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The Boy Friend in the Afternoon

Sometimes I can surprise people when I tell them that I still haven’t seen every movie made by my favorite filmmakers. This is partially by circumstance and partially by choice--it’s nice to know there are still new to me Billy Wilder films out there in the world. There’s now one less new to me Wilder film as I’ve seen Wilder’s 1957 comedy “Love in The Afternoon”--which makes its blu-ray debut from those knights of the vault Warner Archive. 

“Love in The Afternoon” is a romantic comedy starring Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, and Maurice Chevalier. The film is the first of twelve films Wilder would write with I.A.L. Diamond--one of the finest screenwriting partnerships in history. “Love in The Afternoon” centers around a French private eye (Chevalier) who is tracking down a lothario businessman (Cooper) and keeping an eye out on his numerous affairs. At the same time, our detective tries to keep all these torrid details away from his young daughter (Hepburn). 

When the husband of one of the wives our amorous businessman comes by to see the evidence of the affair, the detective’s daughter overhears his plans to murder his wife's lover, and then himself. The detective’s daughter can’t simply let anyone be murdered in cold blood, so she goes off to warn the king of romance and soon finds herself getting caught up in his wizardry. Though not one of Wilder’s A tier films (but keep in mind B tier Wilder is better than most people’s A tier work) “Love in The Afternoon” has much to offer viewers, and is full of trademark Wilder dialogue. 

On blu-ray “Love in The Afternoon” looks sparkling. The black and white image has a fine grain pattern that fits films of its era, there’s a sharpness to the picture that really punches up everything around it. This is a fine release of a most enjoyable film, perfect for a rainy day, looking splendid to boot. 

Another title from Warner Archive making its blu-ray debut and its debut to me is director Ken Russell’s 1971 adaptation of the 1950s musical “The Boy Friend.” There’s a few things to unpack here that struck me after viewing the film. One, the same Ken Russell who directed “Tommy” managed to make a G rated film. Two, “The Boy Friend” was a spoof of 1920s musicals and Russell decided to adapt it by making a movie about a theater troupe in the 1920s putting on the actual musical. So it’s a spoof of a spoof, with scenes paying homage to the old Hollywood musical by having characters in the theater “dream” how their numbers should be performed. 

A production of MGM partnered with EMI, MGM had actually bought the screen rights to the musical back in the 1950s while it played Broadway, with an eye to turn it into a vehicle for Debbie Reynolds. The original stage show was the American theater debut of Julie Andrews, and attempts were made in the 1960s to wrangle the rights away from MGM to make a film with Andrews. 

Russell instead cast someone who had never acted before, the famous Mod model Twiggy--who does a very fine job in the film. Being Ken Russell doing his best to pay homage to Busby Berkeley, Arthur Freed, and old Hollywood “The Boy Friend” has a lot of visual goodness that is simply stunning on blu-ray. The colors alone really pop right off the screen. An added treat is that Warner Archive created a very lively 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track for the film. The theatrical trailer and a vintage featurette are included as well on the blu-ray. 

There’s much to like about “The Boy Friend” but that multi-layered plot does get a touch muddled up at times making it slightly hard to keep a hold of--this may become clearer to my eyes on more viewings. But even though the film does get a little in its own way, there’s so much here to enjoy. Just as a visual exercise and candy colored treat to the eyes--this one is worth looking into. 

Again Warner Archive goes above and beyond bringing an amazing mix of titles to blu-ray. I think the rumors of physical media’s demise are greatly exaggerated. 


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