Neil Simon is one of the most prolific and consistently funny American
playwrights. Starting his career writing for Sid Caesar on Your
Show of Shows, Simon learned his craft in the high pressure world of
live TV. In the early sixties he turned to writing plays, and was an instant
success. Several of his plays were turned into hit movies (Barefoot
in the Park, Sweet Charity) and in 1970 he decided to write an original
screenplay, The Out-of-Towners.
George Kellerman (Jack Lemon) is about to hit the big time. After
years of hard work he is up for a promotion to Vice President of a large
plastics corporation. The job will mean a big raise in salary and
all the perks that executives get. All he has to do is fly to New
York City to meet with the president of the firm at 9:00 the next day and
the job will be his. So George and his wife Gwen (Sandy Dennis) leave
their small Ohio town and head for the Big Apple. Unfortunately,
everything that can possibly go wrong, does.
After circling around NY for hours, the airport gets fogged in, so the
plane is diverted to Boston. That wouldn't be too bad, but their
luggage doesn't show up in Boston with them. Things go from
bad to worse as they try to get to New York, get to their room, and show
up for the meeting on time.
Sort of a cross between Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and After
Hours, The Out-of-Towners keeps raising the stakes. Every time
something goes wrong, you think that they have finally reached the bottom,
and that nothing worse can happen. Except it does. It just
keeps getting worse and worse for these two poor tourists.
Jack Lemon does a superb job as George. His comedic timing is
absolutely impeccable, and he plays that character wonderfully. George
has a lot of nervous energy at the beginning, excited and proud that he's
about to get the job of his dreams. Instead of making George slowly
get more and more angry as the situation deteriorates, Lemon has him blow
up the first, and every, time something goes wrong. He puts his heart
into each explosion, and it makes the movie. You know George is going
to scream "I've got you on my list!" after each perceived slight, and that
makes it all the more humorous.
Sandy Dennis was an excellent choice for George's compliant wife.
She tries to make the best out of a bad situation and is calm for the most
part. She has the best running joke in the movie, exclaiming "Oh
my God!" every time another disaster befalls the poor couple. She
is the perfect counterpoint to George's rantings and tantrums.
There are many good actors in bit parts throughout the movie.
Be sure to look for Billy Dee Williams as the lost and found clerk, and
Jonny Brown (a Rowan and Martin regular) as the waiter.
The movie is funny, but it is not a laugh-a-minute comedy. The
humor builds over the course of the film. The whole movie is like
one big running gag. As the main characters get into more and more
trouble, it becomes more and more humorous. Near the end you are
smiling thinking "What else can go wrong." When something does, it's
just funny. The fact that these are decent people who don't deserve
the problems they are having just adds to the absurdity of it all.
The Out-of-Towners is about people who have no control over their
environment. They are having a horrible time, and they can't stop
the bad things from happening. I know there are some people who feel
uncomfortable watching this type of film, and if that description fits
you, you might want to take a pass.
This DVD has both an English sound track and a French dub. Both
are in stereo. There are English subtitles also.
The sound track has been cleaned up nicely. It is clear and clean
with only the slightest defects. The dynamic range is not great,
and the one explosion seemed flat compared to explosions in movies with
a dedicated subwoofer channel. If you take into account that
this movie is practically all dialog, you see that there isn't much reason
to have a large dynamic range. It sounds very good for a 30 year
The picture quality is very good on this DVD. The widescreen anamorphic
transfer was from a good print. There were some dirt and flecks on
the movie here and there, but the colors were accurate, and the digital
artifacts were kept to a minimum. Paramount did a very good job with
the disc, especially considering that it is not a large title. I've
seen a lot of more recent movies that did not look as good.
The extras were disappointing. There weren't any. I think
a trailer should be mandatory on theatrically released films, and I was
disappointed that one wasn't present.
There are a lot of people who are put off by movies where anxiety and
tension are a central theme. If After Hours made you nervous,
this move may not be for you. If you can laugh at the misfortunes
of others, this Neil Simon comedy is recommended.