A year prior to Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews teaming up on one of their most iconic collaborations, Victor/Victoria, the husband and wife duo paired up to skewer the Hollywood system in S.O.B. The film was a response to the troubled shoot of their infamous failure, Darling Lili, a film that was intended to shake up the family friendly image of Andrews. but nearly sank Paramount with its ballooning budget and subsequent box office failure. Edwards was notoriously bitter about the studio interference on the picture, so he decided to channel that anger in the most productive way he knew. S.O.B. is not a perfect film, but it has a bite that will please those who love behind-the-scenes Hollywood drama.
In S.O.B., we have the exceptionally successful producer Felix Farmer (Richard Mulligan, Soap) as a stand-in for Edwards. Felix has just made his first studio flop with his newest film, Night Wind, and his life has started to fall apart in just about every way imaginable. His wife and family-friendly star of the movie, Sally Miles (Julie Andrews), has decided now is a good time for them to separate; while the studio is jumping on him to re-cut the movie into something that could possibly be successful. On top of this, he cannot seem to find a moment to be alone where he can properly off himself. Before he can make good on one of his multiple attempts, Felix has the sudden burst of inspiration to re-shoot his film to transform it from a wholesome musical to a sex-filled odyssey complete with a topless Sally. The studio wants nothing to do with it, at first, so Felix takes a leap of faith and invests his and Sally’s money in the new version of the film. Sally is backed-in to participating by a need to recoup their investment and persuasion from her advisors.
Edwards has assembled an all-star team of major talent to portray the sleaze balls and weirdos of Tinseltown. Mulligan is so effortlessly nimble going from a near-catatonic Felix to the manic energy of someone who has been creatively revitalized. Andrews lays it all on the line, and seemingly has a blast poking fun at her persona in a way that will make you forget all about Mary Poppins. Felix’s friend group consists of the director of Night Wind, Tim Culley (William Holden), his agent, Harry Sandler (Paul Stewart), and physician, Dr. Finegarten (Robert Preston). Preston is the standout of the movie as the Dr. Feelgood of the group who has all of the best jokes. He would later continue stealing scenes in Victor/Victoria, as well. Sally’s team consists of such notable figures as Robert Webber, Stuart Margolin, Robert Loggia and Shelley Winters, portraying Sally’s bombastic agent, Eva Brown. That’s not to mention the unscrupulous studio big wigs like Robert Vaughn, Larry Hagman and John Pleshette. This is a standout cast by any measure, and every one of them elevates the picture exponentially. There are so many characters in the movie that it is truly impressive that Edwards is able to give everyone a moment to shine in one way or another.
The movie does an expert job of satirizing the fickle nature of Hollywood and how every move is calculated with dollar signs in mind. A recurring gag of a dead body on a beach guarded by a loyal canine that everyone ignores encapsulates how oblivious or uncaring people become in that town. What does not always work is the number of genuinely hilarious moments that the movie is able to provide. Edwards is the king of big, goofy physical comedy that works very well in some instances, but gets a bit too over the top near the end. In fact, the film takes a noticeable dip in quality in the last thirty minutes, as it seems to lose focus after an ill-conceived plot development. While it was likely very cathartic for Edwards to get all of this out of his system, his bitterness may have overtaken his ability to tell a completely satisfying story. There are also some cringe-worthy moments of stereotypical Asian accents and a mystic “Swami” that do not age well at all. S.O.B. works best when it is focusing on the absurdity of Hollywood, which thankfully is the majority of the movie. It is not among the best work of Edwards or Andrews, but overall it is an engaging exorcism of their past Hollywood demons.
Warner Archive released this Blu-Ray with a 1080p transfer from a 2K scan of the interpositive. This release maintains the filmic integrity of the picture by preserving a healthy amount of natural film grain throughout the runtime. The level of detail present is impressive with subtle bits of production design in the background easily able to be observed. The California setting lends itself more towards earth tones, but the film also provides bold splashes of color on the set of Night Wind. All of the colors are beautifully rendered along with the natural skin tones of the actors. The black levels have a nice amount of depth to them, and there does not appear to be any print damage associated with this transfer. Edwards was a master of visuals, and this Blu-Ray provides a beautiful representation of his work.
This Blu-Ray comes with a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track that is quite lovely. Long-time Edwards collaborator Henry Mancini delivers another noteworthy score that injects a palpable energy into the proceedings. Witty dialogue is one of the strongest aspects of the film, and it is balanced perfectly with the score and accompanying sound effects. As is often the case, Andrews gets a chance to show off her vocal talents in multiple musical numbers which all sound excellent here. There is no evidence of any age-related damage to the track. Optional English (SDH) subtitles are included on the disc.
- Trailer: The nearly three-minute trailer is presented here in standard definition. It does a good job of selling the madcap insanity of the plot without giving away all of the gags. It is pretty wild to see how brazen they were about promoting Julie Andrew’s topless scene as a key selling point.
S.O.B. is fun, yet flawed, look at the ruthless nature of Hollywood as presented by someone who lived through it. Andrews is really great in a role that hilariously sends up her real-life persona. Edwards crafted a very biting satire of the industry, but lost the thread of the narrative somewhere along the way. Nevertheless, the movie is quite entertaining and worth checking out if you are a fan of anyone involved or movie-industry focused films. Warner Archive has provided a wonderful A/V presentation that should please any fan of the film. If you have not picked it up yet, it might be time to finally get around to it. Recommended
S.O.B. can be purchased directly through Warner Archive or various other online retailers.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Archive has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.