When interviewed about why he was disappointed in Monty Python's final feature film, The Meaning of Life, John Cleese stated that if the point was to make a movie, then it's not enough just to string together a bunch of sketches that can easily be watched on their own, out of context. He preferred an approach that had a cohesive story support the hilarious set pieces, hence his preference for Life of Brian, which boasts a more traditional narrative without giving an inch from the madcap pace that string together some of the greatest comedy bits ever witnessed from the Pythons.
So it makes sense that A Fish Called Wanda, written by Cleese, works equally well as a gripping and exciting heist thriller while also being home to some of the funniest and most memorable comedy sequences of all time. Many of its classic bits, from the running gag that sees the proudly psychopathic Otto (Kevin Kline in perhaps his defining comedic performance) torture poor stuttering Ken (Michael Palin) by pretending to be madly in love with him, to a mini Python reunion with love struck Archie (John Cleese) trying desperately to get an important piece of information from Ken (Only these two could turn simply saying the name of a hotel into a ten-minute bit that turns into one of the funniest scenes in film history), A Fish Called Wanda still reigns as perhaps the greatest heist comedy ever made.
Yet without the "lightning in a bottle" cast and Cleese's genius in meticulously constructing brilliant and brilliantly morbid comedy set pieces, the film still works splendidly as a crime mystery, with enough twists, turns, back stabbings, and raw aquarium fish ingestion to engage the audience all the way through. The natural chemistry between Cleese and Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays the titular Wanda, or at least the non-fish one, provides the emotional anchor the film needs to balance the giddy absurdity and insanity of the events that surround the story.
The question most fans are obviously going to ask: "Is Arrow's new release worth a double dip?" Even if you have the previous Blu-ray release, the answer is a resounding "Yes!". The previous Blu-ray was fine, but suffered from a transfer that was a bit too soft and had too many dirt and scratches. Arrow's new 4K restoration might be the best A Fish Called Wanda has ever looked. With perfect contrast, black levels, and a healthy amount of grain, it's as clear and crisp as this presentation is ever going to get.
We get a Linear PCM 1.0 Mono track, which captures the film's original mix with great clarity and depth, as well as a DTS-HD 5.1 track that gives the audio more range. I'd go with the mono track if you want the original experience.
Below are extras ported over from the previous Blu-ray release:
Commentary by John Cleese: This is an extremely informative commentary that also showcases Cleese's inherent dry wit.
John Cleese's First Farewell Performance: A vintage EPK from the film's production.
Something Fishy: A 15th anniversary featurette with interviews from the cast.
A Message from John Cleese: A pretty useless but very funny introduction.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes: A whopping 30 minutes of excised material for the hardcore fans.
Here are the new extras:
An Appreciation by Vic Pratt: Pratt, from the BFI National Archive, talks in detail about his love for the film.
Interview with Roger Murray-Leich: The production designer briefly talks about his experience making the film.
On Location: A 16-minute piece where we see the original locations from the film.
Trivia Track: We read bits of trivia as the film plays.
We also get an Image Gallery, a Trailer, and a neat Booklet full of essays.
A Fish Called Wanda one of those comedies that, if you've never seen it, you've certainly heard it being quoted ("The Ka!! The Ka!!") and had entire scenes described in great detail by fans who still understandably eat it up nearly thirty years after its release. There's a reason for that: A Fish Called Wanda has aged incredibly well, so a new Blu-ray release from Arrow makes perfect sense as a way for fans and newcomers to experience the best possible home video presentation of this classic.