Blu-ray Review: The Fortune - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Originally released in 1975 and somewhat forgotten ever since, The Fortune is a broad farce set in the ‘20s and directed by the late Mike Nichols. While not without significant issues, it’s worth checking out for the comic interplay between stars Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty. They portray con men trying to cheat feminine hygiene product heiress Fredrika (Stockard Channing) out of her money. Both Oscar (Nicholson) and Nicky (Beatty) are fairly dim bulbs, but the latter’s Clark Gable-eque suaveness managed to win over Fredrika. The problem is, Nicky’s already married and can’t travel freely with Fredrika due to the Mann Act. A bizarre “love triangle” forms when the single Oscar marries Fredrika only so she and Nicky can do as they please (provided Oscar travels with them).

If that sounds intriguing, know that a limited edition (3,000 copies) Blu-ray of The Fortune has recently been issued by Twilight Time. If it sounds like an unwieldy setup, it might be because writer Carole Eastman (writing under the pseudonym Adrien Joyce) reportedly had her much lengthier screenplay liberally hacked up by Nichols. The big issue with The Fortune is that it plops us into the middle of these characters’ lives without establishing any real context. A title card tells us a bit about the now-archaic Mann Act (Chuck Berry served prison time for violating it with a 14-year-old back in 1962), but the conundrum faced by these characters isn’t sufficiently explored. Oscar’s legal troubles (for which he could be jailed, were it not for Nicky’s intervention) aren’t made satisfactorily clear either.

Fortune cover (215x280).jpgDuring its middle stretch, it’s a lot of fun watching Nicholson and Beatty spar, seemingly competing to see who can out-stupid the other. Oscar’s casual admission that he sometimes feels like offing himself is misinterpreted by Nicky as a suggestion they simply kill Fredrika. As the heiress, Channing (in her first starring role) is game, but underserved by a barely-there role. Once Nicky and Oscar get knee-deep in their inevitably bungled murder plot (much of which is quite funny), Channing has very little to do.

The ending presents the most significant deficit of the entire film, since there really is no climax to speak of. After building the comic mania and setting up a situation ripe with possibilities, the credits begin to roll almost out of nowhere. There’s no resolution to the story, it just stalls out as suddenly as it started. As a pilot episode to an on-going series, the 88-minute trifle would’ve probably worked well. But as it stands, The Fortune—however many genuinely funny moments are sprinkled throughout—reeks of utter pointlessness.

Twilight Time’s 1080p high definition presentation is eye-pleasing, with John Alonzo’s period-evoking cinematography looking naturally grainy and reasonably sharp. Incidentally, Alonzo also shot the Jon Voight vehicle Conrack, another limited edition Blu-ray release from Twilight Time. The audio is offered as a DTS-HD MA mono mix, which is absolutely fine without being remarkable in any way. An isolated music-and-effects track is the release’s sole special feature.

Given the presence of legends like Mike Nichols, Warren Beatty, and Jack Nicholson, The Fortune remains worthy of reissue and rediscovery. But its narrative shortcomings ensure its long-term designation as a footnote in all of their careers. For ordering information, visit Twilight Time’s distributor Screen Archives.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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