Review Date: October 27, 2002
Released by: Paramount
Release date: 9/3/2002
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
After the success of Alfred Hitchcock's groundbreaking Psycho
, it seemed commonplace in film narrative to link horror with 'human' monsters; ones no different than you or I. What also happened, in the years to follow, was a subverted link between the psychopath and family values, particularly towards the mother. Movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
, Mother's Day
, Scream 2
, Dressed to Kill
and practically all of the Friday the 13th
films owe more than a tip of the hat to Psycho
for introducing a deranged respect for the family. Eight years after releasing Psycho
, Paramount okayed a novel by a then unknown William Goldman (The Stepford Wives
), which eventually materialized into the film: No Way To Treat A Lady
. The movie is indebted to Psycho
, but on its own it is still an excellent cinematic work. Has Paramount treated this film kindly on DVD? Let's find out.
The film begins with a cheery priest humming his way into a New York apartment. He knocks on the door of a widowed lady, telling her he would like to discuss religion. She lets him in, and they sit for a drink of wine. Moments later she lies dead with lipstick imprinted on her forehead. Mrs. Himmel, a single Dutch woman, lets in a kindly plumber and eventually suffers the same fate as the first woman. These murders, and the many more that followed, were not the doings of a priest and a plumber; they were impeccably practiced performances by Christopher Gill (Rod Steiger
Gill is a deranged psychopath, and in his murders he seeks attention not only by the authorities, but also by the press. When one of his murders is allocated to a mere back-page paragraph in the newspaper, Gill becomes infuriated and scolds young detective Morris Brummel (George Segal
) by phone. Gill also flies off the handle at Brummel when the papers call him a "sexual pervert" and disrespect his mother. Since being appointed to the case, Brummel has had many run-ins with Gill through the phone; each time with Gill sporting a different accent and character. While searching for witnesses, Brummel also runs into the beautiful Kate Palmer (Lee Remick
), and the two eventually fall in love. Brummel is a timid mothers boy, and his newly found love for Kate brings a power and determination out of him that he never knew he had.
Unfortunately for Brummel though, there is still a maniac killer on the loose and no time for love. After five kills, Gill vows to Brummel that he will no longer murder, but such a promise is not good enough for a detective in need of a suspect. Brummel decides to beat Gill at his own game by staging a copycat murder of his own. Gill is enraged by Brummel's antics, and decides to victimize Kate. Will Brummel be able to stop the charading killer, or will Gill fulfill is vengeful act?
No Way To Treat A Lady
is an excellent thriller that still holds up well today. For a 60's film this is extremely fast paced, building layers of suspense throughout its runtime. The editing intercuts perfectly between Steiger's murders and Segal's hunt for justice, making for a very satisfying game of cat and mouse. There is also some wonderfully staged comic relief between Segal and his overly Jewish mother. While many 60's films today seem largely overwrought and anticlimactic, Lady is a glowing exception. In his lengthy career, writer William Goldman has proven his ability to present intriguing and profound characters amidst timeless stories (his Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
and The Princess Bride
screenplays have been unanimously praised by all generations). Goldman's story is every bit as fresh today as it was 35 years ago, which is a claim few writers can make of their past work.
Goldman's script, however great it is, could have largely been negated if it weren't for the great performances by all the leads. A very young George Segal presents a detective that is nicely different than the traditionally hardnosed and masculine detectives that encompass cinema today. His character is shy but intelligent; his mother berates him constantly and as a result he lacks charm and is awkward around the ladies. Lee Remick (The Omen
) plays a character that, like Segal's, subverts the modern conventions of traditional characters. Unlike most love interests, she dominates the relationship (rather than the man doing so) and she is full of wit and strength.
The best performance though, is undoubtedly Steiger's multi-tiered tour de force as the psychotic killer. He presents a killer with a troubled past and a panache for characterization. All of Gill's characters in the film: the plumber, the priest, the cop, and even the elderly lady are all very thought out and convincing. Like all great screen villains he presents a killer with true motives and meticulous planning skills; a true threat to the viewer and the characters alike. He is imbalanced and deranged, but almost always composed, and his confidence makes him all the more imposing. His wonderfully done swan song at the end of the film gives credibility to his various characters, making them more than just a gimmick.
With the counter effects of Vietnam beginning to surface in culture, it is interesting to notice the shift from the supernatural "other" of the old Universal Monster films to a more humanistic monster. Like Norman Bates, Steiger's character is a mild mannered male, one whom you see everyday on the street. The 60's represented a time of a changing villain, from monster to human; a transition that would become fully realized in the 70's with movies like The Last House on the Left
, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
right around the corner, this may be the perfect film for you fans of older, more suspenseful cinema. Steiger's character presents enough personalities in the film to put even Dana Carvey to shame; and with Halloween
being all about facades and dress-up, how can you go wrong with No Way To Treat A Lady
? It is suspenseful without ever showing a drop of blood, like many great films of the past, and the fact that it is still effective today is a testament to its quality.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, this is an absolutely stellar transfer by Paramount. The credit sequence suffers from mild dirt and grain, as do most pre-1990 films, but after that it is a truly eye-opening image. Colors are unbelievably rich and vibrant, especially in Remick's psychedelic apartment. Blues, reds, yellows; you name it, they all look fantastic here. Blacks look nearly just as good, with plenty of depth and delineation. For a film from 1968, it is amazing how beautiful the overall image looks. There is the occasional spec of white that pops up every so often, but it is largely ignorable. Kudos to Paramount here, the transfer on this disc is of…well, paramount quality.
English and French monaural tracks are the only ones included on this disc, but they serve the film just fine. The English track sounds great, presenting always-clear dialogue and rich music. The condition of the audio elements sounds so good though, that it is a shame that Paramount never opted for a 5.1 track. This is about as clear and concise of a track that anyone could expect to hear from a 1968 film.
Paramount continues its "No Way To Treat A Movie" motto by neglecting to include any supplements on this release. Not even a trailer can be found here, which is a real shame. Much could be said about the credentials of the film, so this is a real missed opportunity on Paramount's behalf.
No Way To Treat A Lady
is a solid suspense/thriller with an excellent story and a commendable cast. The screenplay, as well as Paramount's beautiful transfer, make the film seem much less dated than it really is. The omission of any extras is a shame, but this disc is still highly recommended. This is a largely overlooked and forgotten gem that represents one of the final classics of the fallen studio system. Check it out.
Movie - A-
Image Quality - A
Sound - B-
Supplements - N/A
- Running time - 1 hour 48 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Mono
- French Mono
- English Subtitles