The Fisher King
A friend recently rewatched the 1992 film “Hook” for the first time since he was a kid. The film held up for him, and halfway into the movie I got a text from him that said “Robin Williams was magic.” This thought stuck in my head as I watched Terry Gilliam’s 1991 movie “The Fisher King” which also stars Williams alongside Jeff Bridges. Williams' performance in the film is one of the finest of his career.
Bridges plays a shock jock who has been fired after a scandal involving things he said to one of his listeners while taking a call on the air. As he stumbles around trying to get his life together, he gets drunk and roams around Manhattan and through a series of events meets a homeless man named Perry (Williams) who is on a quest for The Holy Grail, which he believes is inside a home on the upper east side.
As they become unlikely friends, the Shock Jock finds that their lives are more intertwined than he could have ever imagined. “The Fisher King” is a wonderful movie. It’s full of humor and poignancy. It’s a look at the homeless population, and what people sometimes have to go through to become better. Bridges' character begins as an unrepentant jerk who seems happy to blast his brand of whatever out over the airwaves, yet by the end of the film his encounter with Perry has brought out more humanity in him than he ever thought possible.
As a member of that generation where the movies of Robin Williams was a huge part of my childhood, seeing him now in movies is sometimes truly heartbreaking. “The Fisher King” is truly an incredible performance, and in more than one moment of watching the film, I found myself crying watching him. What a gift he truly was to us all.
The Criterion Collection this month re-released “The Fisher King” as part of their line of 4K Ultra High Definition blu-rays. It’s the third time they’ve released the film, having issued it on laserdisc in 1993 and on blu-ray and DVD in 2015. Like other 4K upgrades to titles they’ve previously issued, this new release is a combo edition with the 2015 blu-ray included. The bulk of the bonus material is on that disc, as usual with most 4K releases that come with a blu-ray.
Let’s dive into what is new here. The 4K disc features a new 4K digital restoration from the 35mm camera negative that’s graded for Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range, with the final results approved by director Terry Gilliam. The results are really impressive. The film looks fantastic and is hands down the best it’s ever been presented on home video, and arguably better than a fresh 35mm print being projected on opening day.
The audio is presented as a DTS-HD Masters Audio 5.1 track, which essentially preserves the original theatrical audio mix, and this was sourced from the film’s 35mm magnetic audio masters. It sounds great, with full rich fidelity and good separation. The 4K disc also includes an audio commentary track by Gilliam that was recorded for the Criterion laserdisc release.
The bonus features included on the blu-ray disc are fantastic. These include interviews with Gilliam and the cast, the production team, and the screenwriter. A 2006 interview featuring the late Robin Williams is also included. A video essay featuring photos taken by Bridges during production, plus footage of him training to be a shock jock with an acting coach. Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Williams are also included, and wrapping up the set are costume tests and a trailer.
“The Fisher King” is an incredible movie and one that I was so happy to have finally seen. This new 4K UHD release by Criterion is well worth the upgrade if you have the 2015 disc, or if you don’t own the film in any form it’s easily the definitive release of the film on home video. Highly recommended. See you next week.