Directed by Tom Gries and written by none other than Robert Rudelson, the man who penned Russ Meyer's controversial Vixen, 1970's Fools was distributed by Cinerama Releasing (whose titles Scorpion Releasing seems to be intent on giving second life to on DVD) and stars the late, great Jason Robards alongside the lovely Katharine Ross. The pair plays Matthew South and Anais Appleton respectively - he's an actor and she's a hippy who he takes a liking to when they meet at a park one afternoon. His anti-social rants appeal to her counterculture tendencies and before you know it, they're having not just a relationship but a full blown an affair which, once it's been consummated, winds up going on behind her husband's back.
With this revelation out of the way and things instantly more complicated than they were prior, she becomes increasingly disinterested in her control freak of a husband, David Appleton (Scott Hylands) and after meeting with him to turn their separation into an ended marriage, finds that he's hired a private detective to follow her. Anais, having obviously fallen for Matthew (and he for her), spends as much time with her new man as she can but winds up keeping one eye open as David's behavior becomes increasingly erratic and far from the generally calm tendencies he's shown in the past.
The tagline on the front of the packaging for this release says 'they touched each other and let go of the world' and that more or less sums up what happens here in this fairly simple story of a problematic love affair. Ross' Anais basically lets Robards' Matthew become her everything, understandably eschewing her uncaring husband in his favor and doing her utmost to enjoy every moment of his company. It's reciprocated to the same extent by Robards' older character who finds in Anais a free spirit of sorts and seems to get a renewed energy from her. The film is little more than a venue for the two actors to do all that they can with some fairly bland material. The script isn't all that interesting and while the characters are fairly well developed, it's the performances here that matter the most. Thankfully both Robards and Ross are game and the movie rises above its mediocre plot and story thanks to their efforts. We really can feel for these two, and while they're as flawed as any other human being, we do start to like them a bit as the movie plays out simply because the two actors make them believable.
The film's flaws come from the very nature of showing love itself - for those not involved, it can be obnoxious. Here we see the two leads fall head over heels very quickly and do irritatingly cute things that couples tend to do before they settle into a 'regular' relationship (if there is such a thing). The fact that Robards' character specializes in horror films is an interesting idea that could have added some cult value to the film but which ultimately doesn't add up to a whole lot by the time the end credits role. There isn't much in the way of interesting dialogue here and the story is riddled with one cliché after another yet, as stated, it's watchable. Melodramatic cinematic muck? At times it certainly does seem that way and because the script calls for it, the two leads delve into some of it, but the two talented actors are good enough here when the script lets them be that you might not mind so much.
NOTE: This review is based off of a test disc (though it appears to at least represent finished product).
Fools looks very good in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation (transferred in HD from the original negative, according to the packaging). The image shows regular instances of print damage throughout, though most of it is minor. It does have that odd sort of seventies softness to its cinematography in spots, detail is generally okay. Color reproduction looks decent if a bit flat in spots and there are scenes where the color palette used for the picture isn't the most vibrant. Black levels, while not reference quality, are acceptable. Flesh tones look good, there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement at all - not a transfer that will knock you to the floor, but a decent one.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono track on this is also fine. It's well balanced, easy to follow and free of any hiss or distortion. A few sequences definitely sound a little bit flat but that's likely got more to do with the nature of the recording than with the DVD. All in all, it sounds quite good. No alternate language options or subtitles have been provided for this release.
The disc includes a menu, chapter stops, and the film's original theatrical trailer and a few trailers for unrelated Scorpion properties - but that's it as far as extras go.
Fools is a fairly bland film made watchable thanks to the two solid lead performances. It's hard to call this one essential viewing, but those looking for a romantic drama with some early seventies atmosphere could certainly do worse - but so too could they do better. Scorpion's DVD looks decent and sounds okay. Even if it's light on extras it's worth renting if the film sounds like your bag.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.