Film Title: Once Upon A Crime
Release Date: 1992
Runtime: 94 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Audio Formats: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Formats & Versions Available: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: 9/4/18
Director: Eugene Levy
Cast: John Candy, Jim Belushi, Cybill Shepherd, Sean Young, Richard Lewis, Ornella Muti, Giancarlo Giannini, George Hamilton, Roberto Sbaratto
“Once Upon A Crime” was a nonsensical light hearted comedy directed by Eugene Levy, a well-known actor / comedian of “SCTV” fame, who was making his directorial debut back in 1992 with this film.
The story here is a tad bit outlandish, but it involves several American tourists visiting Rome and Monte Carlo. The first person we are introduced to is “Phoebe” (Sean Young), visiting Rome, as she’s on the phone going through some relationship problems, when she stumbles upon a cute little dachshund dog that starts eating food in her purse. At first, Phoebe tells the dog to go away, but then later on when she’s sitting desperately gazing at the classified ad section of a newspaper she sees an ad about a missing dog. What makes Phoebe drop the newspaper is the fact the dog she just read about meets the exact same description as the one she just saw, and that comes with a $5,000 reward. She immediately tries to find the dog, hard up for money, and on her journey stumbles across an out of work actor “Julian” (Richard Lewis) that has, unfortunately for her, just found the dog. The two discuss things, and Phoebe informs Julian of the reward money for the missing dog. They eventually, after a bit of a heated discussion, decide to work together and split the reward money.
Meanwhile, on there’s another group of Americans on their way to Monte Carlo, mostly for the husband to gamble. The husband, “Neil” (Jim Belushi), and his wife “Marilyn” (Cybill Shepherd) are having a bit of a disagreement when we first meet them, and this is something, that over the course of the film, you’ll grow quite accustomed to. While on a train ride to Monte Carlo they meet a charming yet suspicious man named “Augie Morosco” (John Candy), who claims to have shards the same gambling addiction that Neil has. Augie proceeds to tell Neil how he has overcome his gambling addiction and attempts to offer the man hope, and help, or so he thinks.
Along the way this missing dog will be stolen at times, in an attempt to score the reward money, while the tourists and their mysterious friend have no clue that the owner has been murdered. Trying to solve the crime of the murder is one “Inspector Bonnard” (Giancarlo Giannini) and his bumbling yet dedicated co-worker “Detective Toussaint” (Roberto Sbaratto). In one of the casinos we are briefly introduced to a mysterious and extremely well suntanned gentleman named “Alfonso de la Pena” (George Hamilton) who seems to be quite the ladies’ man.
“Once Upon A Crime” can be just downright nonsensical at times in its plot, but not so much in its dialogue. Still, it has a silly light hearted nature to it, and there’s even a cute little dachshund dog that ties the film together perfectly. It’s a comedy for most ages, as you would expect from a PG rating. Looking back on the film its rating seems to hold it back slightly as the jokes aren’t really ever too risky, and it is after all about a murder (crime), as the title suggests, yet it offers no real violence at all. I found that to a be a bit off putting, but still took a decent amount of pleasure from the film.
There’s a lot of reasons that I found this film enjoyable and funny, and I will admit that to be because it features the late great John Candy in a co-starring role. Also the chemistry proves to be pretty fun to watch between the four actors portraying the two American tourist couples – Richard Lewis / Sean Young and James Belushi / Cybill Shepherd. It was, undeniably, a well put together cast. I’ll give it that, and even includes a director cameo by Eugene Levy, in a pretty funny little scene.
I believe that “Once Upon A Crime” and its attempt to really be a murder mystery / comedy with a tiny, tiny bit of romance didn’t fully work, but it does manage to entertain you, mostly through laughter. A lot of people probably went in seeing this film back in 1992 and were expecting it to be more involving the actual murder, then a bunch of suspects being eliminated or such? That’s already a film and board game. Joking aside, this film sure is not that style, by any means. Simply put, it’s silly but an overall pretty decent film, and one that seems to have been a bit unappreciated over the years. I’m glad to see that it has been released to the Blu-ray Disc format, and done justice as you’ll hear me discuss further below.
Movie Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
According to the technical specifications page on IMDb, this was shot on 35MM film using Arriflex 35 BL3 cameras. The film on Blu-ray Disc is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, as intended.
From the opening shot of the film’s title sequence you will that a very nice amount of film grain has been preserved, in some scenes (such as this) more than others. For instance, here in an exterior daytime shot of a newspaper (extremely well lit) you don’t see as much film grain evident, whereas here in yet another exterior daytime shot, only seconds later, you see (again) a bit less film grain. Essentially the film print seems to have some rough parts to it or areas that were not cleaned up as much, and that’s absolutely fine. I’m a fan of film grain, and am happy to see a HD presentation such as this. Let me continue and further discuss (using screenshots) below what gives this a nice appearance in high def.
The black level is solid here is solid throughout. Daytime exterior scenes, dim lit interior scenes and exterior night scenes all look equally as good in terms of detail. The color palette is vibrant at times, with it seems a bit of emphasis on the color red in both set pieces and costume choices. Fleshtones appear accurate with an actor like George Hamilton in contrast to Cybill Shepherd offering up as a nice example. All, and all there are no signs of any problems with the transfer. For a 1992 comedy shot on 35MM film, with reportedly a 14 million dollar budget, this looks pretty solid in its debut via Blu-ray. The folks at Kino Lorber Studio Classics have done this comedy justice.
Video Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio Stereo. According to IMDb technical specifications page, this originally only had a Dolby Stereo sound mix. Being a film of this nature, a comedy that revolves mostly around dialogue the the music, it makes no real sense to make it into a 5.1 surround mix, for 1992 stereo source material.
Dialogue is the most important thing here in a comedy such as this, and I am happy to report that it is presented distinctly throughout the entire film. The movie has its occasional sound effects and such, but no real intense action to speak of that is going to leave you “blown away” so-to-speak. The original music composed by Richard Gibbs is done justice and it sounds nice here in this lossless stereo mix. There’s not a whole lot to rave about, nor anything much to complain about here in this mix. It gets the job done and delivers a pretty solid audio presentation to accompany this comedy.
Audio Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Bonus materials only include trailers on this release. These are presented in a variety of 1080p HD and 480i/p SD (standard definition) video with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo sound – unless otherwise noted below. They include the following:
- Trailer for “Once Upon A Crime” (2:20 – HD)
- Trailer for “Blame It On The Bellboy” (1:30 – SD) has Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
- Trailer for “Oscar” (1:23 – SD) has Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
- Trailer for “Delirious” (2:22 – HD)
- Trailer for “Taking Care Of Business” (2:02 – SD) has Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
- Trailer for “Cabin Boy” (1:45 – SD) has Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
Overall the lack of bonus materials we get here is not surprising small 1992 comedy like this, and considering that it wasn’t too successful at the box-office. It’s hard to really imagine that many members of the cast would have wanted to get back together to remember making this film, especially with an important cast member like John Candy missing. Still, the lack of bonus materials is something that I cannot reward with a good rating. I have to be truthful, and that’s why this doesn’t earn anything in that section. I don’t count trailers as bonus materials, even if they’re for the film, as these are things that can always can be found online at anytime, for free.
Bonus Materials Rating: 0 (out of 5)
“Once Upon A Crime” is an alright comedy, despite some flaws in plot, and offers up some nice performances from a well assembled cast. In terms of a Blu-ray release this proves solid, offering up nice video quality and a decent lossless stereo mix. Sadly though, the bonus materials section is the only place that it scores badly, and that is because it only includes trailers for this film (and five other films from this distributor).
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4 (out of 5) for video quality
4 (out of 5) for audio quality
0 (out of 5) for bonus materials