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review added: 9/20/02



The First Nudie Musical
26th Anniversary Special Edition - 1975 (2002) - Paramount (Image)

review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The First Nudie Musical: 26th Anniversary Special Edition Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/C-/A

Specs and Features

94 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 enhanced, dual-disc Amaray keep case, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:01:28 in chapter 22), audio commentary (with writer/co-director/actor Bruce Kimmel), audio commentary (with actors Bruce Kimmel, Cindy Williams and Stephen Nathan), From Dollars to Donuts: An Undressing of The First Nudie Musical documentary (with optional audio commentary by Bruce Kimmel and documentary producers Nick Redman & Michael Rosendale), deleted scene (with optional audio commentary by Bruce Kimmel), deleted musical number (with optional audio commentary by Bruce Kimmel), theatrical trailer, photo gallery, bonus soundtrack CD, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 1.0 mono), subtitles: none


Where have you gone, Danny Peary? For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Danny Peary is the author of some of the best film books ever published: Cult Movies (and its two sequels) and the indispensable Guide for the Film Fanatic. I go back to these books time and time again, so much so that pages are literally falling out of my copies. I don't know where he is now or what he's doing, but I am forever indebted to the man for introducing me to some of the strangest good films I've ever seen - movies like El Topo and Nightmare Alley. And he's pertinent to this discussion because Peary's Cult Movies 2 is the first place I, and probably a lot of other people, ever heard of The First Nudie Musical.

Shot in 1975, The First Nudie Musical tells the tale of Harry Schechter (Stephen Nathan), a down-on-his-luck producer who has tried to keep his father's studio afloat by making porno movies. Inspired by his tap-dancing secretary (Cindy Williams, before she became Shirley Feeney), Harry comes up with a surefire idea: an all-singing, all-dancing porno musical called Come... Come Now. He's able to talk the moneymen into backing it but with a few restrictions. First off, they saddle him with a seemingly impossible deadline of just two weeks to deliver the finished film. Plus, one of the bigwigs demands that his nephew John Smithee (played by Bruce Kimmel, who also co-directed and wrote the script and songs) direct the picture. Not only has John never directed a porno movie before, he's never even had sex. But despite all obstacles, the show must go on.

The First Nudie Musical is light-years away from being a great movie, but it is a charming one. This is probably the most innocent, inoffensive movie ever set against the backdrop of pornographic filmmaking. Imagine an Andy Hardy movie with full-frontal nudity and you've got yourself a pretty good idea of what this movie's like. The songs are perhaps funnier in theory than in execution. Numbers like Dancing Dildos and Let 'Em Eat Cake (And I'll Eat You) should have been showstoppers, but instead go on far too long. None of them are up to the standards of, say, Trey Parker's songs for South Park or Cannibal! The Musical. But they're all performed enthusiastically and some, like the 70's tango Lesbian Butch Dyke are pretty funny. The spirited cast carries the movie a long way and I did get more than a couple of laughs out of it. I particularly enjoyed John Smithee's "pep talk" to his cast on the first day of shooting, peppered with inappropriate profanity to prove that he's man enough to helm the picture. And watch for an amusing cameo appearance by a pre-baseball cap Ron Howard.

On DVD, The First Nudie Musical is even more amusing. The film's journey from concept to theatres was a tumultuous one and it's well documented in the 54-minute documentary, From Dollars to Donuts: An Undressing of The First Nudie Musical. DVD producers Nick Redman and Michael Rosendale had a lot of fun with this, taking shots at other "making-of" features and DVD producers along the way. A lot of these jokes will go right past your average viewer, but if you're a hardcore DVD aficionado, you'll really get a kick out of this. And if you like commentary tracks, then this is the disc for you. Pretty much anything and everything gets its own commentary. I'm surprised they didn't have a commentary track for the menus. The film itself gets two: one by Bruce Kimmel, Cindy Williams and Stephen Nathan, the other by Kimmel himself (with Redman popping up from time to time). Both are amusing and informative, though a bit repetitious. The documentary also gets a commentary, this one from Kimmel, Redman and Rosendale. It isn't much more than a goof but it's good for a few chuckles. Also included are a deleted scene, which (surprise surprise!) is actually very funny and well worth watching, and a deleted musical number. Both of these also have commentaries by Kimmel. Finally, you get the original trailer (no commentary this time, sorry) and a photo gallery (actually more of a scrapbook of posters, advertising, reviews, script pages, sheet music, etc.).

If that weren't enough, you also get the complete soundtrack on a separate CD. The soundtrack consists of 20 tracks and includes all the songs from the movie, as well as the deleted number and the arrangements of the music done for the DVD documentary. This is a very nice bonus, although I kind of doubt this is going to go into heavy rotation in my own personal music library.

If it seems like I've kind of been pussyfooting around the issue of how the movie itself looks and sounds... well... it's not good. Granted, Kimmel says repeatedly on the various commentaries how the movie has been color corrected, that the original negative is long gone and this presentation was cobbled together from the best existing prints. I don't know whose rat-infested basement or attic these prints were stored in, but they'd better call in an exterminator PDQ. The picture is rife with scratches, splices, dirt and every kind of visual defect you can imagine. On the other hand, it's a flawless digital transfer, meaning that you can see every line, missing frame and "cigarette burn" indicating a reel change with absolute clarity.

As bad as the picture is, the sound is worse. Presented in one-channel mono, there is absolutely no range to the audio whatsoever. On the high end, it breaks apart and sounds like somebody's playing a bad cassette tape over a phone line. On the low end, it's just mud. This wouldn't be ideal for any movie, but for a musical, it's a real problem. The soundtrack CD sounds pretty good, making me suspect that a little more effort (and a budget for a remix) would have benefited this DVD a great deal.

All things considered, though, Image has given The First Nudie Musical a pretty high-class treatment on DVD. If you're a member of the cult that prompted Danny Peary to include this in Cult Movies 2 in the first place, you'll be very, very happy with this disc. If you're merely curious, I'd give it a test drive with a rental before you make it a permanent addition to your DVD library. It's probably the cutest darn nudie flick you'll ever see, but these days, most folks don't necessarily want their sex movies to be "cute". The novelty of the movie wore thin a long time ago, making this more a curio than a long buried cinematic gem.

Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com




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