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Darling LiliDarling Lili on DVD

Julie Andrews stars as Lili Smith, or Schmidt depending upon which side you supported in World War 1.

She’s a German spy and famous entertainer in this Blake Edwards film that doesn’t ever really decide whether it wants to be a war thriller, musical, romance or slapstick comedy. All of these very diverse elements are there, and each is well done, but while most of these elements can work together without fighting, the thriller and slapstick comedy parts seem at odds.

Still, how’s this for pluses: Julie Andrews and some of the best biplane dogfights we’ve ever seen on film. That would be enough to get us watching this, and those aspects of the film are first rate. Andrews, who is always fantastic, gets to stretch her image a bit here. She's no goodie two shoes as she has been so often stereotyped; she's skillfully playing both sides against the middle, keeping the home fires burning while stoking those who want to burn the Allied house down with plenty of kindling.

There's music, too, from the era and via new songs by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini that are okay. But this isn't really a musical. It's a spy drama. And a romance. And a slapstick comedy.

Sorry to keep going back to that. We enjoyed the movie quite a bit, but that was in spite of the split personality that makes it seem a tad weird.

Lili is given a big assignment, to squeeze dry American flyboy Major Larrabee (Rock Hudson) and pass on the guts he spills to her masters.

And, of course, here is where her espionage career starts heading for the dumper. While she's letting Hudson woo her she starts falling in love with him, causing the expected angst.

Meanwhile, the French authorities so often skewered by Blake Edwards show up to tell Lili that they suspect Larrabee's divulging info to some woman entertainer - yet these Clouseaus don't seem to note any irony in the fact that while they're taking Lili into their confidence they're too dense to even suspect her.

There ensues for these fellows some uncomfortable times trying to keep Lili and Larrabee under surveillance, and they never really do figure things out, though they manage to screw things up enough to give jealous Lili a way to punish Larrabee and an innocent woman while she skates.

Does she skate, or does she throw off the dark side of the force to embrace good in time for the final credits to roll? You'll have to watch for yourself.

Hudson just seems to be walking through this movie, and he's so outclassed by Andrews we aren't sure he should be in this movie, but 'twasn't our choice to make so what can you do?

The rest of the supporting cast is good, especially as noted the unnamed flyboys who perform the stunt flying. They are great, as are many of the aerial shots.

The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the picture is excellent, very clean, sharp and bright with rich colors. We did notice some edge enhancement, however.

Audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround remix and for the most part it's very good considering the age of the source material.

Extras include 19 "additional" scenes, some of which may only be enhanced versions of scenes that are actually included in the film. Best of these are the dogfights, which are repeated from the movie.

There's also the trailer.

Darling Lili, from Paramount Home Entertainment
107 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Julie Andrews, Rock Hudson, Jeremy Kemp
Written by Blake Edwards and William Peter Blatty, produced and directed by Blake Edwards


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October 15, 2005