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On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
1970 / Color / 2:35 anamorphic 16:9 / 129 min. / Street Date February 22, 2004 / 14.99
Starring Barbra Streisand, Yves Montand, Bob Newhart, Larry Blyden, Simon Oakland, Jack Nicholson
Cinematography Harry Stradling
Production Designer John De Cuir
Film Editor David Bretherton
Original Music Burton Lane
Written by Alan Jay Lerner from his play
Produced by Howard W. Koch
Directed by Vincente Minnelli

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Savant isn't the biggest Barbra Streisand fan but liked All Night Long quite a bit. I also hadn't seen On A Clear Day You Can See Forever and decided to give it a try. It's a not bad musical, mainly because Streisand plays a role and is not always front and center upstaging everyone else in the picture. But the movie has other problems, most of them related to an unsteady adaptation of an already-admired stage show.


Mixed up New Jersey girl Daisy Gamble (Barbara Streisand) drops by the lecture hall of psychologist Dr. Marc Chabot (Yves Montand) to see about reducing her addiction to nicotine, and he's amazed at how unusually receptive to hypnosis she is. She's also clairvoyant and seems to have the power to make plants grow, qualities that her uptight fiancée Warren Pratt (Larry Blyden) isn't the type to appreciate. Chabot finds himself tuned into her telepathic wavelength, and begins to believe in her powers. He begins a study of Daisy and discovers that she can regress to a past life as a social climber in 1815 London. He promptly falls in love with her - her past incarnation, that is. Meanwhile, the notoriety of his 'mystical' research is making headlines and causing anti-administration riots on the college campus.

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever is an Alan Jay Lerner musical post- Lowe, and was sold to Paramount at the same time as Paint Your Wagon. The film adaptors did their best to mold it into big-screen form, with results that didn't please too many people beyond the Barbra diehards.

Yves Montand at least can sing, which is more than could be said for Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. A protégé of Edith Piaf, he was an acclaimed cabaret singer. He'd already had one disastrous Hollywood musical outing ten years previous in the Marilyn Monroe picture Let's Make Love and unfortunately this second try didn't work either. He's interesting, but there's little romantic chemistry between him and Barbra. Just being French was never enough - in English-language movies, at any rate.

Commercially speaking, On A Clear Day seems an attempt to repeat the success of Gigi. It has the same designer and the same director, but it doesn't have a romanticized Paris. Vincente Minnelli's penchant for overdone decór is in evidence, with Montand's office jammed with knicknacks and some gaudy chandeliers in the "regression" sequences looking like fugitives from Ziegfeld Follies. The hit play has been much changed, with peripheral characters cut down. In the case of Jack Nicholson, doomed to play a new-age sitar-playing guy, it's a good thing. They make him wear a heavy turtleneck mellow yellow sweater in one scene. They dropped Nicholson's one song with Streisand, although I'm told it can be heard on CD somewhere. Hit songs from the play were jettisoned and new material for Barbra was added; what's there sounds good although the only tune I remember getting radio play besides the title number was Come Back To Me. This time I realized why the song appeals - it seems a direct transposition of the "Follow Me" song from Camelot.

The story never makes much of its mystical premise. Daisy Gamble has all the talents of a budding Philip K. Dick character - mind-reading, clairvoyance, and the ability to make plants grow. The last bit puts her in the same league as fairy tale princesses and free-range Earth mothers. She somehow thinks herself pitifully inferior, and it takes psychology specialist Montand (with an assist from Psycho shrink Simon Oakland) to discover what anybody who lived with her could figure out in a couple of hours. The present-tense story is a weak sitcom about a milquetoast fiancée that doesn't deserve Daisy, while Montand puts up with flak from the college administration (repped by a wasted Bob Newhart). Oakland and Newhart drop hints at profundity as the script plays with issues like mysticism and skates around the possibility that Christianity may be just another silly superstition. There's even an unexplained campus riot. Are we supposed to believe that in 1970 college kids march on administration buildings over things like teaching reincarnation in the classroom? Don't they know there's a war going on?

It all comes to nothing when the zillionaire who funds the college decides he wants reincarnation to be a proven fact, so he can will his money to himself in his next life. The premise of the movie becomes a "You can take it with you" joke.

Daisy's Bridey Murphy-like excursions to a past life, the "regression" material, all play like flashbacks and were filmed in England with an English cast. Interesting personalities such as Pamela Brown (I Know Where I'm Going!) make no impression at all, while Hammer alumnus John Richardson (Black Sunday and One Million Years B.C.) is as dull as he is handsome. These 1815 scenes have been trimmed the most; there was apparently much more material in the orphanage scene that cleverly uses a lot of unusually tall actors (such as Richard Kiel) to make Barbra look like a tot. The idea of drifting into a past life is somewhat similar to Streisand's famous TV special Color Me Barbra. In that show she fantasizes herself into a series of paintings, cueing extravagant costume changes, etc.

But the singing is good and Barbara is cute without overdoing it. Knowing how Barbra gravitates to characters that run off at the mouth, it's amusing when the film's running gag has the hyper Daisy collapse suddenly into silent hypnotic trances. On A Clear Day You Can See Forever may be listed as a flop from the first year post- Easy Rider, but it's not half bad.

Paramount's DVD of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever is a movie with a complicated history but there are no extras to help us see beyond the film itself.  1 The picture and sound are very good: The musical passages have all been remixed what with sounds like genuine stereo stems instead of an audio engineer's faux-stereo trick.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever rates:
Movie: Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: March 2, 2005


1. I'm told there was a longer Road Show version with an intermission and two more songs planned, but the film was released normally after a series of Road Show flops hit the industry. That info and most of the other particulars come from a friend more conversant with the subject. Yes, Savant likes show tunes but he isn't all that familiar with the details of Broadway-to-Hollywood musicals.

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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