March 12, 2020  (Web Review)

The Oscar

Kino Lorber, 121 min., not rated, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $29.99, Feb 4.

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Although director Russell Rouse’s star-studded 1966 Hollywood melodrama had Oscar-bait stamped all over it, the film only earned two Academy Award nominations: for Art Decoration-Set Decoration and Costume Design (by the legendary Edith Head, who also has a bit role here as herself)—and won neither. A clunky Tinseltown paean to itself, The Oscar—based on a 1964 novel by Richard Sale—stars hunky Stephen Boyd as Frankie Fane, a heartless hustler working the bars with his stripper/girlfriend Laurel (Jill St. John) and ever-present buddy Hymie (Tony Bennett). After a fed-up Laurel splits (she tells horndog Frankie to “stop spreadin’ the pollen around or else”), Frankie tries to woo costume designer Kay (Elke Sommer) while bedding (or being bed by) cougar talent scout Sophie (Eleanor Parker). Ultimately, Sophie brings him to big-time agent Kappy (Milton Berle), after which Frankie begins his stepping-on-everyone meteoric rise in la-la land, finally winning a nomination for Best Actor. Co-written by enfant terrible sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison, the screenplay is often cringeworthy and delightfully campy (Kappy to Sophie: “You’re 42; there are many good minutes left in you”), qualities which are only heightened by the flailing acting by Sommer, Bennett, and others who are not especially well-known for their dramatic chops. Also featuring Edie Adams, Ernest Borgnine, Joseph Cotten, Ed Begley, and Broderick Crawford, this epic semi-turkey bows on Blu-ray with a new 4K restoration and includes two entertaining audio commentary tracks—one by comic Patton Oswalt, writer Josh Olson, and filmmaker Erik Nelson; the other by film historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson. A strong optional purchase. (R. Pitman)