Review: Something Wild DVD

Something Wild DVD boxSTUDIO: Criterion Collection | DIRECTOR: Jonathan Demme | CAST: Jeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith, Ray Liotta, Margaret Colin, Charles Napier
RELEASE DATE: 5/10/2011 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $39.99
BONUSES: new video interviews, essay
SPECS: R | 113 min. | Comedy drama romance thriller | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 2.0/ DTS Master Audio Surround Sound

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Something Wild movie scene

Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith get in and out of trouble in Something Wild.

Planting itself within the parameters of a quartet of distinct genres — comedy, romance, drama (crime drama, actually) and thriller — then mixing up its content and style so that it’s never fully entrenched in any single one, Jonathan Demme’s 1986 Something Wild is an outstanding American film.

A product and capsule of its era that still remains timeless and vital, the movie received a fine if sparsely supplemented DVD re-issue from the good people of the Criterion Collection.

The tale of New York yuppie Charlie (Jeff Daniels, Paper Man) meeting raucous free-spirit Lulu (Melanie Griffith, Body Double) in a Soho eatery and then embarking on a comedic out-of-town road romance before encountering Lulu’s nasty ex-con husband Ray (Ray Liotta, Youth in Revolt), Something Wild looks and sounds fine in this new edition.

Cinematographer Tak Fujimoto’s palette is strong but subdued, springing to colorful life during the film’s most memorable sequences (notably, an outstanding Bicentennial-themed prom scene, a sexual encounter involving handcuffs and a voodoo doll, and a climactic fight scene that’s still one of the roughest I’ve ever seen).

The eclectic soundtrack, featuring such downtown artists as David Byrne, John Cale and Laurie Anderson, sets the perfect tone and texture for the wild things that unravel as the story progresses.

There are only a couple of bonus features on the disc, led by a half-hour video interview with director Demme (The Silence of the Lambs), who candidly discusses the making of the film. The movie followed Demme’s unhappy experience making the comedy-drama Swing Shift, which was taken from his hands and re-edited by the studio prior to its release. Demme enjoys relating the story of the Something Wild‘s New York and Pennsylvania shooting locales, the casting of Griffith, Daniels (whose part was originally targeted for The Extra Man‘s Kevin Kline) and Liotta (in his feature film debut).

Second on the special features list is a brief video chat with screenwriter E. Max Frye, who recalls that the original idea for the story came to him when he saw a funky, tattooed woman flirting with a straight-arrow businessman in an East Village cafe. Frye thought that their encounter could provide a good springboard for a short film. Selling the idea to an agent and then Demme, Something Wild would quickly become a feature-length concept and one of the 1980s’ most memorable movies.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.