Tuesday, August 22, 2017

SHAKES THE CLOWN (1991) (Mill Creek Blu-ray Review)


Label: Mill Creek Entertainment 
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 87 Minutes 
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Cast: Bobcat Goldthwait, Julie Brown, Kathy Griffin, Paul Dooley, Adam Sandler, Robin Williams, Sydney Lassick, LaWanda Page, Tim Kazurinsky 

Shakes The Clown (1991), written, directed and starring Bobcat Goldthwait exploits of an alcoholic clown named Shakes (Goldthwait), which is an appropriate name for a  beer-soaked clown, right? The film opens with him waking up the morning after a one-night stand with a clown groupie (played by Florence Henderson, TV's Brady Bunch), he's passed out on the floor in front of the toilet when the woman's kid takes a leak, missing the bowl, and pissing straight onto Shakes head, waking him from his drunken slumber. This sad scene pretty much sets the pace and tone for the movie, the down and out life of a burned-out clown with a taste for booze. His long suffering, an amusingly lispy, girlfriend Judy (Julie Brown, Bloody Birthday) has had just about enough of his boozing a cheating ways, bolstered by her girlfriend, played by comedienne Kathy Griffin (Pulp Fiction), who insists Judy needs to dump his drunk clown-faced ass. 

It's not just his personal life that's suffering because of his chronic drinking, his clown-career suffers, too, when his agent Mr. Cheese (Paul Dooley, Sixteen Candles) finds it hard to book him new gigs at kids parties, because he rummages through their parent's cupboards looking for liquor. He has a pair of friends, Dink, played by Adam Sandler (The Wedding Singer)in his first movie role, and Stenchy, played by Blake Clark (the voice of slinky the dog in the Toy Story films) who join him on his adventures around Palukaville, USA. 

Shakes is up for the job as the host of a kiddie TV show, as the current host Peppy the Clown (Sydney Lassick, The Unseen) is retiring, but his rival Binky (a pre-Spongebob Squarepants Tom Kenny) is also up for the role, and Tom Kenny steals every scene he's in as the coke-snorting, ball-punching evil clown of the movie, his voice is instantly recognizable. The main gist of the movie involves Shakes being framed for the murder of his agent Mr. Cheese, by Binky, and there's not a whole lot more to it than that. The movie is simplistic but good, sarcastic fun, and I dig the way the characters don't really acknowledge that their in clown make-up, it's just their way of life. The clowns also have rivalries with mimes, and rodeo clowns, so we have a Warriors type gang thing going on in the background, and sometimes in the fore.  

The movie is loaded with cameos, aside from everyone I've already mentioned we have the late-great Robin Williams (World's Greatest Dad) as a mime instructor, and LaWanda Page (Mausoleum) as a foul-mouthed barfly clown, cracking dirty jokes, like this little nugget, "I got one of them peanut butter pussies: it's brown, smooth and easy to spread". My second favorite quote is Dooley as Mr. Cheese who walks in on Binky and friends snorting lines of coke, screaming "You clowns are on dope!", good stuff. The movie lags a bit from time to time, it can be slow, but it's just so demented and sarcastic, it just makes me laugh. I often hear this compared to Bad Santa and in tone that's not too far off the mark.  

Audio/Video: Shakes the Clown (1991) arrives on Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment in 1080p HD, framed in 1.78:1 widescreen - looking solid but not perfect. There's a nice looking grain field, but at times it looks noisy in certain scenes, blacks aren't the deepest, but colors look nicely bright and saturated, the clown make-up and costumes look great in HD. There's not a lot of depth but the clarity is nice and the fine detail is plentiful. Audio wise we get an uncompressed English LPCM 2.0 stereo track, it does the job, well-balanced and clean, dialogue is crisp, and the tasty music cues from Muddy Waters, NRBQ, and composer Thomas Wright Scott (of The Blues Brothers) sounds very good. Optional English subtitles are provided. 

There's only one extras but as Mill Creek are not known for having new extras in their releases it's worth pointing out, we have a brand new audio commentary with Bobcat Goldthwait, Julie Brown, and Tom Kenny, which is a lot of fun. The trio reminisce about the making of the movie, working with the various cast, with Bobcat speaking about working with the Brady Bunch's Florence Henderson, who was apparently fond of blue humor, chitlin circuit comedienne LaWanda Page, Adam Sandler in in his first role, and the fallout Bobcat received from clowns following the scathing film, which he says was more an indictment of stand-up comics at the time, also pointing out that Milton Berle does not actually appear in one of the opening scenes, despite the familiar face, it's actually his friend Martin Charles Warner. It's a fun track and fans of the film should have a blast joining the trio for their memories about making the movie. 

This release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork, pretty standard release from Mill Creek, but this time around they go a step beyond and offer up an O-ring (slipcase) with pretty much the same artwork but with a white background instead of yellow. That they've also included a new audio commentary with stars Bobcat Goldthwait, Julie Brown, and Tom Kenny is something special. Mill Creek have a vast and varied catalog of titles, everything from b-movie schlock to Hollywood blockbusters, I would absolutely love to see them go above and beyond and actually create and/or license new extras for their genre titles, it really does make them more desirable. They've also announced their first Steelbook with the upcoming Blu-ray release of 90's supernatural thriller Flatliners (1990)- keep it up Mill Creek!   

Special Features: 

- New Audio Commentary with Bobcat Goldthwait, Julie Brown, and Tom Kenny.

Shakes the Clown (1991) gets  fun Blu-ray release from Mill Creek, I am pleased they sprung for the commentary track and the slipcase, otherwise it's bare-bones, but hopefully they're starting off small and we see more newly-produced extras from them in the future. This is a fun, sarcastic, drunk-clown movie, and one deserving of some space in your movie collection, if you enjoy the other movies that Bobcat directed, or Bad Santa, there's a good chance you're gonna love this slice of black humored clown comedy.