Fans will probably enjoy them, but they don’t do much for me.

Jerry at Movieland Wax Museum occupies 45 seconds. Narrated by Chris Lewis, we see Jerry at the debut of a wax statue of the Kelp character. It’s short but moderately interesting.

Within Test Footage, we see two clips: “Kelp Screen Test” (0:46) and “Dr. Warfield Screen Test” (1:47). Other Footage also throws out “Kelp Calls His Father” (3:05). The first two display early versions of those characters – Kelp looks disturbingly like Bela Lugosi’s Dracula – while “Father” provides an alternate take. All are nice to see.

The film’s theatrical trailer completes Disc One and launches us toward the three additional platters in the set. Discs Two and Three offer DVDs with other Lewis films: we find 1960’s Cinderfella and 1961’s The Errand Boy.

In Cinderfella (1:27:50), Lewis plays Fella, a young man who gets stuck with his nasty stepmother (Judith Anderson) and her rotten sons Maximilian (Henry Silva) and Rupert (Robert Hutton) after his father dies. As the family fortune dwindles, the stepmother hopes Rupert will marry wealthy Princess Charming (Anna Maria Alberghetti), but Fella’s Fairy Godfather (Ed Wynn) convinces the hapless hero that he might have a shot.

Given the umpteen renditions of Cinderella created over the years, it becomes tough to do anything different with it, but Cinderfella manages to give the material its own spin. Of course, the gender reversal creates an unusual take, and the presence of the wacky Lewis as the lead also delivers a twist. We’re used to a fairly milquetoast Cindy, so the more comedic Fella changes matters.

Like Nutty Professor, though, Cinderfella threatens to overstay its welcome, as it comes with too many scenes that exist as comic set pieces without any plot purpose. Some of that seems fine, but the movie goes a bit overboard in that regard.

Still, it brings us a reasonably charming version of the story, and Lewis tones down his shtick to a satisfying degree. Sure, he mugs and gesticulates at times, but he makes Fella more understated than we’d expect. Add to that an appropriately regal but overbearing stepmother by Anderson and this turns into a likable little fable.

Cinderfella includes another audio commentary from Lewis and Lawrence. They give us a running, screen-specific chat about music, cast and performances, story/characters, and connected domains.

After the erratic commentary for Professor, I didn’t expect much from this chat – and I got the flawed experience I anticipated. The Cinderfella track fares even worse than its predecessor, as it suffers from a lot more lulls and comes with less quality information. Diehard fans might want to sit through this snoozer, but they won’t find much information along the way.

The disc also provides bloopers. These run four minutes, 10 seconds and show the standard goofs and silliness.

In Errand Boy (1:32:26), the head honchos at Paramutual Pictures wonder why they’re losing money. They need a spy to root out the cause of these problems, so they recruit moronic Morty S. Tashman (Lewis) as their tool. We follow his adventures as he works in various roles at the studio.

After the mostly narrative-heavy Cinderfella, Errand Boy functions much more as a collection of comedic bits than as a story. The issues related to the studio’s profits have little to do with the material on display; that theme exists as an excuse to place Lewis in a variety of circumstances and make fun of the movie business.

In the latter vein, Errand Boy comes with some laughs. It’s always fun to watch Hollywood mock itself, and the movie generates some amusing moments in that regard.

However, the scattershot nature of the story becomes a liability. The movie follows such a broad path that it doesn’t flow well and can lose steam. Still, it comes with enough comedy to make it watchable.

For Errand Boy, we find a scene-specific audio commentary from Lewis and Lawrence. This covers “This Is Hollywood” (4:37), “Get Stupid” (1:33), “Lunchtime” (2:27) and “What Can Happen?” (3:56). They discuss a few production areas but mostly laugh and joke. “Happen” is the most effective of the segments, as it concentrates best on Lewis’s work.

The disc also provides the film’s trailer and two elements under archival materials. That area features “Bloopers” (2:40) and “Promo Spots” (1:52). Not much of interest materializes from the bloopers, and the promos are mediocre; we get six of them, so they’re obviously all pretty short.

A fourth disc gives us a CD entitled Phoney Phone Calls. It occupies about 65 minutes and provides Lewis’s prank phone calls from 1959-1972. Lewis makes them more believable than the average joke; although he occasionally plays them in stereotypical Jerry Lewis voices, the content is realistic enough that they’re skewed but not ridiculous.

These vary in terms of humor quality, but they’re decent as far as this style of comedy goes. “Bill Lynch” is probably the best, as it features a blowhard who wants Jerry to honor a certain woman during a show. Sometimes I feel bad for the “victims” of the pranks, but this guy – who thinks muscular dystophy is called “MS” – seems like such a dope that it’s funnier.

The set includes a mix of non-disc-based materials as well. We get a Director’s Letter from Lewis, a “recreated” version of a book called Being A Person, a 48-page storyboard book, and a 44-page cutting script with Lewis’s notes. My review copy of Professor doesn’t include these components, so I can’t comment on their quality or contents.

Probably the best-known Jerry Lewis film, The Nutty Professor doesn’t sustain consistent amusement across its running time. However, it entertains more than it drags and turns into a likable, enjoyable comedy. The Blu-ray comes with erratic picture, very good audio and a terrific package of bonus materials. This “50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition” delivers an excellent release.

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