Silver Streak is a classic 1976 film that teamed up two inspired comedians: Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. Two comedians/actors who had different styles of comedy but when they got together, boy did they create some amazing comedy and had terrific chemistry. Though not exactly friends in real life (When making their second film, Stir Crazy, a rather infamous incident fueled by Pryor's drug addiction strained their relationship severly) they managed to make four films together and each one with their chemistry on full display. So is this film any different, the third of their four films together?
David Lyons(Gene Wilder), a former actor who runs a newsstand in New York City,after going deaf from a bout of scarlet fever in his youth. Managing to fool everybody for the most part, mainly by learning to read lips, he gets by rather well independently. Wally Karue (Richard Pryor) is a blind man who isn't too great with money, managing to lose at the tracks over and over again, and owes his bookie several grand in losses.
Finding a job opening at Dave's newsstand, he manages to easily befriend him and land the job, after a bar fight celebrating Wally's success of landing a job. First day on the job, Wally's bookie comes looking for him, but is away gathering the morning deliveries of papers. Unbeknownst to the bookie, he was followed by two rather shady people: Eve (Joan Severance) and Kirgo (Kevin Spacey), who work for Sutherland (Anthony Zerbe).
The bookie was running a stolen coin for Sutherland, but was about to run off with the coin to sell it himself. While tricking David to read a box of antacid to him, the bookie is shot dead, and David and Wally are confused as the murderers. They take his belongings and try searching for the missing coin, but the bookie hid the coin in David's coin box.
While being detained, the duo manage to escape from the cops, and they set out to solve the mystery of who killed Wally's bookie, why they killed him over a coin, and try to earn their freedom, along with Wally's sister, Adele (Kirsten Childs).
I remember watching this film as a young kid in the early 90s (Weird choice, being an R rated comedy though edited heavily on TV) and discovering the talents of Wilder and Pryor, and enjoying them to this day, and being over 20 years later since I first viewed the film, how does it hold up? Rather well actually.
I recall learning years later about Pryor's and Wilder's difficulties, kind of saddened but watching their movies, its never noticeable they were indifferent to each other. Their pairing here is still successful, managing to mine comedy gold in almost every scene throughout the film, despite some questionable screenwriting here and there. Joan Severance and Kevin Spacey also have good chemistry as well as the main villains, with Severance as Eve successfully playing a seductive killer. Spacey showcases his talent fairly early in his career, and while not on the level of Verbal Kint or Frank Underwood, manages to be quite evil here. Alan North as the exasperated police captain Braddock is very amusing, made to look like a fool by the duo who should be seemingly easy to catch with their disabilities. Zerbe is effective as Sutherland, making the most as a mostly heard role, and Childs as Adele is also good as Wally's sister.
Arthur Hiller, teaming up 13 years after Silver Streak with his stars, manages to direct his actors well, finding the right balance throughout, and pacing it well for most of the run time with a few slow spots here and there but is mainly just exposition, which brings me to the screenplay. Credited to six (!) people (Marvin Worth, a producer on the film helped write the story with Earl Barret & Arne Sultan who wrote the initial draft, with Eliot Wald & Andrew Kurtzman doing another pass with Gene Wilder himself writing a draft as well), the film is a case of too many cooks in the kitchen.
The plot is fairly lazy (Imagine of Hitchcock directed an R-rated comedy) , some dialogue being fairly poor and is just an overall jumbled mess, but the actors and director manage to roll with the punches and craft a fun movie. The cinematography by Victor J. Kemper creates a sleek, crisp look to the comedy, managing to capture the hustle and bustle of New York extremely well (He did film Dog Day Afternoon after all in NYC) and still looks terrific.
The score, by Stewart Copeland of The Police, gives us a nice score, with some nice electric guitar undertones, with a nice synth beat giving life to the film and helps set the tone for the film. Production design is nice, editing is okay, but there are a few scenes where it could've used some better takes or added some inserts to help things flow a bit more smoothly, but better than a lot of movies out there and the costumes (Especially Severance's wardrobe) is very well done as well.
Moving onto the BluRay, we start off with the PQ and for a 20+ year comedy that was shot on 35mm film, the results are quite good. Film grain is present but never obtrusive, colors are accurate and saturated well, the New York locations are detailed very nicely and the details of the costumes are rendered well. The AQ is also rendered well via a LPCM 2.0 stereo track that has some great stereo separation and dialogue and music come through very well here.
Unfortunately there are no extras to be had, not even a trailer or a TV spot for the film. On the original DVD release and on a few other Sony DVD's, there was a couple of trailers present for the film. Its a shame Image Entertainment couldn't be bothered to include them or nab some interviews from Wilder and Hiller, a commentary or even some deleted scenes.
Overall, this is a fun comedy, worthy to watch over and over again, but it can't quite nab the suspense like SIlver Streak, or have a few classic moments Stir Crazy had, but you can count on this film being superior to their last film together, Another You. That is a different review for a different time.