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DVD SAVANT

Walk, Don't Run


Walk, Don't Run
Columbia TriStar
1966 / color / 2:35 anamorphic 16:9, and flat Pan 'n Scan / 114 min. / Street Date April 29, 2003 / 24.95
Starring Cary Grant, Samantha Eggar, Jim Hutton, John Standing, Miiko Taka, George Takei, Teru Shimada
Cinematography Harry Stradling Sr.
Production Designer Joseph C. Wright
Film Editors Walter Thompson, James D. Wells
Original Music Quincy Jones
Written by Robert Russell, Frank Ross and Sol Saks
Produced by Sol C. Siegel
Directed by Charles Walters

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

A pleasant comedy supposedly shot in Tokyo during the 1964 Olympic games, Walk, Don't Run is Cary Grant's last film. Often cited as a low point for the end of his career, it's simply a mild and amusing romantic comedy with the aim of providing a relaxed good time. As such, it's a rather unique film, especially when seen in its proper widescreen format as on Columbia's handsome DVD.

Synopsis:

Businessman William Rutland (Cary Grant) needs a room in Toyko. He's several days early for his hotel reservation, and the 1964 Olympics have the town booked up. Rutland bulls his way into taking a room from Christine Easton (Samantha Eggar), a proper young woman who really wanted a female roommate. Then he brings in Steve Davis (Jim Hutton), an American architect and Olympic athlete. The three of them have some low-key cohabitation adventures, observed by Christine's friend Aiko Kurawa (Miiko Taka, of Sayonara). Busybody Rutland also schemes to make Easton and Davis recognize their attraction one for another - even though Christine is engaged to Consul staffer Julius Haversack (John Standing).

The plot of Walk, Don't Run can be summed up in a sentence or two, and there's really not much more to it than that. Two Englishmen and an American share an apartment and interact with a stuffy diplomat, some polite Olympic athletes, troublesome Russian snoops and a number of uniformly pleasant Japanese - but there's no theme about international relations to be found, except for the obvious one of Harmony.

The Tokyo citizens who see Grant's trousers fall into the street and watch him climb into second story windows, are tolerant straight men for a half-hour's worth of silent-style comedy that will either charm or irritate, depending on one's patience in waiting for something to happen. Director Charles Walters constructs the world of the film out of the personalities of the stars. Although the beautiful, freckled Eggar is made to play the exaggerated fussbudget type, putting activities like shaving and showers on tight schedules, she's not overly criticized. Hutton and Grant (especially Grant) do force themselves into her life, and Grant does perform some Cupid manipulations to get Hutton and Eggar together, but it's nothing that extreme.

The Japan we see is all carefully controlled. Well-known stars (Miiko Taka, Teru Shimada) play the few parts to be had, and the trailer's claim that the entire film was shot in Tokyo must have meant Toho studios, because all of the interiors and many of the exteriors are clearly soundstage sets. Even the Olympics scenes are doubled - a couple of cutaways to events in progress look like outtakes from Tokyo Olympiad. There's no attempt to disguise the traveloggy context of the foreigners' tour boat trip, etc., but then again, one isn't going to get a docu look at Tokyo in this film, either.

As for the Olympics, the plot keeps the actual event in which Hutton is competing a secret. It's a glaring flaw that he spends no time at all in training for his big day, and his entire pre-event Olympic experience is one informal dinner feast - as if the athletes wouldn't be carefully watching every calorie they ate before their big contests.

The marginalizing of the Olympics storyline leads Savant to suspect that the script started as a non-Games story along the lines of The More the Merrier, a 1943 George Stevens comedy about a housing shortage that puts Cupid Charles Coburn in charge of Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur. That was a Columbia picture too, so maybe Walk, Don't Run started with a trip to the script file room ...

All the plot complications are rather muted. The mixup with the suspicious Soviet chaperone is probably not farfetched, and leads to the run-in with a police captain nicely played by George Takei, soon to take off with Star Trek. It's like so many old screwball comedies where all the characters end up in front of a flabbergasted judge, except the tone is ... relaxed. It's as if Grant wanted a serene vehicle in which to bow out.

Also on board from the screwball comedy is the obligatory fifth-wheel fiancee who provides an impediment to the blooming romance. There's never a trace of doubt that Eggar will chose the lanky, sincere Hutton over poor John Standing, who condemns himself to second-place by being a boor and by paying insufficient attention to her. Ironically, Grant's character is a knighted industrialist, but actor Standing is in reality a titled Baronet, which we know from On Her Majesty's Secret Service is 'some kind of inferior Baron'. So what's he doing in Val Guest's softcore Au Pair Girls?

In the same year's Man's Favorite Sport?, Howard Hawks tried to revitalize the screwball formula with Rock Hudson and Jim Hutton's familiar co-star, Paula Prentiss, but the proceedings were (pleasantly) false and artificial whenever plot gags got in the way of the star personalities. Walk, Don't Run seems to know that just spending some time with Grant, Hutton and Eggar is pleasure enough, and recognizes the gag trimmings for what they are. The fact that Grant is an electronics industrialist gives him a remote control device with which he opens and closes the paper screens in Eggar's apartment. But the gizmo is so underplayed that its use to open the 'Walls of Jericho' for the two lovers is a throwaway.

Walk, Don't Run seems to convey Grant's satisfied attitude after a long and rewarding career. The film is like his last day in High School, walking the halls with no books to carry and no classes to attend, just feeling like everything's going to be okay.

As many reviewers have pointed out, Grant's last scenes are like a baton-passing to a younger generation of actor. He exits with a smile to rejoin his wife in England, leaving the romance to the kids. As an alumni of the first generation of talkie stars, Grant couldn't leave the youngsters a studio system that would sustain their careers, as Hollywood did his. Hutton and Eggar were part of the last generation of studio-promoted stars, and would soon have to fend for themselves.


Columbia TriStar's DVD of Walk, Don't Run looks great in its Panavision screen shape - Savant tried watching the film flat many years ago, and it was a disaster. The low-key Laurel & Hardy comedy moments require the context of empty space around the befuddled Grant; when pan-scanned, the picture becomes incomprehensible. A pan-scan version is included on the disc, and it does indeed look claustrophobic; we can't appreciate the constricted floor plan of the Tokyo apartment. The sound is simple and nicely recorded, even Grant's sly humming of the themes from Charade and An Affair to Remember as inside jokes.

There are subs in English, French and Japanese, and a trailer as an extra.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Walk, Don't Run rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Trailer
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 8, 2003





DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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