Myra Breckinridge (1970)

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Released 17-Jun-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Michael Sarne (Director)
Audio Commentary-Raquel Welch (Actor)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Va Va Voom!, The Girl Can't Help It, Girl On A Motorcycle
Trailer-Camille 2000
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1970
Running Time 90:19 (Case: 94)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (71:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Michael Sarne
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Mae West
John Huston
Raquel Welch
Rex Reed
Farrah Fawcett
Roger C. Carmel
Roger Herren
George Furth
Calvin Lockhart
Jim Backus
John Carradine
Andy Devine
Grady Sutton
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    This film opens with Myron Breckinridge (Rex Reed) undergoing a sex change operation in Denmark with the assistance of John Carradine. With the use of silicone, Myron becomes Myra (Raquel Welch). Pretending to be Myron's widow, Myra attempts to shoehorn herself into her uncle's Hollywood talent school. The uncle is Buck Loner (John Huston), a former cowboy star. Myra is determined to destroy the American male and sets her sights on violating Rusty (Roger Herren) and his ditzy girlfriend Mary Ann (Farrah Fawcett).

    This was a famous commercial and critical flop in its day, and it isn't hard to see why. Based on Gore Vidal's satirical novel, the film lacks any satirical edge and simply isn't funny. It is not badly made, just badly put together. Director Michael Sarne has a good eye for composition and framing, but not much for propelling a story. The script which he co-wrote for the film does not generate any sort of momentum. Of course this wasn't helped by the presence of top-billed star Mae West, who plays a sort of uber-agent and nightclub singer named Letitia Van Allen. She wrote virtually all of her dialogue, most of which is risqué in the West manner. "Give him a test." "A screen test?" "No, a blood test." There's also the old gag about one of her men being six feet seven inches. "Never mind about the six feet..." All of this is delivered in West's trademark double-entendre voice, which was okay in the 1930s but seems just a trifle unbecoming in a 78-year-old woman. She also sings, but let's not go there.

    Sarne adds in lots of clips of old movies in an attempt to comment on the action, or to fill out the running time or something. It works to an extent but in some ways the result is just sad. You have to wonder why some of the actors agreed to appear in the film, though perhaps they were not to know how it would turn out. Welch tries very hard but succeeds only in looking good - not that that was hard for her. Film critic Rex Reed appears on screen regularly as a sort of doppelganger for Myra. He isn't asked to do much acting-wise, which is probably a good thing, as what he does is appalling. John Huston channels a prime ham. Welch wonders in her commentary whether the movie should have been directed by Huston, who produced several classic films. However, he also made some abysmal turkeys, and this would undoubtedly have been another. There are bit parts for old timers like Andy Devine and Grady Sutton as a couple of old time cowboy stars, Kathleen Freeman, William Hopper (as a judge in his last movie) and Jim Backus, while Star Trek fans will recognise Roger C. Carmel. And yes, that is Tom Selleck as one of Mae's "boys".

    While this movie is not as bad as a lot of similar "comedies" made around the same time, it is pretty bad nonetheless. Some people might get a kick out of it: author Gore Vidal did not, and expended considerable effort in badmouthing it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The film looks very good, as if it is taken from a brand new interpositive print. It is very sharp indeed and there is plenty of detail visible. Colours are bright and clean, with vivid reds and blues. Flesh tones are not always entirely accurate, looking a little pale at times, but I expect that this is how the film originally looked. Contrast levels are excellent, with no problems with shadow detail that I noticed.

    There are very few film artefacts in the newly shot material, with occasional white specks the only noticeable problem. The old movie clips have more artefacts, but would have had these on the original print of this film.

    Film to video artefacts are another matter. There is a lot of aliasing, on almost every straight edge. Most of it is a mild shimmer, but sometimes it is distracting. There is also moire, for example on the shutters behind Buck Loner's desk. Edge enhancement is also visible in some scenes.

    No subtitles are provided. The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change positioned at 71:37 at a cut.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0. This seems to be a stereo mix of the original soundtrack, which was mono, but frankly it does not have much in the way of stereo separation. There is no surround encoding.

    Dialogue is clear throughout. The sound is very good, with no distortion or hiss apparent. Effects come across clearly.

    There is no credit for a composer, but the music was compiled by Lionel Newman. It mostly consists of bits of music from other sources, for example Shirley Temple singing S-M-I-L-E under the opening and closing credits. Then there are a couple of songs sung by Mae West, which don't bear thinking about.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    Shirley Temple sings again.

Audio Commentary-Michael Sarne (Director)

    The English-born director tells of his attempts to get sacked from the project, the attempts at sabotage by the studio, the author and others, the problems he had with the actors and so on. He tends to moon a bit over some of the performers. Also, he claims that actor Calvin Lockhart (who plays a vastly different character than in the later The Beast Must Die!) died a couple of years ago. I have not been able to find any confirmation of this, and it seems unlikely.

Audio Commentary-Raquel Welch (Actor)

    Ms Welch provides a very honest commentary, wondering why she was in the film and openly talking about the problems, including the hostility between her and Mae West. This is a better listen than the Sarne commentary, though there are lengthy pauses, and she seems a little too close to the microphone..

Theatrical Trailer (1:00)

    An original trailer for the film, which also suggests that it is entertaining. "The book that couldn't be written is now the motion picture that couldn't be made".

Trailers-Va Va Voom!, The Girl Can't Help It, Girl On A Motorcycle, Camille 2000 (7:07)

    Trailers for other Umbrella releases. The first of these has a clip of Raquel Welch singing a cover version of Here Comes the Sun.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    The film has been released on DVD in the US. The Region 1 differs from the Region 4 in several respects. It contains the same audio commentaries as the Region 4, but has two different versions on the film. On one side of the disc is the theatrical release with the Welch commentary. On the other side is the director's original version plus his commentary. The differences between the two versions are minor, involving restoration of the studio cuts (see the Censorship section for details).

    Apart from this the Region 1 has a half-hour documentary about the film, a couple of extra trailers and a TV spot. The Region 1 probably wins, but only just.

Summary

    Not as bad as its reputation has it, but not that good either.

    The video quality is good despite some aliasing.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The two commentaries make satisfactory extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, August 01, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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