Being a movie reviewer, I am always exposed to different genres of films that normally, I wouldn't have the patience for. As noted in plenty of my other reviews, I'm not a big fan of westerns, silent, or foreign films. It was with that in mind that I decided to take a chance on Criterion's latest release, Federico Fellini's "The White Sheik."
Ivan Cavalli (Leopoldo Trieste) and his new wife Wanda (Brunella Bovo) are on their honeymoon in Rome. Ivan is very stuffy, and has planned their honeymoon around a rigorous schedule, including plenty of family activities and audiences with the Pope. But wide-eyed Wanda has other ideas, as she takes this honeymoon as an opportunity to search for Fernando Rivoli, star of a photo-strip cartoon called the White Sheik, setting off a "slapstick comedy worthy of Charlie Chaplin" (those are Criterion's words, not mine). The remainder of the movie develops the relationship between Wanda and Rivoli, as well as Ivan's attempts to get his new bride back.
"The White Sheik" was filmed in 1951, and shot entirely in black-and-white (duh). I'll be honest and admit that I'm not really familiar with Federico Fellini's body of work, but I guess there isn't a better place to learn about it than watching his first solo directorial effort. Clocking in at roughly 86 minutes, "The White Sheik" hardly ever drags on. Personally, I'm not a fan of Charlie Chaplain-type slapstick, but somehow it works here (reviewers note: I forgot what it's like to watch a slapstick comedy that isn't filled with fart jokes).
Criterion presents "The White Sheik" in black-and-white Full Frame 1.33:1. It's obvious that Criterion did a terrific job in restoring the transfer here, as specs of dirt and picture degradation do not dominate the picture, but rather just exist within it. This is as good as "The White Sheik" will ever look. Good job Criterion.
The audio is presented here in Italian 1.0 (yes, mono). Everything sounds good, as my only real concern was whether the background music would drown out the dialogue. Fortunately, it doesn't. Other than that, it almost goes without saying that Criterion did a good job restoring the audio here.
Interactive DVD menu with the looping musical score from the movie offers the choices of "Play the movie", "Chapters", "Remembrances", and "Subtitles."
Criterion has provided video interviews with actors Brunella Bovo and Leopolldo Trieste, as well as Fellini biographer Moraldo Rossi. All of the interviews are in Italian, but thankfully, we are given subtitles. The interviews last approximately 30 minutes.
In addition to the interviews, is an essay by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, and an excerpt from Charlotte Chandler's biography "I, Fellini." There's nothing earth-shattering here, but it's a nice bonus to have.
Well, if you're a Criterion collector, you're going to buy this one anyways, right? For everyone else, this movie is definitely an acquired taste (I'd only suggest it to Fellini diehards, and people who like Charlie Chaplin comedies). I'm leaning towards recommending a rental, but the restored audio and video push my overall rating towards "Recommended."