THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION
Review by Michael Jacobson
Woody Allen, Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Charlize Theron, David Ogden Stiers,
Director: Woody Allen
Audio: Dolby Digital 2 Channel Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: Trailer, Talent Files, Production Notes
Length: 102 Minutes
Release Date: January 29, 2002
you have any witnesses?”
gonna take YOUR word over MINE?”
sheer coincidence, I had just finished viewing The Big Sleep for the
umpteenth time when The Curse of the Jade Scorpion arrived at my door.
I could not have been more primed for Woody Allen’s comic take on film
liked the picture almost immediately, thanks to the lighting and bright color
tones brought out by cinematographer Zhao Fei…it instantly looked like the
1940s, recreating the feel and scheme of some of the earliest color photographs.
It’s the perfect setting for the Woodman’s comical script and
plays C. W. Briggs, an investigator for an insurance company (can anyone say Double
Indemnity?). He’s just coming
off his biggest coup, discovering a lost Picasso rolled up in a telescope
(though the master’s cubist style made it hard for him to identify at first).
He should be at the top of his game, but something’s eating him.
something is actually a someone, and she’s Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Hunt), a new
executive brought in to help “streamline” the company.
Removing Briggs’ sloppy filing cabinet is just the first straw.
These two take an instant and strong dislike to one another, and each
hates what the other represents. “She
thinks she’s so smart,” Briggs murmurs, “just because she graduated
Harvard and I went to driving school.”
office party takes the story in a new direction. Under the guise of a hypnotist (Stiers), both Briggs and
Fitzgerald are given post hypnotic suggestions, each triggered by a different
word. His plan is sinister…he
wants to use Briggs to rob houses he himself has burglar-proofed…but the side
effect of the suggestion is, each falls in love with the other while under
next day, neither remembers a thing, but soon Briggs is out collecting jewels
for his new master, and later, investigating the crime he has no clue HE
committed! As the evidence begins
to mount against him, will the only person who believes his innocence be the one
woman who can’t stand him? Even
more, CAN she help when she’s got a little hypnosis problem of her own to deal
can’t be considered one of Allen’s masterworks, to be sure, but every once
in awhile, he likes to simply kick back and make a comedy for a few laughs and
nothing more. Certainly, Allen does
that better than most. The real joy
of his picture isn’t even so much the script or the situations as much as the
terrific film noir look to the sets, lighting and costumes, and the cast he
assembles around him. Helen Hunt is
terrific, and both she and Charlize Theron look the part beautifully…they’ll
remind you of Rosalind Russell and Veronica Lake, respectively.
good is Dan Aykroyd as Briggs’ beleaguered boss…he makes his first
appearance in an Allen film here. Rounding
out are a couple of solid reliable standbys, including Stiers and Wallace Shawn,
in smaller but important roles.
himself is an amusing mix, bringing the look of a 1940s detective, but keeping
all of his classic mannerisms and neurosis intact. “There’s a word for people who believe everybody’s
plotting against them,” his boss chides.
“Yes,” he agrees. “Perceptive.”
he ain’t, but Woody, he’ll always be.
mentioned, the look of the film is most important here, and this beautiful
anamorphic transfer from Dreamworks captures it beautifully.
Allen has always worked with top notch cinematographers, and Fei is no
different. One could easily imagine
if a detective film from the 1940s were actually filmed in color, this is
exactly what he looks like. Nothing
looks new, nor particularly old…color palates are rich but distinct, with a
lighting style that keeps everything a bit warm and old fashioned looking.
It’s a marvelous job, recreated perfectly for DVD.
with all Woody Allen films, this one contains a mono soundtrack, which is mostly
dialogue oriented but occasionally peppered with a scratchy sounding old record
from the period. It’s not very
dynamic, but it is clear, and serves the nature of the film well.
disc includes the original theatrical trailer, plus talent files on the
principals and some production notes.