A pair of really fun, delightful films come to blu-ray thanks to those cinematic curators over at Warner Archive. You wouldn’t immediately think these two films would go together, but as I watched them back to back I found they made for a really grand double feature. First up from 1973 is the soul cinema classic “Cleopatra Jones”—a wonderful action comedy that is as good as anything the Bond films of the era was doing. That follows with one of my favorite films starring America’s Sweetheart, Doris Day, 1966’s “The Glass Bottom Boat.”
Following the release of “Shaft” by MGM in 1971, and also a string of films starring Pam Grier made by American International, other studios in Hollywood made efforts to get a share of the big business those films were bringing to the box office. Warner Brothers’ shot at this business was “Cleopatra Jones” released in July of 1973. But Warners did more than just follow box office trends, they made a film that is one of the most unique of the soul cinema era, by also trying to see if they could start their own James Bond-Esq franchise.
You have to respect a studio that isn’t even trying to hide that, and Warner Brothers didn’t. “Cleopatra Jones” stars Tamara Dobson in the title role, which the trailer for the film refers to as an “answer to James Bond.” Every Bond needs a villain, and Cleopatra’s is Mommy, played by the great Shelly Winters in full of 1970s Shelly Winters mode, which the trailer calls “The female successor to Goldfinger.” Hey, if you’re gonna try to capture that Bond crowd, go for it, don’t hide it.
Cleopatra Jones is a US agent working to end the drug trade, something that makes her public enemy number one for Mommy after Cleo destroys a poppy farm in Turkey worth $30 million to Mommy. Mommy uses her crooked cop connections to arrange a hit on an inner-city anti-drug house ran by Cleo’s lover. Combining Soul Cinema with a dash of James Bond and a good dose of humor, “Cleopatra Jones” is a very fun, very good, very entertaining movie. A total blast and one of my most favorite discoveries when I saw it for the first time last year on the much missed, never forgotten streaming platform FilmStruck.
The print that FilmStruck shared was a good looking widescreen transfer, one that I assume was the same made for the DVD release of the film from the early 2000s. This new blu-ray of “Cleopatra Jones” blows that transfer completely out of the water. The image is significantly sharper, richer, and with more depth than I what I saw last year on FilmStruck. Warner Archive made a brand new1080p transfer made from an interpositive, that truly shines!
This film is such a great deal of fun, it was one of my favorite film discoveries of last year, and this new blu-ray looks truly exceptional. This is one that comes with my highest recommendations.
Also coming with my highest of recommendations is “The Glass Bottom Boat,” a movie which I have a vintage magazine ad for up on my office wall. This joyful 1966 comedy has a truly fun cast headed by Doris Day and Rod Taylor. Before I say anything else about this movie, there are four words which I want to tell you that should make this movie shoot to the top of your watch list: Paul Lynde in Drag. Accenting Day and Taylor the supporting cast is full of familiar favorites, both comedians and character actors. In addition to Lynde, there’s Arthur Godfrey, John McGiver, Edwards Andrews, Dick Martin, and Dom DeLuise in one of his earliest roles.
Day and Taylor work at a top secret think tank that has a government contract for Nasa. Through circumstance, some of the top men involved think Day—a new hire of the public relations department, may actually be a spy trying to steal plans for a top-secret project Taylor is working on. Taylor falls in love with Day and hires her as his personal assistant, something which makes the chief of security, Lynde, keep a keen eye on Day.
Directed by Frank Tashlin, who was working in directing Looney Tunes for Warners before switching to live action, he brings is trademark “cartoonish” style to “The Glass Bottom Boat.” The film is a light comedy, the kind that they seemed to really excel at making in the 1960s. What the film lacks is realism is made up for in laughs. This movie is a hoot and a joy to watch.
It had been a few years since I had last seen “The Glass Bottom Boat,” watching it again I found it was even funnier than I could recall as I laughed out loud—in actuality—at several sequences in the film. Also, for the love of all things good and decent, would someone build me a replica of Rod Taylor’s house in this movie? I need to live there.
I own the DVD release of “The Glass Bottom Boat,” which compared to the new blu-ray is downright lackluster. This blu-ray release of “The Glass Bottom Boat” is stunning. The film is bright, color-rich, sharp, and clear. I can’t recall seeing this film look as good as it does here. This is thanks to a new transfer also made in 1080p from an interpositive element.
A few vintage featureless made to promote the film are included, plus in HD Chuck Jones’ Oscar-winning cartoon “The Dot and The Line.” The original trailer is included in full HD as well. “The Glass Bottom Boat” is the kind of comedy that is hard to resist. It is very much of its time, but that doesn’t tarnish it. It’s a fun, goofy, cartoonish movie with a cast that is hard to not love. It was so nice re-discovering a movie that I had always liked but didn’t realize I truly loved until I saw it again last night.
Both of these films are such a blast to watch and together made for an unlikely, but rollicking double feature. I highly, highly recommend both titles and hope you’ll pick them up to add to your collection soon. You won’t be disappointed. See you next week.