A Fish Called Wanda returns to DVD, this time in a stunning 2-disc collector’s edition that finally gives adequate treatment to one of the funniest surprises of the eighties. John Cleese stars as an English barrister, whose life is so dull and – well, British – that a seductress/jewel thief named Wanda comes along and steals his heart in record time. But Wanda carries a lot of baggage with her, the heaviest piece being a Nietzche-quoting moron, who just so happens to be her psychotic boyfriend. Add an anima…-loving hitman with one of the world’s worst stuttering problems, and Wanda quickly turns into an outrageous farce – but one that works with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine.
This kind of film, without doubt, is Cleese’s strong suit. An alumnus of Monty Python, Cleese actually tones down the farcical elements, and I think his film benefits from the downgrade. While Cleese is a very funny actor, most of the good stuff goes to Kline, who can’t stand to be called stupid, though he is mostly incapable of proving such accusations wrong. But he is a formidable opponent once he gets his hands on you, a fact Cleese draws many laughs from in his scenes with the nemesis. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen A Fish Called Wanda, and you’re worried it’s lost something, don’t be. The film stands up well, though some of its humor has since been copied in more unflattering films. No doubt this reality will hurt some of the laughs, but there is still plenty of Kline, Cleese, and Michael Palin, to go around for everyone, so you shouldn’t be disappointed.
The film enjoys a terrific anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. Colors are not oversaturated, nor are they faded. They look authentic and, but for the fashions, the film doesn’t look its near 20-year age. It’s an exceptionally bright piece of moviemaking as well, with only a few night scenes, all of which carry the very choicest contrast. Overall, there isn’t much Sony can do to improve the image for future editions.
A Fish Called Wanda boasts an unusually strong 5.1 soundtrack for a lighthearted comedy. The finale on an airport runway is especially intense with a full-on action movie strength and clarity. Most of the time, the benefits are heard in the dialogue levels, but there is the occasional all-directions masterpiece curve ball the track enjoys throwing you that really add something to the proceedings.
Cleese provides a lone audio commentary with some fascinating, insightful words on the scripting of the film. The bonus materials also include over 25 minutes of deleted scenes, most of which were cut with good reason. Also worthy of a look: Something Fishy Documentary; Kulture Vulture featurette; John Cleese’s First Farewell Performance; A Message from John Cleese; a Trivia Track; Photo Gallery; and more!
This release will probably be as good as it gets, and in this case, that’s pretty darn good. Make sure you pick it up while you can, if you’re a fan of the film. And fret not if Monty Python is not your bag. A Fish Called Wanda is not a Monty Python film. It is, however, the conception of one of that group’s funniest members. With all the extras and the excellent technical presentation, this release is a priced-right must-have.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary with John Cleese
- Over 25 Minutes of Deleted Scenes
- Something Fishy Documentary
- Kulture Vulture Featurette
- John Cleese’s First Farewell Performance
- A Message from John Cleese
- Trivia Track
- Mug Shots: A Photo Gallery