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Billy Wilder was one of the few directors capable of sustaining a comedy for more than two hours without the film becoming tiresome or wearing out its welcome. Clocking in at nearly two and a half hours, IRMA LA DOUCE ($15) is another of Wilder’s comic gems that manages to remain fun for its entire running time. Billy Wilder’s film version of IRMA LA DOUCE is based upon the Broadway musical, although Wilder threw out all the songs, but retained the music, which was used as the background score for the movie. Strangely enough, this treatment of the material proved to be rather successful as IRMA LA DOUCE took home it only Oscar for its music score.

Risqué by 1963’s standards, IRMA LA DOUCE tells the story of a prostitute in the red light district of Paris. Shirley MacLaine racked up an Academy Award nomination for her comic portrayal of Irma La Douce- the story’s resident streetwalker with a heart of gold. Into Irma’s little world comes Nestor Patou (Jack Lemmon), a rather naïve gendarme, who actually gets thrown off the police force for performing an unscheduled raid on the red light district. Following his dismissal by the police- and through a series of amusing circumstances, Nestor ends up becoming Irma’s new "protector." At first, the relationship works well enough; however, Nestor falls in love with Irma and can’t stand the thought of any other man touching her. The real comedy comes when Nestor hatches an outrageous plan to maintain Irma’s career in the world’s oldest profession, but preventing her from doing any actual "work." The cast of IRMA LA DOUCE also features Lou Jacobi (in a wonderful scene stealing performance), Bruce Yarnell, Herschel Bernardi, Hope Holiday, Joan Shawlee, Grace Lee Whitney, Cliff Osmond and Bill Bixby.

MGM Home Entertainment has made IRMA LA DOUCE available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is a really nice transfer that appears quite sharp and well defined. Colors are very vibrant and generally produce the look of an original Technicolor print. MacLaine’s garish green stockings really stand out in Technicolor, as do the other well-saturated hues. Color reproduction is solid, appearing free from chroma noise or smearing. Black are inky, white are crisp and contrast is very good. The film element used for the transfer displays mostly minor blemishes and tiny scratches; yet nothing beyond what one might expect from a nearly forty year old film. Digital compression artifacts remain nicely camouflaged throughout.

IRMA LA DOUCE comes with a fairly respectable Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. There is some background hiss here and there, but there aren’t much by way of surface noise or other anomalies on the track. Fidelity is decidedly limited, which leaves the Oscar winning music sounding a bit thin and reedy. Still, the track will take a fair amount of amplification without distortion. Dialogue is clean sounding and always completely understandable. French and Spanish language tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are French and Spanish subtitles. The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer.

IRMA LA DOUCE is another Billy Wilder comic gem that his fans, or those of Jack Lemon and Shirley MacLaine will want to add to their collections. MGM has done a good job with the DVD, providing an attractive looking transfer that should keep fans happy.



Irma La Douce (1963)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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