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Sidney Poitier
Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Georg Stanford Brown, JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson
Writing Credits:
Bruce Jay Friedman

Skip and Harry are framed for a bank robbery and end up in a western prison.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English PCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 111 min.
Price: $17.97
Release Date: 1/24/2012

• None


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.


Stir Crazy [Blu-Ray] (1980)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 10, 2015)

For a brief period, Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor looked like they would become one of the all-time great comedy duos. They scored a nice hit with 1976’s Silver Streak and followed it up with another big flick via 1980’s Stir Crazy.

And that was about it. They wouldn’t work together again for nine years, and 1989’s See No Evil, Hear No Evil was both a critical and commercial disappointment. That still made it superior to 1991’s Another You, which was a total bomb. Heck, I don’t even remember that film’s existence – I thought the Pryor/Wilder string ended with Evil.

Despite that, it’s fun to revisit Stir Crazy to see the pair together. Skip Donahue (Wilder) and Harry Monroe (Pryor) struggle to succeed in New York, where they aspire to showbiz prominence but find themselves stuck in menial jobs. After they get fired from their gigs, Skip and Harry decide to drive to LA and attempt to make it big there.

Along the way, their van breaks down in the Sun Belt and leaves them stranded since the repairs use up much of their money. To bolster their bottom line, they get a job as dancing mascots at a local bank.

This doesn’t go well. During a break, criminals take their costumes and use them a robbery. This means that Skip and Harry get arrested for the crime and sent to prison. We follow their efforts to cope with life in the joint and their attempts to get out of there.

This viewing acts as a real walk down memory lane, as I’m pretty sure I’d not seen Crazy since its theatrical run 35 years ago. Although I was a mere 13 at the time, my dad allowed me to see “R”-rated flicks, and I know we took in a screening of Crazy. Did I like it? I think so, but I really can’t remember much about it after all these years.

Watching it today, I can figure out why I don’t boast strong recollections of that screening: it’s not an especially memorable movie, and it’s definitely not one that’s aged well. Virtually everything about the film reminds us of its era, and not in a positive way. We feel the late 70s seep through every frame, and that dated feel creates problems.

Probably the movie’s biggest concern stems from its narrative. To call Stir Crazy meandering would be an understatement, as it includes entire sequences that don’t need to exist for dramatic purposes. For instance, there’s a fight at a bar that does nothing to serve the story and could’ve been lost without any damage to the movie.

This makes Crazy often come across more as a collection of comedic bits than as a coherent narrative. We find scads of gags that don’t connect to the plot; they just exist as islands unto themselves. I can tolerate a little of this, but when the non-essential jokes dominate, that becomes a problem.

I might not mind as much if the movie didn’t come with so many organic opportunities for comedy. Crazy could’ve used its basic story for laughs in a way that it doesn’t, and I don’t understand this choice. Why go for extraneous comic bits when the film could easily fit material that serves the narrative?

I also find it perplexing that Crazy misuses Pryor. Though co-billed with Wilder, Pryor really doesn’t get a lot to do, as Wilder’s story and comedic moments dominate. I like Wilder and obviously know he can carry a movie, but why cast Richard Pryor and then leave him on the sidelines so much of the time?

Even so, the Wilder/Pryor combo manages to produce some laughs. We just don’t get as many chuckles as we would expect, and the messiness of the movie’s plot/pacing make this an erratic pleasure at best.

Trivia: we find Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams here, though neither interacts in Stir Crazy. They’d have a lot more time together two years later in Poltergeist.

Casting oddity: As the warden, Barry Corbin refers to Gene Wilder as a “kid”. That seems strange since Wilder’s seven years older than Corbin – and it’s weird to hear anyone call the then-pushing-50 Wilder a “kid”.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio C/ Bonus F

Stir Crazy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Many flicks from the late 1970s tend to look pretty flat nowadays, but Stir Crazy provided surprisingly dynamic visuals.

Sharpness looked quite good. Only minor softness ever cropped up, as the movie usually appeared concise and well-defined. I noticed no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and I detected only light edge enhancement.

Source flaws were very infrequent; I saw a couple of specks but that was it. With all the natural grain on display, it was pretty obvious no one slathered the flick with noise reduction; while this grain could be heavy, it reflected the source and wasn’t a problem.

Colors worked well. The film boasted a natural palette that came across with warm, clear hues. Blacks were tight and deep, but shadows were less impressive; low-light shots tended to be a bit dense and opaque. Despite those instances, this was a pretty nice presentation and more attractive than anticipated.

As for the PCM monaural soundtrack of Stir Crazy, it came with ups and downs. On the positive side, the score – as mediocre and “late 70s” as it might be – showed pretty good life and pep. The music provided surprisingly nice warmth and vivacity.

Effects were passable at best, but they didn’t have a lot to do; the occasional louder bits tended to be harsh but we didn’t get enough of these to make a negative difference.

On the other hand, speech was a weakness. The lines always remained intelligible, but they tended to sound brittle and rough. That was the main problem with the mix, and it was the main reason the soundtrack ended up with a “C”; without the solid music, the grade would’ve been lower.

No extras appear here – no even a stinkin’ trailer!

With two legends as its leads, Stir Crazy should’ve been a winner. However, it meanders too much and fails to use its acting talent as well as it should. The Blu-ray provides pretty good picture and average audio but it lacks any supplements. Chalk this up as a disappointing movie and Blu-ray.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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