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Gene Wilder
Gene Wilder, Carol Kane, Dom DeLuise, Fritz Feld, Mark Silberman, Robert Ball
Writing Credits:
Gene Wilder

Go ahead ... laugh.

When frustrated movie studio mogul Adolph Zitz (Dom DeLuise) announces a talent search for a romantic leading man to rival the great Rudolph Valentino, thousands of hopefuls decend upon Hollywood - including Rudy Valentine (Wilder), a neurotic baker from Milwaukee who knows as little about romance as he does about acting. But when his wife, Annie (Carol Kane), leaves him for the real Valentino, Rudy goes to outrageous (and hilarious) lengths to win the role of a lifetime ... and win back the love of his life.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby 2.0
Spanish Monaural
French Monaural

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 4/4/2006

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Actor/Director Gene Wilder
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


The World's Greatest Lover (1977)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 25, 2006)

For Gene Wilder’s second directorial effort, he plays the title role as The World’s Greatest Lover. Rainbow Studios chief Adolph Zitz (Dom DeLuise) needs to find a handsome leading man so he can compete with Paramount’s Rudolph Valentino. He launches a talent search to find the star of his upcoming flick The World’s Greatest Lover.

Among the many pretty boys this quest attracts, we meet Rudy Hickman (Wilder), a sad sack who can’t keep jobs due to his various high-strung idiosyncrasies. Fed up with his life in Milwaukee, he decides he wants to move to Hollywood and try out for the Rainbow Studios contest. He changes his name to Rudy Valentine and drags his wife Annie (Carol Kane) out west with him. While he pursues his dream, she realizes how unfulfilled she feels and she leaves him. The flick follows Rudy’s pursuit of movie stardom along with his attempts to convince Annie to return to him.

I recently watched two other Wilder efforts in which he worked without occasional partner Mel Brooks: 1975’s The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother and 1979’s The Frisco Kid. Both left me unsatisfied to varying degrees. I definitely preferred the occasionally engaging Brother to the tedious Frisco, but I didn’t enjoy either of them.

Although I wouldn’t compare Lover favorably to Wilder’s more successful partnerships with Brooks, at least it rebounds from those other films I mentioned. Lover has its ups and downs but manages to entertain for the most part.

Much of the credit goes to the engaging team of Wilder and Kane. A lot of the film plays gags for laughs. Indeed, DeLuise goes way over the top as the megalomaniacal studio chief, and our introduction to Rudy feels like it came from Chaplin’s 1936 flick Modern Times. We don’t get the impression that Lover will shoot for anything other than very broad shtick.

However, the situation between Rudy and Annie carries the day, largely because Wilder and Kane give the characters so much heart. Clearly she takes on the more realistic role, as Wilder needs to pour on plenty of physical comedy. The two still connect well and allow for the film to be more than just a simple catalog of gags.

Not that I’ll complain about the comedy in question. Some of them hit while others miss, but the ratio remains pretty good. Wilder shows his versatility as a physical comedian, and overbearing though he may be, DeLuise turns his scenes into very amusing stuff.

I rather like the period setting of Lover as well. It offers a modest view of the silent film days, though it doesn’t concentrate on the era in the same way Singin’ in the Rain did. The movie business really acts as little more than a backdrop for the relationship story, but it serves to provide an unusual and fun element.

I don’t want to make The World’s Greatest Lover out to be a cinematic classic. It suffers from its slow spots and never totally catches fire. That said, the film does more right than wrong, and the emotion at its heart allows it to become more engaging.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus C-

The World’s Greatest Lover appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. This was a transfer that never became poor but it also never seemed particularly noteworthy.

Sharpness usually appeared positive. At times it became a little fuzzy and ill-defined, but it generally manifested a decent level of clarity. Though this wasn’t a razor-sharp presentation, it seems acceptably concise. I saw no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges, but a little edge enhancement popped up through the movie.

Colors varied a little more than I’d like. Costumes occasionally boasted fairly lively tones, but much of the film showed rather flat hues. I thought some of this resulted from stylistic choices, but the colors seemed to inconsistent for me to chalk all of the drab tones up to that.

Black levels generally seemed solid, with dark tones that appeared acceptably deep and rich. However, shadow detail was a little lacking. Some low-light situations came across as a bit dark and dense, with images that could be somewhat hard to discern. I didn’t think the picture seemed muddy, though, and the film included few enough dim sequences that this wasn’t much of a concern.

Print flaws caused some main concerns. I saw a few examples of specks, marks, and streaks, and grain sometimes became invasive. More than a few shots displayed rather prominent grain. Ultimately, the visuals were acceptable but not good enough to earn a grade above a “C+”.

Matters didn’t improve for the Dolby Stereo 2.0 soundtrack of The World’s Greatest Lover. As was the case with Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, there wasn’t any noticeable stereo material on display here. Best seen as “broad mono”, the track opened slightly to the sides but not in a clear manner. Instead, the elements stayed focused around the center; they just broadened a bit to the sides. This didn’t make them any more effective, and this mix was tough to distinguish from the actual monaural soundtrack.

In the same vein, I thought the track sounded okay. Speech showed a little tinniness but remained acceptably distinctive and lacked problems with intelligibility. Music failed to demonstrate much life. The score was concise and without flaws, but it didn’t show great range. Effects fell into the same category. Those elements sounded fairly clean and weren’t distorted, but they never stood out as bright or rich. This was a listenable mix with no particular strengths.

The DVD’s main supplement offers an audio commentary with writer/actor/director Gene Wilder. He presents a running, screen-specific chat. After the boring commentary Wilder provided for Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, I hoped he’d rebound here. Sadly, this piece is no better than its sibling, and it’s probably worse.

Wilder tells us about various influences and inspirations for the film. He also gets into the cast and their performances, sets, and general production information. Unfortunately, as was the case with the Brother commentary, tons of dead air mars this discussion. Even when Wilder manages to speak, he usually says little of consequence. His story about getting the approval of Fellini to avert a potential lawsuit is interesting, and he tosses out a couple of other decent nuggets as well. That’s just not enough worthwhile material to sustain an hour and a half of commentary, though, and this one remains a disappointing dud.

We also find a collection of trailers. The disc features ads for Lover along with promos for Silver Streak, Young Frankenstein and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother.

The World’s Greatest Lover never dazzles, but it offers reasonable pleasures. It mixes broad comedy and relationship drama to fairly good effect. The DVD presents mediocre picture and audio as well as an audio commentary that offers little information and lots of tedium. The set’s low price makes it enticing, but I don’t think the product itself is strong enough to warrant a firm recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.875 Stars Number of Votes: 8
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