Shampoo Blu-ray Review

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Don't trust hairdressers... or politicians

by Casimir Harlow Nov 4, 2018 at 10:40 AM

  • Movies review

    Shampoo Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £17.99

    Shampoo Film Review

    Hal Ashby's sociopolitical reflection on parallels between sexual and political promiscuity, Shampoo, has Warren Beatty on top form.

    Released in a post-Watergate culture, but set just as Nixon was elected, Shampoo tells a fast-moving day-in-the-life-of chronicle of Beverly Hills hairdresser and socialite George Roundy (Beatty), whose clients, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends and affairs are all getting on top of him, threatening to spiral out of control spectacularly.

    George is seeing Jill (Goldie Hawn), but is sleeping with married woman Felicia (Lee Grant) as well as her teenage daughter (Carrie Fisher), and still yearning after ex Jackie (Julie Christie), who is now having her own affair with a married man, Felicia's husband Lester (Jack Warden). It's all very messy, with George juggling the relationships expertly to begin with, before half of them end up in a room together and his lies upon lies simply cannot stand up.

    As relevant today as it was over four decades ago.

    Playfully wielding a political allegory for the change in times - as a nation was about to find out what putting their trust in Nixon was going to get them - Shampoo is as much a Warren Beatty film (he co-wrote it with Chinatown scribe Robert Towne) as it is a Hal Ashby one, with the excitable and vastly underrated actor, enthusiastically bed-hopping, finding some curious charm to his lovable liar, and even cracking open a hint of vulnerability, particularly as the end draws near.

    It's interesting to think of the comparisons between sex and politics in a modern light: the concept of saying whatever you need to - promising whatever you need to - to close the deal, with the real truth only coming out in the cold light of day. Shampoo never lets on that it's playing such an analogous game, and as such it makes for a very clever morality play, working on several different levels, featuring a bunch of familiar faces at the top of their game, and boasting a razor-sharp wit that feels a bit like a precursor to the works of the likes of Aaron Sorkin. It's as relevant today as it was over four decades ago.

    Shampoo Blu-ray Picture

    Shampoo Shampoo Blu-ray Picture
    The Criterion Collection release Shampoo almost simultaneously on US and UK Blu-ray, with this Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release delivering the 4K-remastered presentation from the 35mm negative in excellent shape considering the age of the piece. The 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation is framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.

    A top piece of restoration work.

    Hardly a crystal clear picture, Shampoo was clearly always envisioned with a softer, more traditionally glitzy look commensurate to the period of production, but that doesn't mean that fine detail can't shine through, particularly in close-ups. It's a nicely textured piece, with the grain level intact and only frustratingly variable in a few occasional shots, where lighting or set-up was inadequate.

    The colour scheme has been lovingly rendered, with an organic, natural look to skin tones and outfits, and black levels are about as good as you would expect, mostly resolving well under this strong remaster. It's hardly a spectacular piece of naturally demo material, but if you consider the amount of detail that they've pulled out of the print - most obviously visible in the very final long shot of a car miles into the distance - it's more than easy to regard this as a top piece of restoration work.

    Shampoo Blu-ray Sound

    Shampoo Shampoo Blu-ray Sound
    As with the video, the original soundtrack enjoys a restoration here.

    As with the video, the original monaural soundtrack enjoys a restoration here, and promoted in both LPCM 1.0 mono, and also remixed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Both do excellent work with the piece, although the latter obviously provides a more overtly well-rounded affair that arguably delivers Shampoo in a more immersive package than ever previously experienced.

    Dialogue remains firmly prioritised, largely standing up with only a hint of tinniness at the upper ends, whilst effects - nominally atmospheric - deliver busy hairdressing salons, bustling restaurants and parties, and thrumming car and bike engine noises with aplomb, as well as a suitably engaging score in action beneath the whole piece. It's likely the best the film has ever sounded.

    Shampoo Blu-ray Extras

    Shampoo Shampoo Blu-ray Extras
    A few nice extras.

    Hardly packed with the kind of bevy of extras commensurate to a normal Criterion release, there are still a few nice extras including an Interview with the elusive star Warren Beatty himself, as well as a half-hour reflection on the film.

    Shampoo Blu-ray Verdict

    Shampoo Shampoo Blu-ray Verdict
    As relevant today as it was four decades ago.

    Shampoo enjoys an impressive UK Blu-ray bow courtesy of Criterion, who deliver impressive, remastered video and audio and a smattering of extras, leaving this a must-have purchase for fans of the film, and of Beatty's (and Ashby's) work.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.99

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