Comedy legend Jerry Lewis jumps to life in “The Nutty Professor 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition,” landing on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Featuring Lewis in his best known role, this well-crafted set offers special insight that hasn’t before been available regarding a comedy film that always seems to induce a smile or two among the antics on screen.
The 1963 film parodies the equally well know “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” from Robert Louis Stevenson, and was added to the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004. Younger generations might be more familiar with the 1996 title of the same name starring Eddie Murphy, but this is the original film that will probably hold a place on any Jerry Lewis fan’s favorite works list.
It had been many years since I saw “The Nutty Professor,” and if I remember correctly the last time I watched it was midday on TNT or TBS when I was home sick from school or work. It was chopped up and just didn’t feel the same. This special ultimate collector’s edition, however, is a totally different story. It includes a whole slew of extras, two other Lewis titles and more moxie for a 50 year old film than I’ve seen jammed into one Blu-ray box in quite some time.
Make no mistake: this is a film that begins and ends with Lewis. He directed, produced, wrote the screenplay and starred in the lead role. He brings the energy and humor to the appropriate place during the film’s 107 minute run time. The Professor Klep character so often replicated and parodied has become as synonymous with crackpot science as Doc Brown from the “Back to the Future” franchise, but it never would have been this way without Lewis literally living, breathing and bringing life to the man in the title role.
It all begins with Klep as a pretty unmannered scientist doing some exciting work in his lab, along with a few major fails along the way. After getting pushed around, he decides he’ll improve his physical ability with some intense gym workouts that don’t produce results. After some thinking and lab based research, however, he creates some tasty liquid that transforms him into an alter ego named Buddy Love. As he adapts his newfound social confidence, he eyes a pretty young lady named Stella (Stella Stevens), knocks everyone’s socks off with some swanky musical attributes in a popular student nightclub hangout and draws more attention to himself than he ever thought possible.
Of course, the writing is on the wall here, with his serum wearing off at the least ideal moments during “The Nutty Professor.” And, probably somewhere between a third and halfway into the whole thing, we know how it’s going to turn out in the end. Part of the fun, however, is in the journey, and there is also an interesting side story with Kelp’s dad trying to make a profit on the newfound elixir. It’s all in good, wholesome fun, and we learn something about the lengths one will go to in order to make his image look better, different or altered from what it really should be.
I suppose you could try to dig in a bit deeper and further analyze “The Nutty Professor,” but doing so won’t yield much more aside from critically taking in the value Lewis brings with him to the role. He is darn near perfectly cast. As I watched the film with fresh eyes, I kept thinking about performers who give audiences the ability to watch their work and think that no one else could have done any better. I’m leaning on things like Robin Williams during “Good Morning, Vietnam” and also Jack Black during “School of Rock.” Sure, the context is a little different, but it’s the same end result.
You’ll have to overlook the fact that the college students here look like adults and that Kelp hits on a student in the worst way. Plus, there is more social awkwardness than most middle schoolers exude during a month in the film’s short run time. All in all, if you suspend your disbelieve, you’ll be fine.
Warner Bros. has done this title justice with this extra super mega deluxe set. It might not be a great cinematic achievement if compared to epic titles or the best films of all time, no doubt. But “The Nutty Professor is a fun, engaging movie that still holds replay value 50 years later.
The transfer to Blu-ray is extremely strong given the film’s age. The 1.77:1 1080p High Definition video transfer is very sharp. Grain isn’t absent in any sense of the word, but the coloration is quite good despite the film’s age. Things are very sharp and clear from beginning to end, which is a tribute to both the film itself and the remastering work done by Warner Bros.
The film isn’t all that hard to hear, but there are moments where a spoken work or two are less audible than others. The sound works well to compliment the antics on screen, but it doesn’t take center stage (that job belongs to Lewis, of course). Audio selections include a modern English DTS-High Definition Master Audio choice, as well as the original English Restored Mono option, plus French and Spanish Dolby Digitals. Subtitle choices are English, French and Spanish.
On top of everything, the set comes with a standard definition DVD of “The Nutty Professor,” as well as two other Lewis comidies: “Cinderfella” and “The Errand Boy.” A special letter written by Lewis presents the collection, along with a featurette that provides insight onto Lewis’s lengthy and honored career. A recreation of inspirational Lewis art and quotes is provided, as well as a 48-page storyboard book, a 44-page cutting script, audio commentary by Lewis, behind the scenes footage, bloopers, promos, trailers and outtakes. An additional CD titled “Phoney Phone Calls” offers many secretly private prank calls that Lewis himself recorded between 1959 and 1972. “Cinderfella” and “The Errand Boy” each have their own cookie cutter extras provided (bloopers, commentary, trailers).
A Final Word:
If you haven’t seen it lately, it’s worth checking out “The Nutty Professor” again, especially on Blu-ray disc in this excellent set. It’s probably not a must have unless you’re a big time Lewis fan, but if you are, make room.