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SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Joan Severance, Kevin Spacey, Alan North
Director:  Arthur Hiller
Audio:  Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Columbia Tri Star
Features:  Four Trailers
Length:  102 Minutes
Release Date:  October 30, 2001

“Why do you feel the need to pass for a guy with 20/20 vision when you’re blind as a bat?”

“I don’t feel the need to pass.”

“Yes, you do.  It’s a brain disorder.  It would be like trying to pretend you’re white.”

“You mean…I’m NOT WHITE?!”

Film ***

Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder created one of the funniest on-screen comedy teams of the 70s and 80s.  Even when the pictures they appeared in were less than stellar, one could always count on this duo’s impeccable chemistry and timing to elevate even the blandest of scripts.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil from 1989 was a reunion and a comeback of sorts for Pryor and Wilder, and like most of their best work, it was both funny and a bit controversial.  Some believed the picture simply ridiculed the handicapped.  While I could always see their point, I never really agreed with it.  The picture didn’t make fun of handicapped people as a whole…just THESE two handicapped fellows.

Wally (Pryor) is blind, and Dave (Wilder) is deaf, a scenario ripe with comic possibilities.  When they get blamed for a murder they didn’t commit, the plucky pair find themselves trapped between the cops that want to put them away, and the real killers who want to recover the goods they’re not even aware they have!

The story is simple enough, which leaves plenty of room for Pryor and Wilder to work their magic, milking their performances for everything they’re worth.  The film boasts one hysterical sequence after another, including one where a handcuffed Dave has to direct Wally in the driver’s seat of their getaway car.  “Don’t look at me, look at the road!” Dave screams.  “Okay, if it makes you feel better,” Wally replies.

Finding a blind man and a deaf man should be easy, so the duo has to be extra careful.  The real killers, Eve (the stunning Severance) and Kirgo (Spacey in an early role) have plans to take back their ill gotten gains and dispose of the witnesses…yes, even the one that never saw their faces.

The only chance they have to both prove their innocence and save their lives is to capture the killers themselves.  It won’t be an easy task, but relying on each other and refusing to give up, they manage to save the day…and create some comic mayhem along the way, too.  How Wally ends up on a panel at a seminar posed as a Swedish gynecologist, I’ll leave for you to discover, as well as a tear inducing scene involving Dave and his…er, gun.

True, this is a film that paints its humor in broad strokes, but I think it was the right choice.  As an audience, we are pretty willing to go along with a pair like Pryor and Wilder without much prompting.  Director Arthur Hiller pretty much set the events in motion and let the momentum carry them through to the end.  He also directed the duo in Silver Streak, so he was definitely familiar with the talent at his disposal, and he simply let them do what they do best.

And that alone makes for dynamic entertainment.  This film is a fast and funny fest from start to finish, and proves once again that Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder were one of the great modern movie comedy teams. 

Video ***1/2

I saw no evil.  This anamorphic transfer from Columbia Tri Star (full frame version also included) looks very good, with natural coloring and crisply rendered images throughout.  Darker scenes and lighter scenes come across with equal integrity, and save for a slight bit of noticeable grain in one or two longer shots, this picture is a pleasant treat from beginning to end.

Audio **1/2

I heard no evil.  This surround track doesn’t make much use of the rear mono signal, but the stereo front stage is quite active, with plenty of panning effects.  Stewart Copeland’s score is especially crisp, like listening to a good CD.  Dialogue is clearly rendered throughout, though some of the audio’s dynamic range is created by how quiet it gets instead of how loud.  Overall, though, a worthwhile effort.

Features *1/2

If there is any evil on this disc, it’s in this department…four trailers make up the sum total of extras.

Summary:

One didn’t hear it and one didn’t see it, but both are up to their necks in it!  See No Evil, Hear No Evil is a final comic hurrah for the screen team of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, and their antics bring out the best in a simple and fast moving story.