Orphan No More: Harry and Walter Go to New York (1976)

April 30, 2018 | By

As indie labels peruse the latest set of titles transferred to HD and available for licensing, some rarely seen or long unavailable movies are making their return or premiere release to home video. Harry and Walter Go to New York (1976) doesn’t fall into either category, but it’s very much an orphan film, being a reported flop, in the sense that it came, received mixed notices, and went, later popping up on Goodtimes VHS and an Image laserdisc (although there’s no info on whether the platter was full screen or widescreen).

No matter, because H&W (available from Twilight Time) is certainly ready for reassessment much in the way Mike Nichols’ oddity The Fortune (1975) was given a new life on separate Blu-ray releases via TT and Indicator, as well as Peter Bogdanovich’s At Long Last Love (1975) via Fox (as an Amazon exclusive).

Now, full confession: I loathe Bogdanovich’s film, but I can understand why some feel it got excoriated for the wrong reasons. People didn’t get it. Didn’t understand its cheeky ode to classic Hollywood musicals and screwball comedies. The film has found a small fan base outside of bad movie connoisseurs, and the similar holds true for The Fortune and other attempts to update old genres with new spins, big stars, and a mass of cast & crew enthusiasm that sometimes doesn’t translate fully to the final product.

I did warm up fast to The Fortune because it’s just so bizarre, and Stockard Channing steals the film, but H&W is a bigger, more ambitious animal that unsubtly borrows a few ideas from bigger Oscar-winning hits that had recently preceded it. Yet it has its own rhythm, and the build-up to rival attempts at stealing cash from an impregnable vault is packed with eccentric characters, sometimes massive verbal missives, and the spectacle of seeing one of the most remarkable cast of stars and veteran character actors in one film.

H&W isn’t for all tastes, but there are parts – some utterly indulgent, easily removable – that are hysterical, and as Elliott Gould states in a posted YouTube interview, James Caan met the challenge as a vaudevillian song & dance man. The pair are perfectly cast against Michael Caine (the villain), and Diane Keaton is marvelous as a suffragette / newspaper publisher who eventually sides with the boys when Caine gets mean.

Coming next:  Jess Franco’s ridiculous Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties (yes, that’s its formal title) and Sinfonia Erotica, both from 1980, and both on Blu from Severin in fine special editions.

Also in the works: a review of Patricia Rozema’s I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987) with bonus audio from her Canadian Film Day Q&A, plus White Room (1990).




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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