The In-Laws was one of those films that just never fit neatly into any safe category. Recently I’ve been ask to describe it to others who had not seen it before. If your only point of reference is the recent remake with Michael Douglas, run to your nearest rental store and look up this gem of an original. Peter Falk is best known, of course, for the rumpled-raincoat detective, Columbo. While many of his Columbo mannerisms are in evidence in this film (that outstretched hand to the head and his gravelly low mumbles) the character is really quite removed from Columbo. Alan Arkin provides a perfect straight man to Falk’s erratic and seemingly dangerous CIA operative.
Dentist Sheldon Kornpett (Arkin) is stressing over his daughter’s impending marriage. He has yet to meet the Father of the Groom. When Vince Ricardo (Falk) finally makes his appearance, he drags the unwitting dentist into a web of international intrigue and danger.
I know that the recent remake was the catalyst for this long overdue DVD, but really! A terrible mono track is all they could come up with? Highs are almost always distorted and there are no lows to be found anywhere. Falk’s often low voice is at times impossible to understand without cranking the volume, only to be blown out of your seat with another poorly mixed sound. I had to ride the volume control the entire film. I’ve heard far superior audio transfers on low budget films from the 1930’s. By far the worst audio I’ve heard to date.
The In-Laws is presented in a slightly modified anamorphic widescreen format. The picture crops in at roughly 1.85:1. The video is far superior to the audio but still reflects a lack of any special care for this release. There are occasional film artifacts and plenty of grain. The color is pretty much standard for a 70’s film. Flesh tones are a bit dark. The palate includes a lot of browns and other earth tones.
Probably the best part of this release is a commentary track with Arkin and Falk that is almost as funny as the picture itself. These two actors are joined by the film’s creators Andrew Bergman and Arthur Hiller. Even after over 20 years it is apparent these guys are still having fun. Fans of this film simply should not miss this rowdy commentary.
Sadly, other then the audio commentary, the only other extra is a poor quality transfer of the trailer.
I am very glad to see this film on DVD but extremely disappointed in the treatment it received. One can only hope that a future edition will rectify this grave injustice. Still… even with the defects of the release this is still one of the funniest films ever made. I promise you will laugh the entire hour and a half. While The In-Laws might not give us the inside look at CIA operations we were treated to with the Recruit, we do learn they have a “fantastic” benefits package. It’s just that “The trick is not to get killed. That’s really the key to the benefits program.”