Blu-ray Review: Fatso

For the longest time people pondered how actress Anne Bancroft could have fallen in love with Mel Brooks. She was the sophisticated winner of Tonys, Emmys and an Oscar. She was the tempting Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate. He made goofy and vulgar comedies laced with profanity. Some dared view their union as a marriage between Beauty and the Beast. And then you watch the opening credits of Bancroft’s Fatso and see why they were a perfect match. As we follow a young Dominic growing up with his mother in the opening credits. Dominic is too close when his mother is changing a baby’s diaper. As happens in reality, an accident happens and the baby pees on Dominic’s face. What happens next is jaw dropping as the mom stuffs a cannoli in his mouth while he’s still wet in the face. Bancroft wrote and directed the film so there’s no blaming someone else. Anne Bancroft was sicker than Mel Brooks and yet could get away with such a disturbing image because there was a lot of heart in it. Fatso is out on Blu-ray so you can truly enjoy the cinematic diamond crafted by Anne Bancroft.

Dom DiNapoli (The Cannonball Run‘s Dom DeLuise) has grown up in an Italian-American family where food is pure comfort. As a baby when he cried, his mother filled his mouth with food. His favorite cousin was the one who always had snacks to share. Food and cooking is joy for Dom. But then things start to change when his cousin dies from obesity. The guy is so huge in the end that his extra large coffin can’t fit in the hole dug by the gravediggers. Dom’s sister Antoinette (Anne Bancroft) wants her brother to take losing weight seriously. She doesn’t want him dead too. Dom’s brother Frank (Barney Miller‘s Ron Carey) doesn’t have the same issues and hates how Dom over serves him. Dom tries to go on a diet, but he can’t handle the list of foods to avoid. Things hit a massive breaking point when he eats the “ony” off an ice cream birthday cake. His sister signs him up for “Chubby Checkers,” a group to help people lose weight like Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers. Giving Dom a bit of reason to shed the pounds is his crush on Lydia Bollowenski (Ocean Twelve‘s Candice Azzara). She runs a gift shop near Dom’s card shop. He wants to ask her out, but he fears she’ll reject him because of his weight. Can Dom drop the pounds and gain her heart? Or will food be that ex-lover that keeps dragging him back to the bad life?

We live in a world where the two biggest advertisers on TV seem to be food and weight loss programs. Fatso takes a hard look at how what sustains us can also destroy us. And it does this with such heart. Bancroft gets deep into the family dynamics and emotions. She created a comic masterpiece that still packs a punch nearly 40 years later. It remains a story of our age. Fatso really lets Dom DeLuise get deep in the situation and not merely play Burt Reynold’s chubby sidekick. He makes the battle real of his weight real and not merely the punchlines for jokes. There’s plenty of humor such as when his buddies from the Chubby Checkers go from support to enablers in the kitchen as they recount the their horrifying junk food creations. But Anne lets the whirlwind of their desires build. It’s not just quick shock humor. Bancroft only wrote and directed one movie and she made it count with Fatso.

The film in a way is a little personal to me since in 1991 I worked with Dom DeLuise on a revival of Candid Camera. We shot the stunts around Raleigh, North Carolina because Dom was at the Duke Diet Center still trying to lose weight. He was so much larger than he was when making Fatso. But he was trying his best to eat healthier. We were warned not to eat near Dom or we’d be fired. But nobody was sent packing because we didn’t want to be a pain to Dom. Oddly enough at the end of the shoot, Dom gave us all signed copies of his cookbook Eat This .. It’ll Make You Feel Better.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer gives the details to all the food that Dom must resist. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio mono. The levels are clear so you can hear the arguments between Dom and his sister. It does get loud. The movie is subtitled in English.

Looking Back On Fatso With Producers Stuart Cornfeld and Mel Brooks (12:20) has Mel talk about how the project started when Anne was at AFI. Cornfeld produced that short film version of Fatso. Mel was amazed at how moving and funny his wife’s script was. Cornfeld was brought on to produce the big studio version since he did the first version. Fatso was the first film Mel made at Brooksfilm. Mel is amazed how his wife could go from tears to laughter. He couldn’t pull that off.

Interview with Film Historian Maya Montanez Smukler (26:14) is about women being in the film industry. She points out that women were directing in the silent era. When the sound era comes along, the studios make the director’s chair for men only with rare exceptions.

Image Gallery (2:01) includes posters, lobby cards and press photos.

Press Kit (2:45) is what used to get sent out to newspaper reviewers with production notes and cast biographies. This was how they sold the film before the preview screening.

Shout! Factory presents Fatso. Directed by Anne Bancroft. Screenplay by: Anne Bancroft. Starring: Dom DeLuise, Anne Bancroft, Ron Carey & Candice Azzara. Rated: PG. Running Time: 93 minutes. Released: June 25, 2019.

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