Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Detective School Dropouts DVD Review

Two of the most inept detectives that ever bungled a case find themselves way over their heads in this wacky action adventure that leads them from Los Angeles to Rome and Venice.  Trying to reunite a pair of misplaced lovers, our incompetent duo begin a crazed caper with two Italian families–feuding for 1,700 years!  These misguided Americans solve no crimes, but provide an outrageous good time. The movie stars David Landsberg and Lorin Dreyfuss and was directed by Philip Otonni.  Filmed partly on location in Italy, this movie also provides some interesting locations for chases as well.

Film (2 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This is another Limited Edition Manufactured on Demand release which gives older catalog titles that appeal to a niche audience a chance to buy a movie that wouldn’t be released otherwise.  This movie about two inept detectives definitely falls into the niche category.  I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there that enjoyed this zany movie, but not enough to warrant a full scale studio release.  Actors Lorin Dreyfuss (brother of Richard) and David Lansberg teamed up to write this movie for them to star in.  It was later followed up by another movie that they did together called Dutch Treat.
In Detective School Dropouts David Lansberg plays Donald Wilson, a nebbish man who spends his every moment reading detective novels which costs him job after job.  Instead of performing his duties, he keeps reading his books so we witness him getting fired from many different jobs at the beginning of the movie.  Another individual who is in just as much trouble as Donald is Paul Miller (Loren Dreyfuss), who is a broke detective who is so far behind on his bills that he’s being threatened by his secretary over her missing pay.  Paul knows that without clients he has no chance of ever paying his bills so he advertises a detective school where he can bilk wannabe detectives for all their worth.  Enter Donald.
Since Donald has nothing to lose since the only thing that interests him is his detective novels, he answers Paul’s ad and starts attending the detective school.  Taking advantage of the gullible Donald, Paul charges him for things both real and imaginary and starts paying off his bills.  Eventually Donald catches on that he is being milked of all of his money and wants to quit until Paul has the brilliant idea to offer a partnership in the business to Donald which is just too enticing an opportunity for Donald to pass up.  Of course, there’s also a cost to becoming a partner.  Unknown to them, there’s a gang war going on between three Italian families (the Lombardi’s, the Falcone’s and the Zanetti’s) who are battling for control over the cheese industry.  While the Lombardi and Zanetti families assassinate each other, the Falcone family has decided to take control a different way and they’ve kidnapped the young woman named Caterina (Valeria Golino) who is about to marry a Zanetti family member.  For some reason they have taken her to America until their demands are met.
When Paul tries to pass off a lost dog that he spraypainted to match the missing dog, both him and Donald end up inside the house where Catarina is being held hostage and she manages to give them a note and a medallion to deliver to the Zanetti family.  When they try to return the medallion to Mario Zanetti as he boards a plane, they end up traveling with him to Italy along with Bruno Falcone who has followed them.  When Bruno slips poison in their drinks, only Mario takes a drink and drops dead along with Donald’s wallet on the floor.  After landing in Italy, the body and Donald’s wallet are discovered so the two bumbling detectives are soon being chased by not only the Falcone family but also the police.  The rest of the movie is spent with Donald trying to do the right thing and Paul trying to find a way to make some money while Bruno keeps trying to kill them.
As the only Cannon Group film that didn’t make money, this movie was ineptly directed, is full of cheesy dialogue and gags and it’s predictable as all get out, but despite all of that I’m ashamed to say it did make me laugh a couple of times.  Both actors give it their all and their earnestness is refreshing since it lacks the self-aware cynicism of today’s comedies.  There’s several recurring gags in the movie which don’t work most of the time, but when they do they are pretty funny.  One is Bruno’s constant attempts to kill them which always backfire on him which is kind of like watching a live action Wile E Coyote get his comeuppance.  Another is a married couple that has a loud obnoxious wife and her timid husband that she orders around the entire movie.  Much like Bruno, the married woman also takes abuse thanks to Donald and Paul.  This movie won’t be for everyone but for those that like the cheesy comedies from the 80′s, they will most likely really like this film.

Video (3 out of 5 stars) 

As a Manufactured on Demand disc, this movie looks decent but not as good as a traditional DVD would.  The movie looks soft throughout with only a light amount of detail evident.  Colors are faded and black levels are washed out. On the bright side, flesh tones are natural and consistent throughout the movie.  Between the film’s age and its low budget roots combined with being a MoD disc, this is probably the best this movie is going to look.

Audio (3 out of 5 stars) 

Detective School Dropout’s Dolby Digital track is also unsurprisingly average.  This is a front channel centric track that does its job but not much more.  Dialogue is clear as is the 80s synth score that’s as cheesy as the movie.  As expected, the rear channels aren’t really used.  Since this is a low budget 80s comedy on a manufactured on demand disc, I didn’t have high hopes but it’s decent enough for what it is.

Special Features (0 out of 5 stars) 

There are no special features on this disc which is really going to hurt the final score.

Final Thoughts (2 out of 5 stars) 

I generally love all of the comedies from the 80s but I somehow missed this one until now.  While I didn’t love it as much as I usually like comedies from that decade, it still made me laugh on occasion.  I know this is a cult favorite of a lot of people that grew up with the movie and loved it over the years, so I’m sure a lot of people will be happy that it’s now available to be ordered through this new program.
Order yours today!

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