Perhaps of all the films in Robert Altman's career, none were more loathed than 1987's O.C. and Stiggs – intended as a biting satire of the then-in vogue "teen films," O.C. and Stiggs was critically reviled and suffered a quick and bloody death at the box office upon first release. Viewed nearly 20 years later, it's possible to see what Altman's intentions were but this is still a classic case of a director poorly matched to his material.
O.C. and Stiggs is irreverent from its first frames – the MGM lion yells "O.C.! Stiggs!" in lieu of roaring – and quickly establishes the protagonists Oliver Cromwell "O.C." Ogilvie (Daniel Jenkins) and Mark Stiggs (Neill Barry) as cocky pranksters who live to torture the wealthy Schwab family. Randall Schwab (Paul Dooley) earns a living as an insurance salesman; Elinore Schwab (Jane Curtin) spends her days as a tippling drunk; Randall Jr. (Jon Cryer) is a put-upon dweeb – you name the cliche and the Schwab family's got one.
Based upon characters from National Lampoon magazine, the film charts a wild and wacky summer in arid Phoenix spent plotting and pranking; aside from being notable as Altman's biggest misfire, O.C. and Stiggs also boasts a fairly impressive cast: Cryer, Curtin, Martin Mull, Dennis Hopper, Ray Walston, Melvin Van Peebles, Cynthia Nixon and Tina Louise all make appearances here. Fans of lame-brained Eighties teen romps might find slight enjoyment here but everyone else should leave this to Altman completists.
Perhaps an indication of the studio's feelings towards the film, it's offered in a fairly lackluster letterboxed 2.35:1 transfer – softness and a tendency towards smearing makes O.C. & Stiggs look quite dated. It's too bad the studio couldn't be bothered to at least spring for an anamorphic transfer.
Dolby 2.0 stereo is the only audio option available and it's perfectly serviceable – Altman's trademark overlapping dialogue, the crazy radio interludes and King Sunny Ade's tribal rhythms all come through loud and clear.
The disc's lone bonus feature is "Altman on O.C. and Stiggs," an eight-minute, full-screen featurette, where Altman candidly discusses the film's origins, his distaste for "teen" films and more. Trailers for Christmas With The Kranks, National Lampoon Presents Dorm Daze, National Lampoon's Going The Distance and New Best Friend are also on board.
There are few greater misfires in Robert Altman's directorial canon than O.C. and Stiggs and despite eight minutes to explain himself, MGM's DVD is far from definitive and therefore a rental at best, unless you're either a cinematic masochist or a really dedicated Altman completist.