Caprice – DVD Review


Available at Amazon.com

Director:
Frank Tashlin

Cast:
Doris Day….Patricia Foster
Richard Harris….Christopher While
Ray Walston….Stuart Clancy
Jack Kruschen….Matthew Cutter
Lilia Skala….Madame Piasco
Irene Tsu….Su Ling
Michael J. Pollard….Barney

Fox Home Video presents Caprice. Screenplay by Jay Jayson & Frank Tashlin. Running time: 98 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release June 7, 1967. DVD released Jan. 30, 2007.

The Movie
In the midst of the spy spoof boom of the 1960s that gave us Maxwell Smart, Matt Helm, Derek Flint and Modesty Blaise, came a name that nobody would ever suspect as a secret agent: Doris Day. Shocking! Who could imagine America’s singing sweetheart going undercover? She did star in Hitchcock’s Man Who Knew Too Much so she wasn’t foreign to international intrigue. But she was a innocent mom drawn into the world of stealth and dagger. She wasn’t trained for espionage. How could she be taken seriously as a spy? Luckily Caprice was made to be a comedy so you can laugh and snicker without it hurting the film.

Instead of being a true Superspy movie with Doris Day set to save the world from an evil supervillain, she’s involved in a bit of industrial espionage within the cosmetics business. Day works as a scientist at a personal hygiene company. She betrays her firm by selling their secret formula for an underarm deodorant to the competition. When her boss busts the exchange, she’s forced to work for a rival firm. At her new job, she encounters co-worker Richard Harris. He lures her up to his apartment to enjoy the pleasures of his swinging bed. But instead of working her body, Harris picks her brain to find other corporate secrets of her former boss. What Harris doesn’t know is that she’s on the payroll of both companies. Day’s real mission is to steal new miracle hairspray formula for her old boss. When it becomes too tough to steal the formula properly, she attempts to snip a lock of hair from Irene Sum, the spray’s test subject. This leads to several moments of Day bumbling with scissors. The plot gets mixed up with loyalties swapped around. In order to complicate the third act, we’re treated to Interpol agents and narcotics.

The action scenes play out better than most spy spoofs. The ski scenes alone put Caprice up a notch. You can imagine them as outtake footage from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, except that Bond film with it’s amazing alpine pursuits wouldn’t be out until Christmas of 1969. Perhaps Caprice pushed Peter Hunt to up the ante for downhill action? There’s even the set up for the stunt that opens The Spy Who Loved Me as Doris goes skiing off a cliff. But instead of launching herself into free space and pulling the cord on a British flag parachute like Bond, Doris comes down a little weirder. Did Doris Day influence the world of Bond? I doubt the folks at EON would admit it.

The big downside of the film is that Doris isn’t quite a Bond girl on the screen. She’s past 40 and it shows in the Cinemascope glory. She’s more matronly than sleek. She is not nearly as alluring as Monica Vitti in Modesty Blaise. Her romance with Richard Harris doesn’t quite sizzle. She might as well been playing against Bob Hope. She’s very hesitant to play up the titilation factor of her character. Irene Tsu does the sexpot heavy work when she strips down to her bikini and takes a plunge in the pool. Although you’ll have to watch the trailer to see what happened to Tsu after impact.

Director Frank Tashlin is experiencing a rediscovery on DVD with The Jayne Mansfield boxset, the upcoming Martin and & Lewis Collection – Volume 2 and a DVD dedicated to his animated work in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection – Volume 4. It is his background in cartoons that translates into the best moments of Caprice. He masterfully constructs screwball sequences of Day hanging beneath a balcony, skiing off the cliff and racing around an apartment complex. Unlike Manfield, Day seems hesitant to become cartoony under Tashlin’s guiding hand. She’s very reserved in playing along with the romp. Day has openly trashed Caprice as one of her worst films. Harris supposedly hated the film so much that he refused to see it. He couldn’t have hated the experience that bad since he did go on to star in Tarzan, the Ape Man with Bo Derek. The bashing from the main actors lowered the film’s profile. But this is far from the worst films associated with Day and Harris.

Caprice has enough charms to make it a fun film to mix between Rachel Welch’s Fathom and Frankie Avalon’s Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. Seeing the prim and proper Doris Day going undercover makes the film unique in a genre that normally casts a sexpot behind the giant sunglasses. Tashlin’s action scenes play better than a majority of the spy films that aren’t angling for laughs. It’s a proper cheese-fest that dazzles with the deluxe DVD treatment.

The DVD

VIDEO:
While the film that was abused by its stars, this transfer was given a lot of love by the technical guys. They spent 140 hours digitally restoring the film to a near pristine beauty. The aspect ratio is 2.40:1 anamorphic.

AUDIO:
The soundtrack is in Dolby Digital Stereo and Mono. It’s a clean transfer with proper levels. The French and Spanish dubs tracks are in Dolby Digital Mono. Pierre Patrick and John Cork share a commentary track. Patrick is known for his books and documentaries about Doris Day. Cork is the man who brought us the stellar bonus documentaries on the Bond DVDs. They discuss the tone of the film shifting between serious thrills and absurd spoof situations. The subtitles are in English and Spanish.

EXTRAS:

The Caprice Look: A Conversation with Costume Designer Ray Aghayan (5:37) has him talking about his third time dressing Doris Day. He had to sketch the wardrobe for three times to appease Day. He speaks of designing outfits with a cartoon feel to fit the pop times of the mid-60s. Aghayan is no stranger to spy spoofs since he created the clothes for Jame Cogburn’s Flint movies.

Double-O Doris (6:47) makes an effort to explain that Caprice wasn’t the worse spy spoof.

Doris and Marty (11:27) is a warning to actresses about marrying their managers. While Marty Melcher might have had a good influence on her at first, he would screw up her career by signing her up for projects without warning (like Caprice) and blowing off The Graduate. When Marty died, Doris discovered he’d blown her millions of dollars. This is not a love story.

Doris Day Radio Interview (5:58) has the star giving her feeling about the movie. It’s just the usual fluff, but she does mention how she enjoyed Richard Harris’ performance in This Sporting Life. The screen features a montage of production stills and clips from the film.

Richard Harris radio interview (5:57) has him talking about how he’s happy to finally make a comedy. He also expounds upon England no longer being a superpower controlling the world and how this created Swingin’ London. Most of the audio is host Dick Stroud talking. The montage of stills and clips goes well with Harris’ audio.

Trailers (7:03) features four different coming attractions. A three minute trailer teases the audience into the film with the concept of the swinging bed. The short teaser trailer focuses on the whimsy. The regular length trailer gives a good sense of the film’s tone. The Spanish trailer is cut to exploit the romance between Day and Harris along with the action without the slapstick. What’s eye opening is that in the long and Spanish trailers included an underwater shot of Tsu diving into the pool and having her bikini bottom go loose. We see a healthy dose of her butt crack.

Photo Gallery has dozens of production stills and promotional items. Doris always looks like she’s enjoying herself on the set.

Doris Day Collection (4:01) contains the long trailers for Move Over, Darling and Do Not Disturb. Besides promoting Do Not Disturb, the trailer announces the “Doris for a Day Look-alike” contest.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Caprice
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

7
THE VIDEO

9
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

8
REPLAY VALUE

7
OVERALL
6
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
Caprice was never released on VHS, so it’s amazing that this neglected spy spoof was given the deluxe treatment on DVD. It is strange to see wholesome Doris Day lured into a swinging bed. It’s a cheese-riffic film for folks who enjoy Dean Martin’s Matt Helm series.