Julie Andrews goes topless for about ten seconds. That's primarily what Blake Edwards' S.O.B. (1981) is known for. Luckily, this chaotic meta-comedy has a lot more than just that: it's got a fairly stacked cast, a non-stop barrage of gags and, most importantly, a devil-may-care attitude while it skewers the Hollywood machine without flinching. Never mind that several of the jokes don't stick now, if they ever did, or that the first half is kind of a meandering mess: viewers are rewarded for their patience during the home stretch, punctuated by that scene and the fallout after deranged producer Felix Farmer (Richard Mulligan, Empty Nest) is figuratively stabbed in the back.
Before all that, we see exactly when and why Farmer has gone off the deep end: his latest film Night Wind, starring wife Sally Miles (Julie Andrews, Edwards' wife and frequent collaborator), is a huge flop. Both of their careers---hers as a squeaky-clean leading lady, his as a bankable producer---are in jeopardy. He's suicidal, and eventually sedated by their personal
doctor quack Irving Finegarten (Robert Preston, who co-starred with Andrews the following year in Edwards' Victor Victoria) while a handful of lecherous friends use his beach house to throw a wild party. During a brief moment of lucidity, Farmer decides to re-cut Night Wind as a bawdy, sex-filled production in which his demure wife shows off the goods. He's so convinced this plan will work that Farmer risks his remaining wealth to buy Night Wind from studio head David Blackman (Robert Vaughn, Pootie Tang) and secure full creative control.
It's a lot to take in at once and, if you're not closely familiar with the Hollywood machine, many of S.O.B.'s haymakers won't even register. That's not to mention that the royally padded first half takes an awful long time finding direction, as this 122-minute saga could've been whittled down 1/3 of the way without significantly impacting its story (perhaps that's the point?). But thanks to its committed cast, which also includes supporting roles or bit parts for film and TV veterans (Larry Hagman, Robert Loggia, Shelley Winters, and William Holden, who died shortly after release) and future stars (Rosanna Arquette, Corbin Bernsen), S.O.B. is rarely boring. Confusing at times? Yes. Unpredictable? You bet. Overstuffed? Obviously. But it's the rare Blake Edwards film that has actually aged fairly well, largely because the system it gleefully mocks hasn't changed all that much. "Unrated" and "Director's Cut" discs that usually promise a bit of extra nudity or unconvincing CGI blood, or even inverse attempts such as PG-13 sequels of R-rated franchises, offer all the proof you'll ever need: most studios will do just about anything to make a buck.
Warner Archives continues its latest winning streak with their new Blu-ray edition of S.O.B., which easily beats their parent company's 2002 DVD edition. But only in the A/V department: while it's been blessed with an outstanding new 1080p transfer and lossless audio, the extras are practically non-existent. Still, anyone who saw and enjoyed S.O.B. in decades past will enjoy themselves, although newcomers should probably try before they buy.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
S.O.B. reportedly looked very good on DVD (for a 2002 release, of course), but it's obvious that Warner Archives' new Blu-ray offers a dramatic improvement at every turn: this terrific 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer reveals a lot of fine detail and accurate color reproduction...for better or worse, depending on your tolerance for early 1980s interior decorating. Skin tones, contrast, and black levels look excellent, while the film grain and textures are consistently pleasing--and even more so during the occasional outdoor scenes. Absolutely no digital tinkering was spotted along the way, such as excessive noise reduction and edge enhancement, nor were they any compression-related issues on this dual-layer disc. Simply put, die-hard fans should be enormously pleased for the opportunity to have a top-notch presentation of S.O.B. on Blu-ray, as it's easily one of the best-looking catalog titles I've seen in recent memory.
DISCLAIMER: The still images and screen captures on this page are decorative and do not represent the Blu-ray under review.
Not to be forgotten, of course, is the audio: S.O.B. is very much dialogue-driven but features no shortage of outbursts and a handful of show-stopping performances, so it's good to know that this DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track holds its own weight. Vocals and effects are crystal clear on almost all occasions, while the occasional music cues offer a slight but noticeable amount of depth. It's generally mixed well but small portions of the dialogue are a little quiet, which means you might be reaching for your remote on several occasions. Either way, this is a fine presentation of rowdy source material, and for the most part it sounds quite good. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included, but they're garishly printed in ALL CAPS...this appears to be a new tradition for Warner Archive discs.
Menu Design, Packaging, & Extras
The static interface (more or less identical to the cover artwork, based on the poster seen above-left) is clean and easy to navigate. This one-disc release is packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with no inserts of any kind. Sadly, bonus features are limited to the film's Theatrical Trailer
---I know Warner Archives doesn't produce new content for their discs, but I'm positive that die-hand fans would shell out a few more bucks for the privilege.
S.O.B. is rowdy, chaotic, unhinged, and unapologetic---and if you're not in the right mood, chances are you'll be turned off. Yet it's aged quite a bit better than most Blake Edwards films (in other words, not terribly), due in no small part to the terrific cast and their fearless commitment to skewer the industry that made them famous. Though obviously more than a little padded---especially during the first half, which drags instead of building momentum---S.O.B. pays off nicely and many of its gags are still irreverently relevant. Warner Archives' new Blu-ray package does the film right with a top-tier A/V presentation, even though their unfortunate policy of "no new extras" makes this pretty much a movie-only disc. Recommended to fans, but newcomers may want to proceed with caution.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.