Austin Powers: 10th Anniversary Special Edition Review
London! England! And Carnaby Street is swinging! Round the Elephant and Castle and down the King's Road comes International Man of Mystery Austin Powers (Mike Myers), photographer, author, spy and bon viveur. Women wanted him. Men wanted to be him. And as a dandy in sixties London, Austin Powers defends Queen and Country against the wicked wiles of Dr Evil (also Myers), one who is holding the country ransom for...one...million...dollars!
Austin Powers wants to keep this swinging party going, which means stopping Dr Evil. In the Electric Psychedelic Pussycat Swinger's Club Powers and Mrs Kensington (Mimi Rogers) stop one of Dr Evil's spies - a punch in the face and a judo chop! - but before the oaf-in-a-minidress can say a word, he falls dead from an arrow in his back, one fired from the crossbow held by Dr Evil. To the roof!
The building rattles, fire spills down onto the streets of Piccadilly Circus and groovy-looking chicks look up. Inside the Big Boy-shaped rocket, Dr Evil and his cat, Mr Bigglesworth, are slowly freezing, going into cryogenic stasis until the time is right once more. But as the man best placed to defeat Dr Evil, so too is Austin Powers. Holding tight to his very own crown jewels, Powers enters the freezing chamber, where he will remain for the next thirty years. In 1997, there is a panic at NORAD. Dr Evil has returned!
Ironically, one would also need to have been cryogenically frozen for the past thirty years. Having not watched it at all in the last decade, another twenty years would be required to have forgotten a sufficient amount of it so as to come to it anew. Ten years does not allow quite enough time to fully enjoy Austin Powers once again. It might be it is so memorable so as not to have forgotten any of it. Or it might be that it isn't a particularly funny film to begin with, offering not very many more than a dozen or so laughs in amongst the kind of comedy that, even if banana skins were scattered all about the sets, couldn't be any more obvious.
What concerns me as regards Austin Powers is that neither is it a particularly accurate portrayal of the Bond films that inspired it but neither is it very much funnier than one of the sillier Roger Moore films. Alotta Fagina introducing herself at the blackjack table might well be a decent enough gag but perhaps no better than did Plenty O'Toole in Diamonds Are Forever. That pigeon double-taking in Moonraker mightn't be very much cop but one is inclined to think of it in rather more kindly terms when faced with the Irish assassin Patty O'Brien and his lucky charms. As for there being a Number 2, even the most generous and now bankrupt of bookmakers would have refused bets for his being confused with pooh somewhere in the film.
No less a problem is the cheapness of the film. The sight of Dr Evil's men running alongside the nuclear weapon is used not once but twice, while stock footage of a rocket launch makes do for Dr Evil taking off from Piccadilly Circus. The sets look to be made of a combination of lollypop sticks and tinfoil, Robert Wagner, Carrie Fisher, Christian Slater, Will Ferrell and Rob Lowe seem to have generously donated their time while the various factories that double up as secret laboratories appear to have let the crew footle about during their quieter hours. Those security guards may not be extras at all, more actual employees milling around on a Sunday they'd rather have spent at home and rather surprised to see a film crew and a bald man in a Nehru jacket on the site.
Austin Powers is filmmaking on the cheap, which only adds to the sense of disappointment. The success of Airplane! and Young Frankenstein, probably the best of the spoofs, work on them not only being very funny but also sharp as a pin on recreating the films they're mocking. Take away the gags, the colour and lines like, "Listen Betty, don't start up with your white zone shit again!" and Airplane! could be Zero Hour!, complete with its hum of propellers. For his Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks used the same sets as Frankenstein, had his lightning crackle as did James Whale's and were it not for the monster puttin' on the ritz, it's is probably the best looking monster movie that Universal didn't get around to making. Austin Powers, on the other hand, isn't Bond. Neither is it Our Man Flint. In fact, it's not even Danger! Death Ray!, A 077 Challenge To The Killers or LSD Inferno: Hell For A Few Dollars More.
Then again, it has its share of memorable moments, not least in Powers' trying to three-point-turn a little golf buggy, Dr Evil's demands for a ridiculously small ransom amounts and, of course, all of Powers', "Do I make you horny, baby?" No one has ever filled a leather catsuit like Mimi Rogers, Myers geeks up well as Powers, Christian Slater has a great little cameo - "I've brought you your orange sher-BERT!" - and Michael York gets the job of the hopelessly straight Basil Exposition. Add in a great almost-final line, "Who throws a shoe?" to Random Task, and be assured there are some good gags but, for a comedy, not enough. Maybe give the it another twenty years.
Anamorphically presented in 2.35:1, the best that can be said about Austin Powers is that it's shown in its original aspect ratio. The picture is grainy, lacking in detail and looks to be washed out of what little colour there is in the scenes set in the modern-day, which, to be fair, is most of the film. Given how cheap Austin Powers is, though, it's probably fair to blame the original production for this as much as the DVD presentation with the greys of Dr Evil's lair being plain, uninteresting and showing little in common with the funky colours of Katanga's in Live And Let Die. More of a problem comes with the state of the print, on which there are a number of noticeable marks, including white spots, dust and stray lines.
There is choice of two audio tracks, DD2.0 Stereo and DD5.1 Surround, both of which are fine but there's precious little between them. However, the dialogue is always clear, the smart little snippets of psychedelic pop that break up the film sound good and the occasional effects are fine. However, neither soundtrack is at all showy and while there's some presence in the rear channels in the DD5.1, there's nothing to get excited about. There are no subtitles.
Commentary: Actor/writer/producer Mike Myers and director Jay Roach have recorded a track for this film and, frankly, it's not a good one. There's a noted cliche regarding comedians not being funny in real life but I tend to look upon that as being pointed at someone like Woody Allen, who made the Fellini-influenced Stardust Memories, rather than Mike Myers, who dressed up as Fat Bastard for Austin Powers 3. On the other hand, maybe it is precisely that Fat Bastard that points to the truth in the lack of laughs that come with this commentary in which Roach and Myers offer the verbal equivalent of stony faces, not finding a good deal to laugh about in their film and not giving the viewer much to laugh about either.
A Shagedelic Decade (17m19s): Like an episode of This Is Your Life that struggled with its celebrity guest list, this short feature looks back at the making of Austin Powers but does so without Mimi Rogers, Elizabeth Hurley or Mike Myers, rather making do with Michael York, Robert Wagner and Tom Arnold. As such, one doesn't learn anything at all other than everyone had a great deal of fun on the site, the cast were encouraged to ad-lib and that Mike Myers is a genius, which proves nothing other than 'genius' ought to be bandied about a lot less.
1997 Promo (4m33s): A booming voice introduces Austin Powers, which then overshadows the rest of the piece to such an extent that it's barely audible. Genuinely straining to hear it due to a quite shocking sound mix, this is a mix of on-set interviews, clips from the films and behind-the-scenes footage, which might well have been shown on Film '97. Although, had it been presented there as it is here, many a viewer would have been banging the side of their pre-flat panel televisions under the impression that the sound was on the blink.
Deleted Scenes (8m21s): Featuring two alternate endings - both of them Spy Who Loved Me-inspired finales in a lifeboat - and three deleted scenes, these add little, other than a pre-credits where-are-they-now? look at the cast and the flight attendants on Powers' jet telling the international man of mystery that they are no longer sexy stewardesses, will not be getting naked and there will be no 6pm orgy.
Groovy Guys And Girls: This section of the disc includes pages of text on a Spy Film Retrospective (Matt Helm, Derek Flint, Harry Palmer, etc.), The Cast and Famous Cameo Clips (Carrie Fisher, Tom Arnold, Rob Lowe, Christian Slater and Burt Bacharach with an option to play their scenes in the film).
Finally, there is a Trailer (2m15s), TV Spots (1m54s), a Music Video (2m30s) with the Ming Teas and a quiz, in which I surprised myself by getting all thirty questions right. I should get out more.