In 1996 Christopher Guest returned to the mockumentary genre with his look at regional theater “Waiting for Guffman.” Guest, most famously, being one third of the fictional rock band Spinal Tap in the perhaps the best mockumentary ever made, “This is Spinal Tap.”
Guffman” also kicks off the cycle of Christopher Guest directed mockumentaries. The films all using the same group of actors, and all written by Guest with Eugene Levy, both of whom also act in the films. Guest’s films are largely improved by the actors, with the written material serving as an outline for the film’s story.
“Guffman” takes place in the fictional town of Blaine, Missouri—a small town that is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Big dreamer and New York Transplant, Corky St. Clair (Guest) has created a musical celebration of the town called “Red, White, and Blaine.” The show within the show appears towards the end of the film, Guest teamed up with his “Spinal Tap” cohorts, Michael McKean & Harry Shearer, to pen the songs for the homegrown musical. St. Clair has also used his off-off-off-off-broadway connections to invite a broadway producer, Mort Guffman, to come and see his new show and offer his thoughts.
Guest assembled an absolute knock out cast that features: Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, and Bob Balaban. Simply put, it’s one of the funniest films of the ‘90s, and a movie I have been a big fan of years. I can’t actually recall the first time I saw it, but that I’ve always loved it. “Waiting for Guffman” was a critical hit, but a commercial failure when it was put in limited release in 1996. The film found its audience on home video. If you’ve ever been involved in any capacity with community theater, the film is an absolute must. It’s funny if you haven’t, but if you have, the film takes on an extra certain personality that you catch immediately.
Warner Archive has brought “Waiting For Guffman” to blu-ray, in a very nice edition that includes all the bonus material from the 2001 DVD release. A commentary track from Guest and Levy is included for the feature well, as well as optional commentary from the pair on the deleted scenes included on the disk. The original theatrical trailer is included as well. “Waiting For Guffman” looks good on blu-ray, but it’s not spectacular. That’s because “Guffman” was shot on 16mm, converted to 35mm for release. In short, it looks like what it’s mocking, a low-budget documentary from the 1990s. That being said, there’s a sharpness to the film that I’ve never seen it have before on home video. For fans of the film, upgrading is an easy option.
It’s a real delight to see “Waiting for Guffman” come to HD from Warner Archive, it’s very much an endearing film that’s just as funny today as it was when it was made. If you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to pick up the fine new blu-ray edition and check out the “stool boom” all for yourself. See you next week.