Good Times [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (12th October 2018).
The Film

While Cher spends her days sketching out her audacious costume ideas – on any available surface – Sonny divides his time between songwriting and a series of diversions (the latest being motorcycling). One day, their presence is requested by one Mr. Mordicus (The Picture of Dorian Gray's George Sanders), the president of a company dedicated to money-making whose high-tech labyrinthine offices play host to karate matches, eye candy secretaries, and an entire fully-equipped movie studio. Professing an enjoyment of "young people," Mordicus – who threatens to foreclose on Buckingham Palace – also has a fondness for diversions, the latest of which is a film vehicle for Sonny and Cher that his sure to be a hit. Mordicus has dusted off a "rags to riches" script that has been making the rounds and hired Leslie Garth (Bedknobs and Broomsticks' Lennie Weinrib) to cross out the old names and replace them with Sonny and Cher. Creatively stimulated, Sonny insists on having creative control. Mordicus' counter-offer is that Sonny can rewrite the script as he sees fit if he does not like it, providing that filming begins as scheduled. Sonny is a bit more diplomatic than Cher about the awfulness of the script but he nevertheless tells Mordicus that he will not do the script as written only to then discover that he only has ten days to rewrite the script before shooting is to begin ("The world was created in seven days. You have three extra"). Cher initially humors Sonny as he imagines storylines for them, among them the western "Irving Ringo" in which Sonny is a bumbling, chili-loving sheriff's deputy facing off quite alone against the dastardly Knife McBlade, or vine-swinging Jungle Mory defending the ivory of the Elephant Graveyard from a big game hunter – not to mention his own rival Jungle Gino (The Monkees' Micky Dolenz, uncredited) – or gumshoe Johnny Pizzacotti brainwashed by crime boss Xeruthian into blowing up himself and his police commissioner uncle. As the situation becomes more desperate however, Cher is more concerned about Sonny selling out to the man than the threat of Mordicus' contract to their ability to perform anywhere else until the terms are honored.

The feature film vehicle for Sonny Bono and Cher is a film about the process of Sonny and Cher about to make their film debuts, and it look very much unlike anything else to come from director William Friedkin (The Exorcist) making his film debut after a handful of documentaries; however, beneath the frothy exterior – inspired by the likes of The Beatles' film vehicles a la Help!, The Monkees' television series, and the live action Batman series and its film spin-off – and the largely flattering portrayal of the singers – while Nicholas Hyams and Tony Barrett (Peter Gunn) are credited with story and screenplay respectively, the final film was the product of a partial script by Bono and Friedkin and on-set inspiration – is a veiled examination of the couple behind the scenes, delineating both the contributions of Sonny as writer and Cher as designer as well as the nature of their respective creative drives – Cher as iconoclast who sketches dress designs on café tables and tells Sonny to give the owner more money when he complains, and ambitious Sonny for whom Cher being okay with things as they are represents a creative stasis – and how they view one another (or, perhaps how Sonny views himself and how he believes Cher views him). Even before Mordicus sends them the script, Sonny casts him (or Sanders) as the oppressive bad guys in each of his fantasy vignettes while Cher herself is relegated to supportive (and gently critical roles) as showgirl, Jungle Mory's wife, and femme fatale. It also indirectly asks the question of whether their free spirited lifestyle is an effect of fame, a gimmick – some of their quirkiness seems forced, although that may be as much the relative inexperience of the leads and the director – or if they happened to be hippie entertainers in the right moment when the mainstream was willing to embrace their ideals (if only vicariously).

Video

Released theatrically by Columbia Pictures Corporation, the film's ownership passed to co-producer ABC – on whose network it had its television premiere in 1974 – who licensed it to Anchor Bay for their 2000 DVD which featured a barebones non-anamorphic letterboxed transfer. Ownership passed to MGM who then issued it in 2004 in an anamorphic transfer also devoid of extras. Derived from a brand new 4K remaster, Kino's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray looks stunningly gorgeous with dreamy long shots, crisp close-ups, and ravishingly saturated blues, greens, and reds in the art direction and costumes.

Audio

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is also in great condition with clear dialogue, some bits of wackiness in the sound design during the fantasy vignettes, and some nice presence to the musical numbers. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided.

Extras

Extras start off with an audio commentary by film historian Lee Gambin that initially requires some patience as he begins by discussing how certain visuals, editing tricks, use of sound, and handling of actors on Friedkin's part anticipates scenes in his later, more prominent works; but he does so in a rapid, breathless manner perhaps going into more detail than required while also trying to get his points across quickly so as not to miss the next visual or aural prompt within the film. He also describes the means in which the film for contemporary viewers rehabilitates Bono's reputation and his talent, overshadowed as it was by Cher's solo career and Bono's move to politics (as well as his untimely death in a skiing accident). The disc also features a new interview with director William Friedkin (18:42) who recalls the reception of his early documentaries – some of which were aired on primetime television which was where Bono first noticed him – and how he had was offered the chance to direct the film at the same time he was also asked by John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate) to direct second unit, and advised to take the feature even though he was sure he could learn more from Frankenheimer. The extras close out with a series of unrelated trailers.

Overall

 


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