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Terry Gilliam
Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl
Writing Credits:
Richard LaGravenese

Suicidally despondent because of a terrible mistake he made, a former radio DJ finds redemption in helping a deranged homeless man who was an unwitting victim of that mistake.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 137 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 6/23/2015

• Audio Commentary by Director Terry Gilliam
• Deleted Scenes
• “The Tale of The Fisher King” Featurettes
• “The Tale of The Red Knight” Featurette
• “Jeff’s Tale” Featurette
• “Robin’s Tale” Featurette
• “Jeff and Jack” Featurette
• Costume Tests
• 5 Trailers
• Booklet


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-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Fisher King: Criterion Collection (1991) [Blu-Ray]

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 18, 2023)

After a career with Monty Python that granted him a lot of autonomy, Terry Gilliam became a feature film director who always worked from his own screenplays. Always – until 1988’s Adventures of Baron Munchausen became an expensive flop.

With his career at low ebb, Gilliam did the unthinkable: he worked as “director for hire” with 1991’s The Fisher King. Apparently this proved positive for his future prospects, as King turned a profit and allowed Gilliam to go back to his own pursuits with 1995’s even more successful 12 Monkeys.

Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) used to host a New York radio talk show where he would make outrageous comments at his listeners. After his insensitive remarks prompt a regular caller to go on a killing spree, Jack spirals downward and becomes suicidal.

As Jack nears his lowest ebb, he meets a seemingly mentally unbalanced homeless man named Parry (Robin Williams). This encounter gives Jack a reason to live, as he seeks to help and redeem Parry.

That sounds like a painfully melodramatic story that could easily go off the rails in the hands of the wrong director. With Gilliam behind the camera, though, King seems much less likely to embrace the narrative’s natural push toward sappiness than otherwise might become the case.

Does Gilliam manage to avoid these potential pitfalls? To a degree, but the end product feels less inventive and distinctive compared to Gilliam’s prior fare.

Granted, a lot of that seems inevitable given the nature of the story. Whereas all his prior efforts resided firmly in the world of fantasy, King takes place in the real world.

The real world as viewed through Gilliam’s semi-distorted lens, of course. Nonetheless, King definitely emphasizes a sense of reality absent from his earlier flicks.

Inevitably, that leaves King as less inventive than those prior movies since it needs to hew to a believable setting. The film allows Gilliam occasional flights of fancy, but it simply lacks the same opportunities for wild fantasy.

That said, Parry offers some Time Bandits-style flights of fancy. While King places this modern-day knight in an urban setting, the film allows him to come across as larger than life and not especially realistic.

In other words, a Gilliam character – especially when Parry and other homeless guys break into a showtune as they defend Jack. Gilliam uses Parry and others to emphasize his sense of the outrageous and fantastic.

This allows King to offer something unusual for its genre. Based on the plot, one might assume it’d bring a simple feel-good tale of a guy who hits rock bottom and rebounds via helpful deeds.

Gilliam seems unable to generate a “by the numbers” tale, and that means he constantly seems at odds with himself here. King provides a fairly conventional story/script that places an unconventional director in an awkward position.

Gilliam appears eager to break free from the story’s confines but he remains somewhat handicapped by the nature of the narrative. This means Gilliam’s attempts to turn King into a “Terry Gilliam Movie” can feel awkward much of the time.

It doesn’t help that King can feel pretty dated. Some of that simply comes from the Jack character, as he represents the Howard Stern style of “shock jock” popular 30 years ago, a format that seems to have substantially faded over that span.

King also comes with a very 90s view of the homeless and society in general. Of course, it should feel like part of its era, but nonetheless, these elements “age” the movie and make it seem too much like a product of is time that doesn’t translate especially well to the 2020s.

Gilliam enjoys a good cast, none of whom seem to blend well with Gilliam’s style. Williams essentially plays “the Robin Williams Character” – with a dollop of drama injected – while Bridges and others overact fairly relentlessly.

It feels like all other than Williams couldn’t adjust to Gilliam’s style of heightened reality so they overdid it. For reasons I can’t comprehend, Mercedes Ruehl won an Oscar for her excessively broad performance, but she doesn’t sit alone, as everyone here goes over the top.

Ultimately Fisher King feels like a “bridge” movie, one that allowed Gilliam to go from the pure fantasy of Munchausen to the darker sci-fi of 12 Monkeys. It just doesn’t feel like a great match for the director, as his style butts heads with the story he wants to tell.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

The Fisher King appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A product of its era, this became a largely positive presentation.

Sharpness varied but usually appeared pretty good. Some interiors and nighttime shots could be a little on the soft side, but much of the film displayed nice accuracy.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also failed to appear, and grain felt natural.

The film’s palette leaned toward earthy tones, with a reddish/orange slant much of the time. Within these choices, though, the colors felt appropriate.

Blacks appeared dark and dense, and shadows looked smooth despite the minor softness that manifested during low-light elements. Though it could show its age, the image usually fared pretty well.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it worked fine for its vintage as well. Given the movie’s ambitions, it didn’t always sizzle, but it packed a decent punch when necessary.

Music showed good stereo presence, and the various channels contributed solid engagement to the side and rear. Much of the material remained atmospheric, but the movie’s wilder scenes – like Jack’s introduction to Parry – managed to open up the side and rear speakers in a moderate manner.

Audio quality also seemed fine. Speech was reasonably natural and concise, while music showed acceptable pep and clarity.

Effects brought us accurate enough material, though some mild distortion cropped up at times. The soundtrack held up well over the last 32 years.

As we shift toward extras, we begin with an audio commentary from director Terry Gilliam. Recorded for a 1991 laserdisc, he offers a running, screen-specific look at story/characters and the screenplay, cast and performances, sets and locations, costumes and production design, music, editing and connected domains.

If I looked at my reviews, maybe I’d find a Gilliam commentary that bored me. I can’t think of any, though, and this one doesn’t deviate from that pattern.

As always, Gilliam provides frank and insightful. He gets into a good array of subjects and delivers a consistently informative and engaging discussion.

Six Deleted Scenes follow. We get “Jack and Sondra’s Love Life” (1:06), “Lydia Dances” (1:33), “Jack Locates Lydia” (1:45), “Beth, Jack’s New Girl” (2:37), “Jack Revisits Parry’s Friends” (1:47) and “Jack Hallucinates” (1:05).

These tend to feel largely superfluous. Some added character material and exposition materializes, but none of the clips seem especially valuable.

We can view the scenes with or without commentary from Gilliam. He doesn’t offer the most detailed notes, but he gives us info about the sequences and why he cut them.

Split into two parts, The Tale of The Fisher King spans a total of one hour, 25 seconds. It involves Gilliam, screenwriter Richard LaGravenese, producer Lynda Obst, and actors Mercedes Ruehl, Jeff Bridges, and Amanda Plummer.

“Tale” looks at what brought Gilliam to the film, the development of the script and its path to the screen, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, costumes, and some scene specifics.

Given the participants involved, one shouldn’t expect “Tale” to offer an all-encompassing view of the production. However, one should anticipate a rich look at the topics covered, as this becomes a terrific glimpse of the subjects at hand.

The Tale of the Red Knight goes for 22 minutes, 40 seconds and offers notes from Keith Greco and Vincent Jefferds. Those two designed the movie’s “Red Knight” and they take us on a tour of those elements in this informative piece.

With Jeff’s Tale, we find an 11-minute, 38-second piece that focuses on photos Bridges took during the shoot. Along with narration from Bridges, we see these during an enjoyable look behind the scenes.

Jeff and Jack goes for 20 minutes, one second and features Bridges again. As we see video shots from the set, we get insights about how Bridges formed his character. Expect another useful program.

Next comes Robin’s Tale, a 19-minute, 10-second Williams interview from 2006. He discusses his experiences during the King production in this moderately informative chat.

In addition to five trailers, we locate three minutes, one second of Costume Tests. These show Plummer, Ruehl, Bridges and Williams in various outfits. It becomes a decent glimpse of that domain.

The set concludes with a booklet. It mixes credits, art and an essay from critic Bilge Ebiri to finish the package on a positive note.

For the first time in his career, Terry Gilliam worked from a script he did not write for The Fisher King. This proves to become an awkward collaboration, as his signature style never quite meshes with the screenplay. The Blu-ray brings generally good picture and audio along with a nice array of bonus materials. King doesn’t click on a consistent basis.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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