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SHAMPOO
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant, Jack Warden, Tony Bill
Director: Hal Ashby
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, PCM Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Criterion
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: October 16, 2018

Who does he think I am? Some cigar that he's got between his teeth?”

Film ***

Hal Ashby managed to make a rare mixture of sex and political farce with his 1975 release Shampoo. His capturing of the escapades of many different characters in a 24 hour time period is much on the same level as that of Robert Altman. In fact, there are quite a few similarities on display here that were also in Altman’s Dr. T and the Women in regards to its lead character.

The character in question is George Roundy (Warren Beatty), whose everyday life consists of being surrounded by women. He is a professional hairdresser, and one of the most sought after in Los Angeles. Though employed at a salon, his services are often requests by many female clients, and not just for that of hairstyling.

As the 1968 Presidential Election is coming to a close, George finds his life headed for the disaster zone. He’s trying to get his own business off the ground, but he is denied the proper loan because of his lack of noteworthy clientele. And his playboy lifestyle is beginning to catch up with him, as he is juggling so many affairs while trying to maintain a steady relationship with aspiring actress Jill (Goldie Hawn).

However, one of George’s on again/off again acquaintances, Jackie (Julie Christie), could help his business venture take off. She is currently seeing wealthy businessman Lester (Jack Warden), and she convinces him to take an interest in George’s salon proposal. But Lester is also married, and to yet another one of George’s acquaintances, Felicia (Lee Grant), making this a pure fiasco in the making.

As you can probably gather, this film ranks as quite possibly the absolute perfect vehicle for Warren Beatty, who co-wrote the script alongside Robert Towne. It practically serves as a documentary on how the real Warren lived most of his professional life. That mirror image adds quite a fascinating level to the film.

Though it may come across a slightly dated in some aspects, Shampoo still works as a frantic character piece where one man’s world begins to crumble around him in a 24 hour period. Beatty captures his role perfectly, as expected. What’s more, it does happen to perfectly capture the state of sexual politics in the climate of the late 60s.

Video ****

Criterion crafts yet another astonishing 4K restored presentation for this Blu-ray release. LA in the late 60s is simple captured wonderfully, right down the hairstyles and fashion associated with the time period. And the image quality is consistently sharp and eye-popping in detail.

Audio ***1/2

Both a 5.1 mix and a PCM Mono mix are offered on this release. The former is what I went with, and it did deliver immensely in the way of dialogue delivery and playback of the soundtrack (which amazingly happens to include a couple of Beatles songs, making me wonder how much they spent to use them since I know they never came cheap).All in all, a very well handled piece of audio.

Features **1/2

Included on this Criterion release is a half hour discussion of the film with critics Mark Harris and Frank Rich. Also included is a 1998 interview with Warren Beatty on the many groundbreaking films of his career, including this one. Lastly, there is an insert featuring an essay by critic Frank Rich.

Summary:

Shampoo is both a fascinating slice of late 60s LA life and an intriguing character piece with politics lingering in the background. Criterion’s new Blu-ray release offers a most grand presentation!

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