Newly re-mastered in HD! Comedy legend Jerry Lewis (Don t Give Up the Ship) stars as Kreton, the wackiest alien to ever visit planet earth. When Kreton s fascination with earthlings gets the better of him, he breaks one of his planet's laws and speeds off to visit the blue planet. Once there, Kreton encounters a nice family who kindly takes him in; the patriarch is a famous television journalist who prior to meeting Kreton had aired a piece in which he ridiculed all notions of extraterrestrials. Kreton wants to study humans, but does not fully understand them and ends up making a mess of things using his many fantastic powers which leads to a series of classic Lewis gags and routines. Norman Taurog (Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine) directs this comedy classic based on a Gore Vidal (The Left Handed Gun) play with stellar cinematography by Loyal Griggs (Shane). The stellar supporting cast includes Joan Blackman (Blue Hawaii), Earl Holliman (Sons of Katie Elder), Fred Clark (Daddy Long Legs), John Williams (Witness for the Prosecution), Jerome Cowan (Driftwood) and Gale Gordon (Here s Lucy). Oscar® Nominee for Best Art Direction.
"They don't come any stranger!"
It's always a shame when an acting legend passes away. It makes looking at their body of work a bitter-sweet experience and one that comes with an ounce or two of sorrow. With Jerry Lewis, it comes as a somber reminder that time catches up with everyone. While some may not have loved his brand of manic mugging comedy, the man was a genius in his own right. For 1960's Visit to a Small Planet, Lewis' best and worst tendencies are on full display as an alien from another world visiting earth for the first time. While the mugging may become tiresome after a bit, the one liners and the clever timing of some memorable antics keep the film's energy high and the laughs coming.
Kreton (Jerry Lewis) is a quizzical child-like young alien from a far off world. Ever since his teachers' lessons about the Milky Way, he's dreamed of visiting the small blue planet its inhabitants call Earth. After commandeering a spacecraft, Kreton beelines it thousands of light years to Earth. Expecting to arrive during the Civil War, Kreton is surprised to see how advanced Earth actually is. As he tries to learn more about the planet he's viewed from so far away, his naïvety about the human condition could cause problems for his Earth gal pal Ellen (Joan Blackman), her boyfriend Conrad (Earl Holliman), and her father Major Roger Spelding (Fred Clark).
As I said at the outset, Jerry Lewis' particular brand of high-energy comedy certainly isn't for everyone. I would consider myself a fan of the man's work and even I tire of it after awhile. As I've gotten to know Lewis' work, I've come to realize when and where his mugging works and doesn't work. When you have a hilarious film like Don't Give Up The Ship, Lewis is working with his costars, the rubber-faced antics are a response to their performances. Going back a bit to his time with Dean Martin and their flick At War With The Army, Lewis is just constantly mugging at the camera to you the audience. He's not playing off anyone, it's just his goofy rubber-lipped face making noises and it's just not all that funny. Visit to a Small Planet, Lewis falls somewhere between those two extremes.
Playing an out-of-this-world alien, Lewis' Kreton certainly gives him plenty of time for mugging and wild high-energy antics. To that end, the mugging does absolutely get tiresome. Kreton's telekinetic abilities stem from tugging an ear, wiggling the lips, and flaring the nostrils. With a guy like Jerry Lewis, you can imagine how much of that goes on here. However, that very same rubber-faced mugging can generate some terrific laughs. No one can express child-like confusion quite like Jerry Lewis. The scenes where he first arrives in the U.S. expecting the year to be 1861 and get to meet General Lee were some of the funniest bits throughout the movie. Likewise, when people react to Lewis' Kreton, the material can be hilarious. There is a terrific scene between Joe Turkel and Lewis at a beatnik bar that proved to be great stuff as there is an amount of universal confusion between the far out alien and the zoned out hip cats.
Whether or not you were a die hard Jerry Lewis fan, it's sad to hear of his recent passing. He was an endearing talent who brought laughter to many and did an incredible amount of charitable work with his memorable annual telethons. Don't Give Up The Ship is still probably my favorite movie of his simply because of his restrained performance, but Visit to a Small Planet proves to be terrific stuff. If you're looking for a showcase of Lewis' brand of comedy, it doesn't get much better than this one. He brings the heart and humor he's so well known for to every scene. Granted, his brand of comedy may not make everyone laugh, but no one can fault the man for giving 110%. I found this to be a fun flick and well worth making a space on my shelf.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Visit to a Small Planet arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard Blu-ray case and comes with a booklet containing cover artwork for other Kino Lorber Studio Classics release. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Billed as "Newly re-mastered in HD" on the disc's artwork, Visit to a Small Planet arrives on Blu-ray with a strong 1.85:1 1080p transfer. That isn't to say that everything is sunshine and roses for this black-and-white transfer, but it's still pretty damn good.
Starting with the bad news first, the opening credits and introductory scenes are the roughest. There's some notable jitter, the image can be a bit hazy, and some slight scratches are apparent. Thankfully once that opening is out of the way and we meet our groovy space aliens from a far off galaxy, the rest of the show evens out and looks quite good. Absent a total restoration effort, this is probably the best this film has looked in years. The last time I saw this was on a washed out VHS tape decades ago. I never saw a DVD release so my metric for improvement may admittedly be a tad skewed.
Fine film grain is apparent but never too noisy or distracting. Detail levels are very good throughout most of the film, facial features and costuming look great. The only trouble spots are during optical effects shots like when Kreton makes the car fly so he can get around a turnpike without waiting. The greyscale is in good shape offering up deep inky blacks with good shadow separation. The only rough patches are during the opening, some slight speckling remains otherwise this is a relatively problem-free transfer and makes for a great looking Blu-ray release.
Visit to a Small Planet comes packed with a strong English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix. Given the noises and voices Jerry Lewis exudes in any given moment, this audio track keeps up the pace and never falters. Cartoonish sound effects and the score by Leigh Harline keep the energy up and provide a nice layering to the scenes giving the mix some atmosphere and dimension. The beatnik club is a particular highlight in this area. Imaging is a bit on the restrained side considering the source, but there is a nice sense of directionality even if this is largely a front and center affair. Age-related issues are absent without any hiss, pops, or breaks. all around a great audio track.
Considering Lewis' very recent passing, it's a shame some sort of retrospective didn't make this disc's release, but maybe Kino Lorber can work that into another future release of one of his films - if they have any on deck. As it stands, the commentary track by James L. Neibaur is pretty great material filled with lots of relevant material about the production as well as Lewis' career.
Audio Commentary Features film historian James L. Neibaur
Delirious Trailer (HD 2:22)
Life Stinks Trailer (HD 2:01)
Haunted Honeymoon Trailer (SD 2:19)
After The Fox Trailer (HD 2:49)
Funny Bones Trailer (SD 2:40)
The Couchtrip (SD 1:14)
You gotta tip a hat in salute to a great talent like Jerry Lewis. Not all of his works were winners, but when the man was on point, his films could make you laugh so hard it hurt. A Visit to a Small Planet may not be my favorite of his films, but it's the perfect showcase of his wild high energy-fueled brand of comedic slapstick antics. I had a great time with this one and any Lewis fan will love it. Kino Lorber Studio Classics has done a great job bringing A Visit to a Small Planet to Blu-ray with a great A/V presentation and a solid audio commentary to round out the bonus features. Fans will want to add it to the collection and newcomers should consider this one a great place to start if you've never given Jerry Lewis a try. Recommended.