Posted in Disc Reviews by Joshua Noyes
The Jerk, released in 1979, is a rags-to-riches-to-rags comedy film of belated self-discovery. This was Steve Martin’s first starring role in a feature film and was also written by him.
Carl Reiner directs Steve Martin (who co-wrote the script with Carl Gottlieb) in this gag-laden comedy about an idiotic white man, raised by a poor family of black sharecroppers, who doesn’t realize he’s not black. Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin) is told the horrible truth when he finds himself instinctively tapping his f…et to an easy listening tune on the radio, instead of a low-down blues. His mother (Mabel King) tells him he’s white and Navin takes to the road (in a World War II bomber helmet and goggles) to start a new life in St. Louis. A filling station owner, Harry Hartounian (Jackie Mason), give Navin his first break, hiring him to pump gas. One day at the station, Navin has a brainstorm, concocting an invention called “The Opti-grab,” a combination handle and nose-brace for eyeglasses. But Navin runs into trouble when a crazed killer (M. Emmet Walsh) picks out his name at random from the telephone book and tries to kill him. Navin escapes to a traveling carnival, where he wrangles a job as the “guess-your-weight” man. At the carnival, he discovers his sexual nature, thanks to stunt rider and S&M enthusiast Patty Bernstein (Catlin Adams). But Navin meets the beautiful Marie (Bernadette Peters) and he quickly falls in love. In the meantime, the “Opti-grab” has taken off and soon Navin is a millionaire.
For this transfer Universal went with a VC-1 in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This transfer had good accuracy, but suffered from time to time in this area. In some of the outdoor scenes sometimes greens are vivid and at other times they are dull. I also noticed a fair amount of film debris in this transfer. The debris is most notable in brighter/outdoor scenes. At times this transfer really delivers though. In many scenes the actors appear sharp and almost three-dimensional.
I watched this film using the English Dolby Digital 5.1 option. I felt this film made good use of the center channel and the front lefts and rights, however it made virtually no use of the surrounds or the LFE. I guess to some extent this is to be expected from a comedy from the 1970’s. I will say however the dialog was very clear and understandable. This is a nice improvement over the DVD of this film.
Extras on this release are for the most part, non-existent. We only get a taste of two special features. The first is a section of the disc titled; “The Lost Films of Father Carlos de la Vega.” This is essentially fans of this film paying homage to this film. The second is a ukulele instructional on how to play the song from this film “Tonight You Belong To Me.” Oh, there is also the trailer for the film in an awful 480i resolution. Honestly in the case of this film, I would have suggested skipping the extras and using that extra storage to up the bit rate of the video.
Although I was not blown away with this release with the new video transfer it is however a decent improvement over the DVD version. I loved this movie, just not really the restoration to the print and audio. Story wise I would put it in my top 10 favorite comedies ever. The video was very inconsistent and the sound was not used anywhere near its full potential. Also some decent extras could have helped as well. However if you are a fan of this film and feel letdown by the DVD version, I can confidently recommend this upgrade.
Special Features List
- The Lost Films of Father Carlos de la Vega
- Tonight You Belong To Me