Release Date(s)1976 (February 20, 2018)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C-
It’s incredible to think that there was a time that a film which was directed by Mark Rydell, starred James Caan, Elliot Gould, Diane Keaton, and Michael Caine, was photographed by László Kovács, contained a musical score by David Shire, and was released by Columbia Pictures, still wound up being a total failure. I am, of course, speaking about Harry and Walter Go to New York, a film that very few modern film fans are even aware of, let alone have ever seen. This nineteenth-century placed yarn concerns a couple of bumbling, small-time crooks (Caan and Gould) who steal plans from a professional gentleman thief (Caine), and with the help of a local newspaper reporter (Keaton), they attempt to pull off one of the biggest bank heists in history.
Looking back at the film today, it feels like the greatest movie that Robert Altman never made. Characteristic of the kind of story he would have tackled at that time in his career, it wreaks stylistically of McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Buffalo Bill and the Indians, and Thieves Like Us. Regardless, it’s still an amazing production because of who worked on it, but it’s also a severely underappreciated and undervalued period comedy. Not that it’s perfect or that the actors are perfectly suited for the parts that they’re playing, but there’s no denying the charm of its leading duo. In another reality, one could see easily see Alan Arkin in Elliot Gould’s role. Nothing against Gould, of course, but just imagining the pairing that worked so well in Freebie and the Bean could have potentially made the film even more special. Just a random thought, of course.
All of that being said, Harry and Walter Go to New York is not necessarily a project that everyone involved with is particularly proud of, including James Caan who considers it a career low. It doesn’t help that a lot of footage that was shot for it was ultimately cut out, including portions of it by the studio after test screening results. However, I firmly believe that it deserves a second chance with audiences. It’s not always on point when it comes to laughs, but it’s charismatic and lighthearted enough to hold one’s attention through to its enjoyable end.
Twilight Time presents the film with a gorgeous new 4K transfer, which looks to be from an interpositive element. It showcases László Kovács marvelous period cinematography with gusto. Thoroughly well-resolved grain levels from scene to scene are on display with a built-in mild softness, which only further sustains its vintage aesthetic. Excellent color reproduction is also prevalent, which tends to lean a little more towards brown, but is expertly color-timed. There are also deep black levels with high amounts of fine detail and satisfactory brightness and contrast. It’s also extremely clean and stable throughout with no signs of digital enhancement, artificial sharpening, or overt noise reduction. The audio is presented via an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track with optional subtitles in English SDH. It too features much of the same qualities, with clear, precise dialogue that is sometimes slightly muffled by design, but also clean sound effects and outstanding score reproduction. It’s not a panoramic soundtrack by any means, but it represents the intended one-speaker nature of the original sound design quite well.
Extras include an isolated score track in 2.0 mono DTS-HD; an audio commentary with film historians Eddy Friedfeld, Paul Scrabo, and Lee Pfeiffer, which is quite good and provides plenty of insight into the making of the film and its status as a New Hollywood film that’s been forgotten and worth rediscovery (I concur); the film’s original theatrical trailer, presented in HD; a scroll-through of the current Twilight Time catalogue; and as always, an excellent 8-page insert booklet with an essay by the great Julie Kirgo.
Harry and Walter Go to New York is a delightful gem of a movie that’s worth your time if you’re a fan of both comedies and heist movies. Caan’s and Gould’s Hope & Crosby-like act is dazzling juxtaposed against the charismatic but devious Caine, with the hilariously high-strung but determined Keaton thrown into the mix for good measure. Keen eyes can also spot smaller roles inhabited by Charles Durning, Burt Young, Lesley Ann Warren, Carol Kane, Ted Cassidy, Brion James, Dennis Dugan, and David Proval, among many others. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons