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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » After the Fox (Blu-ray)
After the Fox (Blu-ray)
Kino // Unrated // March 22, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted March 1, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Vittorio De Sica is a director mostly known for his Italian neo-realist masterpieces like Bicycle Thieves and my favorite film of the movement, Umberto D. Perhaps that's why he's not recognized as one of the most diverse and prolific directors of his generation, a brave filmmaker who never feared experimenting with different genres and tones from one film to another. In that sense, is it too far of a stretch to call him the Italian version of Sidney Lumet? Lumet is also mostly known for delivering gritty and grim stories, but most film buffs forget that the movie he directed right after his quintessential masterwork Network was the colorful and boisterous movie adaptation of The Wiz.

After the neo-realism movement died down during the 50s, De Sica mostly spent the 60s bouncing back and forth between Italian melodramas and Hollywood comedies. 1966s After the Fox represents his attempt at a farce, a heist comedy that mixes star Peter Sellers' exuberant and colorful vibe at the time with energetic Italian humor, complete with an overdramatic mother with a 24/7 guilt trip and the full blooded manic energy of the country's working class. There also seems to be an attempt at creating a new franchise character with Sellers' sly and suave thief Aldo, nicknamed The Fox, a-la Inspector Cousteau.

The plot, appropriately simple for the genre, revolves around a group of gold thieves who ask for The Fox's services in retrieving a mountain of gold from Cairo. The job is too big for The Fox and his goons, so he convinces an entire village to move the gold for him by pretending to be a big shot film director, and that the gold heist is part of his "movie". After the Fox really shines in moments that poke fun of public's adoration of fame, movie stars, and filmmakers, a weakness that The Fox effortlessly exploits. If the town's police chief comes looking for permits, all The Fox has to do is to offer him a part in the "film". If an aging movie star (Victor Mature) asks him what the movie's about, all he has to tell him is that it's an art film about "nothing".

De Sica is very much in his element in terms of the movie's satirical angles. The best joke in the film involves a snobby film critic calling The Fox's incoherent and badly shot footage an Italian masterpiece. I'm sure De Sica had his share of critics who praised his neo-realist work simply because they were supposed to be art films, without fully understanding why they worked it in the first place.

The heist part of the story doesn't work as well, simply because it's played in a fairly straightforward way that eases on the farce elements. The biggest problem here is that, even though Sellers' strict attention to detail in creating yet another unique character is present, The Fox is too much of a straight charismatic presence without any comedic weaknesses. His out of character decisions during the third act, where he suddenly grows a conscience out of nowhere, also hurts the film's credibility.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

One would expect a catalogue release from a smaller distributor like Kino to sport a transfer that would be filled with scratches, dirt, and lots of video noise. Even though some of those issues are present, especially when it comes to print scratches, the 1080p transfer is mostly clean, and does a good job of representing the colorful 60s palette of the film.

Audio:

The DTS-HD 2.0 track is actually the film's original mono mix spread over the two front channels. Apart from my pet peeve about mono mixes not being played through the center channel, the audio track is clear, if a bit tinny, when it comes to dialogue, and really comes to life when it comes to Burt Bacharach's score. One big no-no is that the Blu-ray doesn't have any subtitles, not even for the deaf or hard of hearing.

Extras:

Trailers From Hell: Screenwriter Larry Karaszewski talks over the film's trailer, and actually manages to give an entire documentary's worth of information on the production in 3 minutes.

We also get the Trailer without Karaszewski's commentary.

Final Thoughts:

Even with some of my negative points, there's still a lot to like about After the Fox, enough to be recommended for a rental, especially for Sellers and De Sica completionists. The screenplay by Neil Simon does a decent job of leaving behind his usual wisecracking comedy and capturing the tone of Italian humor, which relies more on over the top energy and physical gags. The pacing is a bit off, some of the scenes go on far longer than they should, a death sentence for comedy, but De Sica still does an admirable job of putting the pieces together, at least enough for the movie to work as an endearing 60s artifact.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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