War Between Men and Women, The
Release Date(s)1972 (January 28, 2014)
Studio(s)Cinema Center Films (CBS DVD/Paramount)
The 1970s was a decade of transition for Jack Lemmon. You couldn’t describe it as an unsuccessful period in the actor’s life. In 1971, he directed his first and only feature film, Kotch. He reteamed with favorite collaborators like Walter Matthau, Billy Wilder and Neil Simon on a number of occasions. But most of the movies Lemmon made during the 70s have been overshadowed by the New Hollywood films of young up-and-comers like Pacino and Nicholson. Even his Oscar-winning performance in Save The Tiger is largely forgotten, while the films of his fellow nominees (Last Tango In Paris, The Last Detail, Serpico and The Sting) are hailed as classics.
The War Between Men And Women is an odd, rather dated but still entertaining curio. Inspired by the work of humorist/cartoonist James Thurber, Lemmon plays Peter Wilson, a misanthropic humorist/cartoonist who hates women, children and dogs. Like Thurber himself, Wilson is losing his eyesight and on a visit to his optometrist, meets Theresa Kozlenko (Barbara Harris), a divorced mother of three. It’s dislike at first sight (or sound, since they’re both temporarily blinded by eye drops). Naturally, their first impressions give way to mutual attraction. They get married and Lemmon becomes a reluctant stepfather, a role made even more difficult by the reappearance of Theresa’s ex (Jason Robards), a war photographer and the very definition of a man’s man.
If nothing else, The War Between Men And Women is an interesting snapshot of sexual mores circa 1972. At times, it feels like a movie version of an issue of Playboy or Esquire from the period. Director Melville Shavelson weaves in animated sequences throughout, culminating in an adaptation of Thurber’s 1939 parable The Last Flower. The animation is fine but the movie’s real strength lies in the performances of Lemmon and Harris. Lemmon is given ample opportunities to showcase his flair for both physical and verbal comedy and his developing relationship with Harris’ children is surprisingly touching. And Harris takes what could have been a thankless caricature and creates an appealing, well-rounded character.
The arrival of The War Between Men And Women on DVD is a welcome surprise since this is the kind of deep catalog release studios aren’t supposed to be doing anymore. I would have expected this to be relegated to a Manufactured-On-Demand release at this point. Before you get too excited, the quality isn’t much better or different than an MOD disc would offer. The movie doesn’t appear to have been remastered and the video quality gets sketchy at times, especially during the animated sequences. It’s an acceptable, 16x9 enhanced widescreen image but nothing to write home about. The mono audio is similarly just OK. The disc has no special features, not even a trailer.
If you’re a Jack Lemmon fan (and if you’re not, what’s the matter with you?), The War Between Men And Women is at least worth a rental. It’s a modest but effective movie with some real laughs and a few moments of well-earned sentiment. It might not be the insightful look at the sexual revolution it seems to want to be but at least its aims are a bit higher than the average rom-com.
- Adam Jahnke