Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Learning the lessons of S.O.B., Blake Edwards followed it up with two more semi-sophisticated
Victor/Victoria was a solid hit, and was eventually adapted for Broadway. From the
same German source writer as Billy Wilder's Some Like it Hot, this gender-bending musical
comedy presents homosexuality as a normal state of affairs (at least in show biz), perhaps following
the lead of
the French farce La cage aux folles from a few years before. Once again, the mighty
Julie Andrews proves herself the equal of edgy subject matter that puts her way beyond the reach
of the Mary Poppins persona. Edwards has concocted such a beautiful production, Victor/Victoria is impossible to dislike.
Classically trained singer Victoria Grant, abandoned by an opera company in Paris,
can break glasses with her high E-flat, but is starving for lack of work. After succeeding in a
scam to eat free in a restaurant with gay cabaret singer Carroll Todd (Robert Preston), they
team up to to pull off an even bigger con: Victoria will pose as a fictitous Polish Count Victor
Grezhinski, a fantastic female impersonator. They sell the idea to nightclub owner Andre Cassell
(John Rhys-Davies) and the act is a smash, with Victoria fooling people into thinking she's a man
pretending to be a woman, instead of a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. But
complications pile up when Chicago Gangster King Marchand (James Garner) becomes smitten with
Victor/Victoria, refusing to believe he's really a he. All this causes consternation with Marchand's
moll Norma Cassady (Lesley Ann Warren) and his bodyguard Squash Bernstein (Alex Karras) ... both
of whom also have surprises for King!
A class production all the way, Victor/Victoria has some smart music and great playing by
Julie Andrews, and an especially fine turn by Robert Preston, whose comic timing and delivery makes
everyone else in the film look like an amateur. There are a couple of excellent setpieces right off
the top, as Victoria flops trying out for a singing role because she's too refined, and then uses a
cockroach in her salad to skip out on her restaurant bill. When the restaurant breaks out into
Blake Edwards uses a restraint not normally associated with his comedies: he cuts to the view from
across the street and we watch the patrons go nuts from a discreet and quiet distance.
Julie plays her twisted role with the appropriate finesse. She never completely convinces us that she
could be mistaken for a man. As Blake Edwards explains on the commentary track, we accept the
deception because the
Victor's audiences in the movie do. Julie as Victor has her short hair slicked back and
wears a tuxedo. In many shots, particularly with her perky upturned nose in profile, she's the
unintentional spittin' image of Michael Redgrave's evil ventriloquist's dummy Hugo, from 1945's
Dead of Night.
Robert Preston is fascinating as the queen bee performer who causes riots and can't resist a good joke.
He's practical, wise, romantic and masculine. The 'Music Man' voice is still there, only with
still more warmth - when he makes with the wisecracks in this film, it's more like Lubitsch than
Victor/Victoria looks terrific, with a classy sheen few films were attempting in 1982. It has
a studio look that's tastefully stylized. Even the exterior streets are sets, and they never look
cheap - or too expensive either, if you can understand the distinction. The comedy in the hotel room is
greatly enhanced by the set design. King Marchand's Peeping Tom behavior, when he sneeks a peek at
the naked Victoria to prove his theory, comes off as less sick than it should, because of the
Blake Edwards' very successful comedies don't always play well now, and Victor/Victoria has
some examples of what works for him and what doesn't. All the character comedy is successful because
he does indeed write good 'movie' dialogue, and there are so many likeable types to enjoy.
He succeeds at making some of his slapstick work here, but
there are a number of completely flat gags too. At one point, a private detective does a pratfall from
a barstool, after being informed that it's broken. The gag just sits there, as unfunny as a forced
joke in a Pink Panther movie.
The movie does run out of steam at the conclusion. Once everyone's come out of their various
closets and Victoria's disguise dilemma is resolved, the show has nowhere to go and ends on a reprise
of the (not all that snappy) Matador number, only with Robert Preston taking Julie's place and doing
the skit in sloppy, drunken drag. He really looks plastered, and his flushed face and wild expressions
make us feel like he really was put up to it at the last moment. But it's also garish, tasteless, and
has the effect of blowing away the character Preston's built up, just for some cheap laughs. Usually
movies like this resort to a pointless slapstick chase to wrap things up. It really isn't an ending, and
it leaves Victor/Victoria sort of hanging.
Warner/Turner's DVD of Victor/Victoria is slick and colorful in anamorphic widescreen, and the
remastered 5.1 sound is bright and snappy. The accompanying commentary has Ms. Andrews mostly carrying
the ball (Mr. Edwards sounds rather weak) but together they relate their personal memories of the
production very pleasantly. The seem very devoted to one another, and individually charming as well, a
double class act.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Movie: Very Good
Supplements: Commentary with Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards, trailer
Packaging: Snapper case
Reviewed: June 11, 2002
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson