The Big Fix
Richard Dreyfuss, riding high on the success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Goodbye Girl (for which he won an Oscar), produced and starred in this quirky 1978 comedy-thriller, adapted from Roger L Simon’s cult novel. Playing Moses Wine, a sixties’ radical-turned-private eye, Dreyfuss is ably supported by a wealth of soon-to-be-famous co-stars, including Bonnie Bedelia, John Lithgow and F Murray Abraham.
Jeremy Paul Kagan's The Big Fix makes its region B debut on Blu-ray from Indicator, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The picture has been encoded at 1080p/24hz.
Indicator is using a master supplied to them by Universal and it's a very dated one that also shows signs of artificial sharpening. Detail levels do end up coming off looking fine enough, even allowing one to make out the individual curls on Richard Dreyfuss' head, but the picture is incredibly noisy. Like, noisy noisy. Grain is left intact but it never looks natural or clean, either coming off thick and blocky or really buzzy (mosquito noise). Finer details, like those found on Dreyfuss' jacket or on the grills of cars, show some horrendous shimmering effects, jagged edges and edge halos making their presence known as well.
The source itself appears to be in decent shape: there are some marks and bits of dirt but nothing I would call heavy. Colours do look sharp themselves, reds, greens, and blues all looking exceptional. Black levels are also clean, and shadow details still come through.
Unfortunately this is just another case of Indicator dealing with a sub-par master, and I highly doubt this film will see a newer restoration anytime in the near future. Indicator can usually polish these things up well enough, their excellent encodes being good enough most of the time, but I can only guess that the master for this film is just severely limited to begin with, and there was really no hiding its issues without compromising the image in other ways. It unfortunately has a very digital look when all is said and done.
Surprisingly the lossless PCM 1.0 monaural soundtrack has some power behind it. Dialogue is sharp and clean, and Conti's score shows off some impressive highs and lows. I didn't notice any heavy damage, and the audio doesn't sound to be filtered. It sounds pretty good.
Indicator attempts to put together a decent little special edition for the film, though the results come out a bit mixed thanks primarily to the included audio commentary featuring David Jenkins, editor for Little White Lies Magazine. I feel Jenkins is doing his best to keep things engaging and informative but there is only so much that can probably be said about the film. Though I try to not comment on the films themselves, I'll at least say that The Big Fix isn't a terrible film by any means, it just falls somewhere on the mediocre spectrum. It's a part of the neo-noir boom of the time, something of a "baby boomer" take on the subgenre, laced with cynicism in its addressing the regrets of how life turned out after the 60's, almost like The Big Chill meets The Big Sleep. There's a possibility of that sounding interesting, but even then its a pretty shallow well to pull anything from and I feel any commentator would have very little to work with. Jenkins touches on the genre aspects and influences along with the film's politics and sense of nostalgia, even providing some historical context here and there where it makes sense. But a lot of the track features Jenkins simply talking about the actors in the film (even charting Dreyfuss' unlikely rise to stardom) and referencing IMDB a lot of the time, going as far as describing the photo that appears on the site under one actor's bio, as though he looked up this material just before recording. There's also a lot of dead space, and you can tell when he's stretching to find material to talk about.
While I think Jenkins' passion is clearly around noir I didn't get any sense of that passion for this film, and I'm at a loss as to why he decided to come in and talk about it. The only comments I recall him making with any definitive opinion are around what didn't work: he doesn't like Conti's score (which is pretty bad) and thinks Kagan is lousy at staging action scenes (no argument here). I liked the track Jenkins provided for Indicator's 5 Against the House and was curious what he would contribute to this boomer noir, but I just felt he had little actual interest or just didn't know how to approach it. Maybe a video essay focussing on its place alongside other neo-noir/baby boomer films coming out at this time in the late 70's/early 80's would have sufficed. Though the commentary tracks on Indicator's discs are more often good than not, and I appreciate that they still find value in them, simply having a commentary for the sake of having a commentary helps no one.
The rest of the material found on the disc is fine enough. There is a new 7-minute interview with author/screenwriter Roger L. Simon, who talks about the origins of his novels and getting a film version made. Interestingly, Warner Bros. had been looking to adapt another one of his novels with Dreyfuss in the same role prior to The Big Fix being made, but that one fell through. Indicator also digs up a couple of archival television interviews from the time of the film's release, one featuring director Kagan, Simon, and producer Carl Borack, and the other featuring actor Richard Dreyfuss, both sourced from raw footage and running 7-minutes and 5-minutes respectively. They were clearly done to promote the film but I actually found Dreyfuss' interview to be worthwhile, the actor talking about what his Oscar win for The Goodbye Girl had done, or hadn't done, for his career.
Much to my surprise, the best supplement on here ends up being an interview from Kagan himself, which has been conducted over Zoom. It's immediately clear that it's going to be a little different than most when it opens with Kagan introducing himself through what appears to be a muppet/puppet based on his likeness. After that original introduction Kagan then gets into his career and explains how he came to become a filmmaker, which he attributes mostly to be in the right place at the right time. He does talk about the production of The Big Fix to a satisfying degree (which includes Dreyfuss' broken hand in the film and how Mandy Patinkin was cast, something Jenkins only points out in his commentary), but I was more enthralled with his discussion around his early days in film school and how things differ today. It's a solid 22-minute contribution and I almost wish it was longer.
The release then closes with a gallery (featuring promotional material, behind-the-scenes photos and storyboards) and a trailer that doesn't seem to know how to market the film. Indicator also includes a booklet, and it's of their usual excellent quality. There is an essay by Andrew Nette that looks at the rise of a new kind of private eye during this period, bringing up Altman's The Long Goodbye, though Nette attributes the shift to Shaft. There is also an essay/introduction written by Richard Dreyfuss in 2000, which ends up being a reflection on the 60's. Following that is a short profile on Edith Head, who did work on some of the costumes for the film (though she points out that a lot of what was used was store-bought), followed by a reprint of an interview with Kagan performed by Michel Sineux for the French journal Positif. The booklet then closes with a selection of critical responses to the film. Tom Milne didn't care much for it but both Gordon Gow and Roger Ebert found some value in it.
The Kagan interview and booklet are great additions, but a couple, like the commentary, feel to be here only to pad out the material.
I feel as though the intent of this release was to shine the light on a film that has otherwise been forgotten and/or overlooked, but the features are hampered by the fact there just isn't all that much to say about the film. Kagan's interview is fun, and the booklet is up to Indicator's usual standards, but the commentary feels to exist just to pad out the features. Universal's dated master also doesn't help matters.