From his early days as a collaborator on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Steve Martin's unique brand of humor has always left an impression. Even on people who have never been able to tune in to his sense of comedy, such as my father and just about every critic who saw The Jerk upon its initial release. Fortunately, time has always been on Mr. Martin's side. Well, maybe so not so much in the case of those Pink Panther remakes, but his original classics have maintained their popularity over the years, especially these two new Warner Archive Blu-ray issues.
Originally released by the WAC in 2014 for the first time in their intended widescreen formats, Martin's The Man with Two Brains and My Blue Heaven have now returned in glorious High-Definition.
A hilariously irrelevant sendup of mad scientist flicks, 1983's The Man with Two Brains would prove to be the penultimate collaboration betwixt Martin and former Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour co-writer Carl Reiner. By this time, their chemistry could not have been more in-tune, as is evident in this outrageously absurd tale of brilliant brain surgeon (with the utterly ridiculous surname of Hfuhruhurr), who falls under the seductive spell of gold-digging cock-blocker Kathleen Turner. Just when the sexually scotched surgeon thinks things can't get any more frustrating, he makes the telepathic acquaintance of a disembodied brain (voiced by an uncredited Sissy Spacek) in the condominium laboratory of mad scientist David Warner (in one of his finest tongue-in-cheek performances).
But just how long can The Man with Two Brains keep his bizarre juggling act up? Brain transplants, the ever-looming threat of one of cinema's greatest serial killers, and another ‒ even more bizarre ‒ juggling act highlight this romp through the early '80s. Among the familiar faces who line up for a quick pun or extended flash here are Paul Benedict (The Jeffersons) as Dr. Warner's butler, James Cromwell, the great George Furth, Earl Boen, and Randi Brooks. Eagle-eyed cult movie enthusiasts will want to look out for Phantom of the Paradise co-star Peter Elbling (who also popped up in the Warner Archive's recent release of Demon Seed) and "Herbert West, Re-Animator" himself, Jeffrey Combs, as ‒ surprise ‒ a med school student!
While hard any time had passed between 1983's The Man with Two Brains and next (and final) new Blu-ray re-release of Steve Martin classics from the Warner Archive ‒ a lot had changed. Though still a popular comedian with a wacky and crazy sense of humor, many of Martin's on-screen characters began to (dare I say it?) mature. And there is perhaps no finer example of such than in Herbert Ross' My Blue Heaven, wherein Martin plays a character based off of real life ex-gangster Henry Hill. (If the name doesn't ring a bell today, the other movie released the exact same year based on Hill's exploits probably will: a teeny-tiny, barely-remembered minor little flick about mobsters entitled Goodfellas.) The end result was something even my father was able to sit through.
Here, Martin's Vinnie Antonelli is under the FBI's Witness Protection Program, to wit he has been shipped off to one of the many suburban hells in Southern California, under the supervision of slightly naïve G-Man Barney Coopersmith, as played by the one and only Rick Moranis. Joan Cusack is the local District Attorney in a small pond, who has high hopes of jailing Suburbia's Most Wanted (Vinnie), but who is unable to do so due to his particular status. Melanie Mayron, Carol Kane, Bill Irwin (and his boss dance skills), Deborah Rush, William Hickey, Daniel Stern, Ed Lauter, Colleen Camp, a young Jesse Bradford also appear in this delightful (and lighthearted) look at organized crime and disorganized romance produced by Goldie Hawn (Protocol) and writer Nora Ephron (You've Got Mail).
While neither of these Steve Martin classics offer anything new in the special features department (both contain theatrical trailers as their sole respective extras), the new High-Definition transfers from the Warner Archive Collection are something to jump up and down for joy over. Each presentation hails from new 2K scans of interpositive prints (The Man with Two Brains hailing from a neon era where filmstock would later prove problematic, while My Blue Heaven comes from an age where everything looked like, well, pastel), and their resulting 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encodes are nothing short of gorgeous, even when compared to their previous SD widescreen DVD debuts in 2014. DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtracks (2.0 Mono, in the instance of the first title) and English (SDH) subtitles accompany each title, both of which come Highly Recommended.