Prizzi’s Honor, 1985.
Directed by John Huston.
Starring Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner, Anjelica Huston, Robert Loggia, John Randolph, William Hickey, and Lee Richardson.
John Huston’s penultimate movie, Prizzi’s Honor, arrives on Blu-ray, but the bonus features leave a bit to be desired. You get trailers for five other movies and a commentary track featuring film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson. It’s still a worthwhile purchase if you’re a fan, though.
If you approach director John Huston’s Prizzi’s Honor with a frame of mind shaped by such films as The Godfather trilogy and Goodfellas, you’ll likely find yourself thrown by this movie’s tone. In fact, you might think that Huston was attempting a mob film only to fall flat, but the reality is that he was making a mob movie as seen through the lens of dark humor.
Prizzi’s Honor stars Jack Nicholson as Charley Partanna, a New York hit man who becomes infatuated with Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner). He begins a relationship with her, unaware that she carries out assassinations for hire too. Charley discovers that fact after killing her husband, who fleeced a casino, but he’s unaware that Irene is suspected by his mob bosses to be holding onto part of the money her dead spouse stole. He and Irene decide to get married.
Meanwhile, the mob boss’s granddaughter, Maerose (Anjelica Huston), wants to rekindle a past relationship with Charley, and her jealousy leads her to prove that Irene indeed has the money. Now the mob wants Irene dead, and Charley is caught between loyalty to his bosses (who will kill him if he sides with his wife) and his new spouse.
Prizzi’s Honor is based on a novel by Richard Condon, who adapted the book with Janet Roach. He wrote many novels that were considered thrillers but had a satirical bent to them, including four works in the Prizzi series and the well-known The Manchurian Candidate. Unlike many mob films, this movie isn’t concerned with mobsters shooting each other and asserting themselves with violence – there are many scenes in which people conduct negotiations as if they’re corporate lawyers, albeit attorneys with an undercurrent of “I’ll shoot you if this doesn’t work out” attitude.
Nicholson and Turner give admirable performances, with Nicholson even going so far as to put something in his mouth to give his oafish character a little overbite. While I’ve never been a big fan of Turner, she completely sells Irene as a woman who succeeds in passing herself off as a mild-mannered housewife who harbors a dark side. And let’s not forget that Anjelica Huston won an Oscar for her supporting role.
Prizzi’s Honor was nominated for seven other Academy Awards beyond the one Huston won, and it was considered one of the best films of 1985, but it hasn’t been remembered as well as other movies from that decade. As a result, it hasn’t gotten a lavish home video release, and this new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber continues this trend. You get a commentary track and five trailers for other movies.
The commentary features film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson conducting a non-screen-specific conversation about the film and those involved in the making of it. They’re a non-stop fountain of information about Huston’s career and other topics, and they play off each other well.
It’s a shame there wasn’t a short documentary commissioned for this release, but fans will have to take what they can get at this point.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★