Yellow Umbrella Girl
Confidence is Foul Play’s core issue. As Chevy Chase’s first starring role, he’s given little room to execute his bumbling comedy. Most of Foul Play is given to Goldie Hawn, and while hardly lacking as a comedic leading woman, the script likewise affords her limited opportunities to excel.
Foul Play was also Dudley Moore’s first foray into American cinema, and while not even worthy of poster space for his part, he’s given the lengthiest laughs during a broken attempt at foreplay. Yet, that sequence is ultimately useless to the greater story, a waning Hitchcock parody that merely fizzles.
Foul Play lacks the sharpness or wit
Foul Play lacks the sharpness or wit
It’s not without charm. Chase and Hawn make a likable screen pairing as their kooky romance plays out against an assassination plot against the Pope. Said plan is concocted by social outsiders, playing up their looks in a dated manner. Foul Play then swings wildly, tone either wholly screwball (Burgess Merideth as a martial arts master) or playfully downbeat (Chase desperately keeping his cool, trying to win over Hawn). There’s no consistency, and the Hitchcock tropes are too direct for laughs.
Mel Brooks did this a year before in High Anxiety, and even with its own problems, at least understood that staying beholden to a style mattered. Foul Play lacks the sharpness or wit, paying homage more often than poking fun. The script doesn’t commit enough either. A key scene finds a paranoid Hawn beating a little person with a broom because of a mistaken identity. Amusing on its own, but it’s also… on its own. That entire event is soon forgotten, the bit part needless, and the plot stalled for no reason.
In the final act, Foul Play lets the villains explain their actions, the only thing stepping away from a derivative comfort zone. They argue for taxing the church, but resort to violence when no one will listen to the idea. Chase and Hawn merely sit and listen to this speech, dryly delivered, but it’s the only substance in Foul Play. To match Hitchcock, or to at least mimic his thrillers, a point is necessary. Without one, Foul Play is a lot like Dudley Moore’s part: failed foreplay.
Holy grain freeze Batman! This is a mess. Paramount’s care for bottoms out with Foul Play, a truly dismal, dated, and filtered master that’s rates among the studio’s weakest catalog discs. Grain is not only messy and sloppily resolved, but it sticks to everything. Mosquito noise surrounds background objects and actors, assuming the grain moves at all. If there’s a plus to be found, at least Paramount kept the grain. Sort of. A little.
The result? Middling detail all around. Foul Play’s low resolution scan doesn’t do the imagery any favors. Fidelity can’t rise above DVD in these conditions, made worse by the constant smearing caused by the filtering.
Not helping things, blown out contrast regularly clips all detail when peaked, and that’s frequent. Cinematography appreciated the brightness, but overly so, or maybe that’s only this transfer. Regardless, black levels listlessly deliver shadows, more a drooping gray. A slight boost comes from the color saturation, the only genuine positive in a truly awful transfer.
The only option is a 5.1 DTS-HD track, although this becomes little more than a mono track with slight extension into the stereos when music picks up. There’s no movement or motion in the design.
Fidelity hits a passable peak, holding dialog to a crisp level and the music’s treble smoothly plays. There’s even a slight kick in the low-end, albeit an unspectacular one.
Playing up the Hitchcock formula, Foul Play isn’t inventive, but hits a few comic beats along the way.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 50 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: