The King of Comedy (1983)

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Released 16-Jun-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Black Comedy Featurette-Making Of-A Shot At The Top: The Making Of The King Of Comedy
Deleted Scenes-2
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 104:21
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:49) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Martin Scorsese

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Robert De Niro
Jerry Lewis
Diahnne Abbott
Sandra Bernhard
Shelley Hack
Ed Herlihy
Lou Brown
Loretta Tupper
Peter Potulski
Vinnie Gonzales
Whitey Ryan
Doc Lawless
Marta Heflin
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Ray Charles
Van Morrison
Bob James

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Rupert Pupkin (Robert DeNiro) is a man with an obsession. His unhealthy fixation is centred around comedian Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis), a late night talk show host whom Rupert has been following for the duration of his career. Rupert has an all-consuming aspiration to better Langford and become the king of comedy, but with only his nagging mother and some celebrity cardboard cut-outs to witness his routine, he can't find his lucrative big break into the business. In reality, he wants the fame and fortune without having to do any work. One evening, he cons his way into the limousine of Langford and puts forward his proposal for an appearance on his show, unaware that Langford is merely being polite and keeping him at a distance. Pupkin's blind aspirations as a comedian and lack of motivation to perform any of the hard work involved are the source of great headaches for Langford and his staff, and while they initially try and be kind to him, his aggressive intensity becomes threatening to the point where Pupkin will do anything to gain his five minutes of fame, regardless of the outcome. With the help of his similarly obsessive friend Masha (Sandra Bernhard), Pupkin hits upon an infallible plan that will ensure his reign as the king lasts a lot longer than five minutes.

    As a study of celebrity status and the modern media, The King of Comedy was years ahead of its time and sadly underrated upon its initial release. The reality television phenomenon and the unprecedented media coverage of world events in recent times makes this film so much more poignant in a retrospective sense. In the 80s, the idea of a crazed fan such as Pupkin gaining any sense of celebrity status would have seemed a bit implausible, if not a rarity - whereas nowadays there are cases of celebrity stalkers and obsessive fans quite regularly. Pupkin's ultimate success despite his willingness to extort his fame from those who worked for it is a cruel irony and sadly true of many of today's overnight stars who seem to become famous more for their notoriety or self image rather than their talent alone.

    Scorsese took a slightly different filmmaking approach here in comparison to his earlier efforts with DeNiro (Raging Bull and Taxi Driver). This film has a very realistic feel, due in short to his encouraging the cast to improvise their scenes - in fact Jerry Lewis injected much of his own comedic style into his performance of Langford and also contributed some of his own equally hilarious and scary personal experiences concerning fame and the public eye. DeNiro is unnervingly great as the obsessive Pupkin, and Scorsese himself makes a memorable cameo appearance alongside the late Tony Randall.

    In terms of social poignancy and comedic timing, The King of Comedy deserves to be as highly regarded as Scorsese's other successful films, and makes for an infinitely interesting thinking person's comedy. Don't miss it.

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Transfer Quality


    This is an almost pristine transfer to DVD, with only a couple of small noticeable issues worth mentioning.

    The video transfer is presented in an aspect of 1.85:1, consistent with its original theatrical exhibition. 16x9 enhancement is included.

    A number of media are utilised in this film, most notably analogue videotape which has been used for the televised portions of the film. As evidenced in the deleted scenes, this footage was cropped in post production and exhibits a great reduction in detail compared to film, not to mention a cramped appearance on screen. The analogue video effect is obvious and there is no doubt that this appearance was Scorsese's intention. Aside from these small videotaped sequences, the transfer is very sharp with a noticeable, film-like clarity. Shadow detail is realistic and blacks are absolutely jet black. There was no low level noise present in the transfer.

    Colours are rich and consistently rendered, with no signs of bleeding or oversaturation. Skin tones appear true and realistic.

    Film grain is nowhere to be seen, although artefacting in the transfer is limited to a few very small positive and negative flecks of dust and dirt, which are barely noticeable and inconsequential. An example of extreme telecine wobble occurs at 70:15, noticeably distorting the picture momentarily. This is the extent of the problems in this transfer, and considering the film is twenty years old I am quite happily impressed. MPEG artefacting and aliasing are magnificently controlled and were not an issue.

    An optional English subtitle stream is included on the disc, which does a good job of translating the sometimes frantic dialogue. I viewed a majority of the film with the stream enabled and found a few lines to be omitted here and there, but nothing that would detract from the plot of the film.

    This disc is dual layered and RSDL formatted (DVD-9), with the layer transitional pause located during the feature at 58:49. The pause noticeably freezes some action on screen, but does not interrupt any ambient noise or dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one audio stream included on this DVD, a wafer thin English Dolby Digital 2.0 stream encoded at 192Kb/s. Being a dialogue driven film, this low bitrate does the job, however a higher bitrate would have served the depth of the film's score much more faithfully.

    Vocal delivery and dialogue is always prominent in the soundtrack, and I had no issues understanding the spoken word at all. There is unfortunately one scene at 90:50 which seems to have been poorly edited. In this moment of dialogue you can see Sandra Bernhard's lips moving, but only footsteps are heard. Afterward, a portion of dialogue has been inserted that doesn't match her lip movements, indicating that this scene was reworked in the editing room. In fact it almost appears that Sandra's lips could have been mouthing some profanity. If I'm correct it could explain why the scene was edited in this way.

    The soundtrack score includes some interesting contributions from artists such as the late master of soul Ray Charles and Van Morrison. The songs that feature in the film complement the lonely atmosphere perfectly, and don't detract from the experience in any way. The use of the classic tune Come Rain Or Come Shine by Ray Charles in the film's opening scenes is a highlight for me.

    Surround processing of this stereo soundtrack did nothing to enhance the experience, and yielded no response from the surround channels or subwoofer. I didn't note any examples of extreme panning to the left or right either, confirming that this soundtrack is likely a mono effort.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu system is 16x9 enhanced, but is silent and static. There are no animated page transitions or anything at all special to speak of.

Featurette - A Shot at the Top: The Making of The King of Comedy (18:09)

    This is a recently produced Making Of, featuring interviews with Martin Scorsese and Sandra Bernhard. Scorsese discusses many aspects of the film, including the casting and scripting process. He also touches on Jerry Lewis' contribution to the film, the use of improvisation and the unfortunate panning the film received critically. This featurette is presented as a full frame transfer, with optional English subtitles.

Deleted Scenes (2)

Theatrical Trailer (1:24)

     This is an excellent 16x9 enhanced trailer that conveys the mood of the film efficiently without any spoilers whatsoever. The source is a bit grainy, but for a trailer the quality is acceptable.

Canadian TV Spot (0:30)

    A short and simple promo piece made for television.


    There are 33 production stills here to flick through, featuring shots of DeNiro and Scorsese on the set.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Aside from language and subtitle options, this title is identical across all regions.


    The King of Comedy is an underrated outing from Scorsese and DeNiro, and makes for rewarding viewing. Fans of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull who haven't seen this are seriously missing out on a gem of a film.

    The video transfer is very crisp and easy to watch.

    The audio transfer is a bit on the thin side, but does the job.

    There are a couple of worthwhile extras included.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Friday, June 18, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-525, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX76PW10A 76cm Widescreen 100Hz. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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