Saturday, August 19, 2017


Synonymous with horror and exploitation movie fare, the American-based production company, Crown International Pictures scored a sizable hit with David Beaird’s MY CHAUFFEUR (1985), an amiable comedy showcasing the talents of that spunky ’80s darling, Deborah Foreman.  Although previously released countless times on a variety of different formats, this popular film has finally been given its proper due care of Vinegar Syndrome’s all-new and totally awesome dual-format Blu-ray! 

When Casey Meadows (Foreman) is clandestinely hired by corporate magnate Mr. Witherspoon (E.G. Marshall) to work at Brentwood Limousine Limited (one of his many business ventures), she is immediately met with hostility from the stuffy, male-dominated pool of other drivers, who, along with their boss, Mr. McBride (Howard Hesseman), are eager to get rid of her (“We are not interested in change!”).  This they try and engineer by setting her up with some of their most bothersome clients, and trouble soon follows.  Casey has to deal with an unruly British rock star (Leland Crooke), a conman and an Arab sheik (Penn & Teller, respectively, making their mutual screen debut), as well as an overworked, by-the-book businessman (Sam Jones), who turns out to be Mr. Witherspoon’s son, Battle, who eventually becomes smitten with Casey and her quirky charms.

Episodic in structure, MY CHAUFFEUR was originally envisioned by Crown as yet another formulaic sex comedy, but director Beaird decided to take it in another, less-exploitable direction by fashioning it into an updated version of a Golden Age of Hollywood ‘screwball comedy’ (such as Howard Hawks’ BRINGING UP BABY [1938]), with its rip-roaring dialogue and Foreman’s strong female character.  In one of the disc’s audio commentaries, director Beaird discusses Foreman’s use of the Meisner technique, and how the (quote) “pace can be slow”, but he wanted a faster tempo, so he had his leading lady watch some old Carole Lombard movies (including perhaps Gregory La Cava’s MY MAN GODFREY [1936]?) in order that Foreman might try to replicate some of Lombard’s energetic screen presence, which she does admirably.   

As with her earlier breakout role in Martha Coolidge’s VALLEY GIRL (1983), Foreman is a joy to watch from beginning to end, helped along by a terrific supporting cast which also includes Sean McClory (distinguished Irish-born character actor from such diverse films as John Ford’s THE QUIET MAN [1952] and Gordon Douglas’ THEM! [1954]) as Mr. Witherspoon’s personal driver, O’Brien, who is the only one willing to give the new girl a chance, unlike his stodgy, unwavering co-workers.  Playing the aptly-named Battle, then-recent ex-Flash Gordon Sam J. Jones also plays well alongside Foreman’s lighthearted, innocent charm, and their blossoming romance even reveals some inherent class struggles, a well-explored character arc which harkens all the way back to Frank Capra’s IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), co-starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, and an angle which was also explored in other such ’80s mainstream fare such as the aforementioned VALLEY GIRL and, more memorably still, in Paul Brickman’s far edgier RISKY BUSINESS (1983).

As with some of Vinegar Syndrome’s other Crown International acquisitions, MY CHAUFFEUR comes to Blu-ray and DVD scanned in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative and, as expected, it looks downright sumptuous, boasting accurate colours and with nary an imperfection anywhere in sight.  On the Blu, the DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono audio also sounds spot-on, with much of the fast-paced dialogue coming through with crystal clarity; amounting to a nice bonus, VS have also included Paul Hertzog’s diverse score as an isolated soundtrack option.

Extras are plentiful. They begin with a wonderful on-camera interview with Deborah Foreman, the “Valley Girl” herself (15m59s).  In this featurette directed by Elijah Drenner, Foreman discusses both her days as a Maybelline girl as well as how she got her start in the motion picture biz.  She also speaks warmly of director David Beaird, even though the entire production had a (quote) “crazy schedule,” during which they would shoot up to 12-to-15 pages of script a day!  She also (quote) “can’t say enough kind things about Sam Jones,” and cites MY CHAUFFEUR as one of her favourite film roles.  The other big extras include two separate audio commentaries, beginning with Beaird and actor Leland Crooke, which is nicely moderated by Drenner.  After helming the (quote) “materialistic, childish” sex romp, THE PARTY ANIMAL (1984), Beaird was approached by Crown to direct yet another of their trademark sex comedies along the lines of George Bowers’ MY TUTOR (1983), only to instead opt to fashion an updated ’30s-style love story with (quote) “old-time banter and old-time screen tricks.” Beaird also discusses trying to hit a (quote) “sweet spot” in terms of theatricality and goes on to reminisce about some of his theatre work during his formative days in Chicago.  He also discusses how he (quote) “had a back-end” on the film, but never saw a dime of profit from it, something which is confirmed by Foreman when she alleges that Crown (quote) “lied about the numbers.”  For the second audio commentary, production assistant Jeff McKay casually chats about his time working on the film, which also includes plentiful factoids/trivia relating to the production, the cast and many of the Los Angeles locations.

Other extras include the film’s original theatrical trailer, numerous TV spots and some nice candid behind-the-scenes photos (courtesy of McKay) taken during the film’s shoot.  Reversible cover artwork includes the film’s original artwork, as well as a striking new rendering by illustrator Derek Gabryszak.  As per some of their other recent Blu-ray releases, VS also include a Limited Edition slipcover edition (1500 only), which is available directly from VS. 

Disarmingly charming and most engaging indeed, by virtue of its association with Crown International Pictures, MY CHAUFFEUR usually gets lumped-in with all those innocuous lowbrow sexcoms from the ’80s, but in actuality, it’s a much smarter – and far more memorable – film thanks to Deborah Foreman’s confident performance and director David Beaird’s commitment to trying something different… and yes, just as expected, VS’ first-class presentation allows you to appreciate everything that much more.  Highly recommended!  Order it from Vinegar Syndrome or DiabolikDVD.

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