Blu-ray Review: Funny Lady - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Might as well offer full disclosure up front: I’ve never seen Funny Girl (1968), which puts me at a distinct disadvantage when trying to formulate an opinion about its sequel, Funny Lady (1975). I also don’t know much about Fanny Brice, the real-life singer/actress whose life and career inspired the Funny films. Therefore I checked out Twilight Time’s recent limited edition (3,000 copies issued) Blu-ray of Funny Lady with no real preconceived notions. Taken at face value, the film is a technically impressive musical romance that offers a lot of great vocal performances by Streisand.

It’s also an indulgently lengthy film that runs 138 minutes without telling a particularly compelling story. Fanny has divorced her husband Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif, returning from the first film for a very minor supporting role). She begins a professional relationship with songwriter Billy Rose (James Caan) that morphs into something personal quite quickly. The bulk of the narrative charts the ultra-successful Brice as she tries to balance a tumultuous marriage to Billy while coming to terms with her divorce from (and persisting feelings for) Nick.

Funny Lady James Caan (380x260).jpgThough it feels padded, Funny Lady is a sturdily-constructed musical with decent songs by Fred Ebb and John Kander. In addition to being a showcase for Streisand, Caan has a lot of fun with his portrayal of the egotistic, business-minded Billy. Ultimately the story turns bathetic in its final act, resulting in the overall feeling that perhaps co-screenwriters Jay Presson Allen and Arnold Schulman should’ve mined the real life of Fanny Brice more deeply.

Funny Lady cover (214x280).jpgJames Wong Howe’s cinematography was nominated for an Oscar, so it’s a good thing the new Twilight Time Blu-ray looks so great. With so much rich period detail and elaborate wardrobe on display, it was vitally important for this Columbia-sourced transfer to look as close to perfect as possible. It does. Source materials were evidently spotless, the image is consistently sharp and detailed, and the slightly muted colors evoke the 1930s-era in which the story is set.

The disc sounds fantastic too, with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix that shows off the Oscar-nominated music. For whatever reason, there isn’t an isolated score mix here (nor was there on the other recent Twilight Time Streisand release, Yentl). But the music always sounds great during the film’s numerous production numbers.

A trio of vintage featurettes makes up the extras, including “In Search of a Star,” “The New Look of Barbra,” and “Dancing on the Water.” The original domestic and international trailers are included. New liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo adorn the booklet. For ordering information, visit Screen Archives.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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