Charles Crichton’s “A Fish Called Wanda” is probably the last bit of Monty Python cinema we’ve ever gotten, and it embodies much of the same lunacy of the comedy troupe while also standing alone as one of the funniest movies ever made. “A Fish Called Wanda” is a zany and often raucous comedy that teams a slew of brilliant actors together for a unique, film that mixes sub-genres quite well and never loses sight of its comic themes, and Python-esque humor that borders on absurd without ever being ridiculous.
After a diamond heist leads a foursome of crooked thieves to begin double crossing each other, gangster George is represented by barrister Archie Leach. Leach is suspected by George’s cohorts to know where he hid the very sought after diamonds they acquired during their heist, and when they come up with dead ends, they decide to go after Archie. Led by arrogant and pompous Otto, played by Kevin Kline, sexy wife Wanda, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, makes a play for Archie, hoping to seduce him and convince him to give up the location of the diamonds. Along the way, fellow thief Ken, who dons a debilitating stutter, sets out to murder an elderly woman who viewed the entire robbery. But things go from bad to absolutely insane when he finds it’s shockingly harder to assassinate her than he ever realized.
Despite teaming up two Python icons John Cleese and Michael Palin, both of whom get their moments of pure hilarity, what also helps are the absolutely amazing supporting performances by Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline. Kline is especially top notch, offering a performance that tends to deliver laugh after laugh. You’d think it’d be tough to keep up with Cleese and Palin, but Kline is right at home with their lunacy, playing a slimy, cunning thief who will do anything to find the location of the diamonds. While “A Fish Called Wanda” is a dark comedy, it has a ball staging some truly funny moments of deception of odd violence.
There’s Kline’s infamous fish eating sequence, and character Ken’s insanely ridiculous failed efforts to kill the elderly neighbor. Not to mention, co-writer Cleese includes the running gag of Otto mocking Ken’s stutter, which is a source of pure hysterics time and time again. “A Fish Called Wanda” is in the tradition of “The Ladykillers” and “The Hot Rock.” It’s a zany, intelligent, and laugh out loud comedy masterpiece that wields an utterly brilliant slew of actors, all of whom shine in their performances. If you love dark comedies, “A Fish Called Wanda” is right up your alley, and is worth re-watching again and again.
The new release from Arrow Vieo comes with a trivia track along with the optional audio, an original trailer for the film, an introduction recorded for the film’s original release with star John Cleese, twenty four deleted and alternate sense with introductions by John Cleese, clocking in at almost a half hour altogether. There’s a documentary on the film’s locations titled “Fish Your Were Here” at sixteen minutes. There’s a 1988 documentary on the making of the film called “John Cleese’s Final Farewell Performance,” a fifteenth anniversary retrospective documentary titled “Something Fishy,” at thirty minutes in length.
There’s an appreciation by Vic Pratt of the BFI National Archive, at sixteen minutes in length, and an interview with production designer Roger Murray-Leach clocking in at seven minutes. Finally there’s an audio commentary with star John Cleese. The extras for this new release are long and informative, with excellent and detailed documentaries and featurettes thrown in. Among the external extras, there’s a slip cover, reversible cover art, and a forty page booklet with cast and crew information, an essay by Sophie Monks Kaufman, titled “Laughing and Not Laughing at a Fish Called Wanda,” and an essay by John Morrish titled “Wanda Lust,” about the restoration of the film, and the transfer to Blu-ray.