Seduction is a powerful , and in the form of The Woman in Red, it's certain to lead to unbridled passion and unlimited laughs! Featuring a first rate cast that includes Gene Wilder, Charles Grodin, Joseph Bologna, Judith Ivey, Kelly Le Brock and Emmy winner Gilda Radner, this comedy bombshell scores a perfect 10!
Businessman Teddy Pierce (Wilder) has always played by the rules...until he meets the woman in red. With Killer legs and a knockout style, sexy Charlotte (Le Brock) is the ultimate fantasy woman. Now Teddy's headed straight for trouble. Deciding - just this once - to give in to temptation, he's looking forward to the most romantic experience of his life. But Teddy's amorous affections soon lead to hilarious consequences when his friends, his secretary and Charlotte's husband get involved!
For all his success as a comedic actor, most probably forget that Gene Wilder directed a handful of movies as well. The reason why we forget is that none of the movies he helmed were particularly successful, although none are totally dismissible either. The Woman in Red is the most straightforward comedy of Wilder's directorial career, which means it's probably the most watchable one for the non-Wilder fan, but perhaps the most uninteresting one for those who really love to watch Wilder's frequent on-screen antics.
The 1984 film is a remake of a 1976 French film, Pardon Mon Affaire, which features the same homage to Marylin Monroe's The Seven Year Itch scene as actress Kelly LeBrock re-creates in the opening moments of this movie. The plot revolves around a married man's obsession with a beautiful woman in his workplace, which may have been a fun plot for an 80's film (and indeed it was), but seems a lot more creepy and inappropriate for a movie in today's climate – particularly now when Hollywood is in the process of dealing with so many claims of sexual assault and harassment (I'm sure the folks at Kino Lorber realize that now may not have been the best time to bring this title to Blu-ray). Of course, a movie is a reflection of the period in which it was released, so it's important for viewers to keep that in mind when watching the film.
Wilder stars as Teddy Pierce, a man who works for an advertising company and first lays eyes on Charlotte (LeBrock) in his office parking garage. Despite being married with a family, Teddy immediately become obsessed with her, calling her on the phone from his office (when she's in another room of the building) and asking to meet her for dinner. The problem is that Charlotte didn't pick up the phone. Another co-worker (played by Wilder's real-life wife Gilda Radner) did – leading to a whole comedy of errors between Teddy and that character.
Wilder has a group of male friends he sees after work – almost all of whom are either having their own affairs or encouraging him to participate in one. His friend Joe (Joseph Bologna) has been cheating on his own wife, but not without repercussions – as he arrives home one day to find out she has left him. Wilder also has a gay friend, Buddy (Charles Grodin), who goes through something similar in his own relationship during the course of the movie. If The Woman in Red has a high point, it's in Grodin's portrayal, which shows a homosexual character at a time in film where gay characters were either used as comic relief (Grodin does have some fun comic moments in the film – including one where he's acting as if he's blind – but none of them have to do with his character's sexuality) or were portrayed using stereotypical attributes.
The biggest problem with Wilder's film is that it can't decide what it wants to be: a satire about the temptations of married life; a slapstick farce; or just a standard mainstream comedy. It's a bit of all three of these, but because the movie never has any focus, it's never able to pull its audience in and engage them in any real way. Add to that the fact that there really aren't any redeemable people in the movie (again, something not typical for an 80s film, and one of the few aspects of the movie that plays better today than it probably did back then), and we're left with a film that is at all times watchable, but never quite as good as it probably should have been. This one falls firmly in the rental category.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Woman in Red reveals herself on Blu-ray inside a standard Elite keepcase. The case includes a full-color 22-page booklet featuring cover art for other Studio Classics titles available from Kino. The single-layer 25GB disc isn't front-loaded with any trailers, and the main menu is a still of Kelly LeBrock in her red dress against a white background, although it's a different one than what appears on the box cover. Menu selections are placed horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray is Region A locked.
The Woman in Red was shot on 35mm film and appears on Blu-ray in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This is far from the greatest of transfers from Kino, as a lot of dirt and debris are still visible on the print. Grain is present in every shot and borderline obtrusive at times. Details are decent, but there's nothing about the visuals here that screams HD, as most scenes are rather flat looking.
If there's good news to be found here, it's that this transfer has been saved from any over-processing by the studio. DNR use is minimal, at best, and while there is the dirt on the print mentioned above, digital defects such as banding or aliasing are all but non-existent. The bottom line her is that the transfer is watchable, but nothing much beyond that, although it's probably a decent reflection of what the movie looked like on the big screen (sans a little less dirt on the print) back in 1984.
The only audio option here is an English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track that sounds relatively solid given the film's age. In other words, there are no problems with popping, hissing, dropouts, or the like. What is a little problematic is the overall mix, as the dialogue of the actors has been mixed a few notches lower than the musical soundtrack (which predominately features Stevie Wonder songs, including the Oscar-winning – yes, this movie actually won an Oscar – "I Just Called to Say I Love You"). The mix leaves viewers with the no-win scenario of either cranking the audio up to hear the dialogue clearly but be blasted by the soundtrack, or placing the soundtrack at a pleasant level but straining to hear the spoken word. However, other than this slightly annoying issue with the mix, the audio track is well-rendered.
Subtitles are available in English SDH only.
Audio Commentary – Film historian Jim Hemphill knows more about this movie than any man should. He's a literal encyclopedia of knowledge about nearly all aspects of this shoot, and he tells us things about the movie that I would have never guessed on my own (like the fact Wilder seems to be paying homage to other classic titles in many of his shots). About the only bad thing I can say about Hemphill's commentary is that he's far too gracious and kind to what is ultimately a pretty middling movie.
Trailers – In addition to the theatrical trailer for Woman in Red (SD 1:19), also included on this disc are trailers for two other movies that Gene Wilder directed and starred in: The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (SD 2:53) and Haunted Honeymoon (SD 2:19). There is no "Play All" option here, and each trailer must be watched individually.
The biggest problem with The Woman in Red is that it's a comedy that is simply not that funny. At times it wants to be a slapstick romp, at times it wants to be slyly satirical, and at times it wants to play things straight. None of those three work. What's left is a film whose appeal is limited to die-hard fans of Wilder and (let's be honest) die-hard fans of Kelly LeBrock, who makes her first movie appearance here. Rent It, but less for the story than for the actors involved and those great 80s Stevie Wonder tunes.