You never know, with how physical formats are these days, if foreign releases of some films are the only way of ever getting hold of them, which may themselves go OOP by waiting too long (it doesn’t seem possible to buy the Italian Blu-ray of How to Murder Your Wife, which I purchased a few years ago, any longer, for instance). No doubt a Eureka! UK release of both that and The Fortune Cookie will be announced soon now that I bought this German edition from Amazon Germany shortly before Christmas (doubts regards the Brexit deal at the time swung me into buying it, and it does seem importing stuff into the UK even with a deal is more difficult/slightly more expensive now). Regular readers of this blog will know of my passion for the films of Jack Lemmon- well, the best of them, anyway- and its been something of a mission of mine to buy copies on DVD and now Blu-ray when the chance arises, which is all too rare to be honest. Barring a few examples mostly dictated by the vagaries of region coding, I have most of the films starring Lemmon that are available on Blu-ray, but to be honest there’s few of them. Certainly far fewer than there should be.
The Fortune Cookie, from 1966, is a film I first caught on a lazy afternoon network airing some decades ago now. I really enjoyed it at the time, and have watched it several times since- in all honesty its a lesser Billy Wilder film that lacks the sharpness of The Apartment, and Jack Lemmon himself is hardly stretched at all, not having any opportunity to really shine as he should or bring any of his special qualities to it. I think both issues are, ironically, caused by Walter Matthau stealing the film- Wilder seems distracted by him to such an extent he’s more interested in Matthau’s scheming, conniving lawyer and Lemmon just seems happy to sit back and let Matthau get on with it. To be clear, Lemmon may get star billing, but its Matthau’s film and it only really seems to come alive when he’s on screen, which is a pity almost because it leaves those scenes featuring Lemmon and Ron Rich (as the unfortunate football player Luther ‘Boom Boom’ Jackson) feeling flat and uninteresting, as if Wilder’s attention is already on the next scene when Matthau’s going to be on set (Matthau actually went on to win a few awards for the film, notably an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor).
That being said, even a lesser Wilder film is better than most director’s finest efforts, and the on-screen magic of Lemmon and Matthau together onscreen is a veritable feast. There’s just an unfortunate suspicion that this film could and should have been better; it just lacking a certain spark. Whether its, as I have noted, a lack of the sharpness of The Apartment or the wackiness of Some Like It Hot, I can’t say. Not all films are equal to the sum of their parts and I think The Fortune Cookie is one of them. Its not a total miss-fire and certainly has its moments but… could have been better. Lemmon and Matthau would next appear together in The Odd Couple (1968) a far better film (albeit not directed by Wilder), which is much sharper and wittier and focused on getting the best of both of them.
There’s quite a few Lemmon films available on Blu-ray in Germany- why Germany and not here I cannot fathom, but naturally the Blu-ray is UK-friendly with English soundtrack and boasts an image, as one would expect, much more crisp and detailed than my previous DVD copy from several years back. Special features are limited to the film trailer (how ironic many much more well-featured releases lack trailers) and a stills gallery that is actually quite illuminating, featuring press materials and all sorts of odd international film poster designs. A reversible sleeve naturally keeps the German title but loses that ugly green certificate rating.