Review: The Fortune

Blu-ray: The Fortune (1975)

The Mann Act is a Untied States federal law that was passed on 25th June 1910. It was named after Congressman James Robert Mann and in its original form made it a felony to engage in interstate or foreign commerce transport of “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose“. In addition to its stated purpose of preventing human trafficking, the law was used to prosecute unlawful pre-marital, extra-marital, and inter-racial relationships. The penalties would be applied to men whether or not the woman involved consented and, if she had consented, the woman could be considered an accessory to the offense.

Nicky (Warren Beatty) is a married man who is unable to take his mistress Freddie (Stockard Channing) across state borders to consummate their affair due to the aforementioned Mann Act. He concocts a plan with Oscar (Jack Nicholson) whereby Oscar marries Freddie and then the 3 of them can legally travel across state borders with Nicky posing as Freddie’s brother.

The plan slowly begins to unravel when Oscar finds out that Freddie is the heiress to a large fortune and that is why Nicky is desperate to be with her. When Oscar and Freddie consummate their marriage and Nicky finds out about it, the whole plan is turned on its head and the pair of them try to surreptitiously kill Freddie and get their hands on her money before she makes do on her promise to give it all away to charity.

Directed by Mike Nichols, The Fortune is a comedy that unfortunately did not do well at the box office upon its release, despite 2 fantastic performances from Beatty and Nicholson who were both huge cinematic draws at the time.

Sporting a crazy perm, Nicholson’s hair gives him an even more wild persona than usual, while Beattty’s inherent charm shows through no matter what the role. Both of them playing off each other with some witty verbal barbs and very amusing physical comedy.

Stockard Channing is wonderful as Freddie. Seemingly naive at first to all that is happening, she slowly reveals a more mature personality than initially shown and is not the emotional pushover that she was taken for.

A homoerotic thread runs through the entire movie, with Nicky and Oscar barely aware that their relationship could be more than just friends. It is only when Oscar sees Freddie dressed in Nicky’s clothes that he makes a sexual play for her…and succeeds.

The Fortune may not have found its audience back in 1975, but thanks to Powerhouse Films and its Indicator series of releases, this is the perfect time to get it in front of a large audience again, complete with the usual set of excellent special features.

• High Definition remaster
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with critic and film historian Nick Pinkerton
Mike Nichols and Elaine May in Conversation (2006, 69 mins): the two friends and collaborators discuss many aspects of filmmaking after a screening of May’s Ishtar at New York’s Walter Reade Theater
Professor Kyle Stevens on ‘The Fortune’ (2017, 6 mins): a new filmed appreciation by the author of Mike Nichols: Sex, Language, and the Reinvention of Psychological Realism
• Isolated Music and Effects Track
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet with a new essay by Martyn Conterio, Nichols, Beatty and Channing on The Fortune, a brief portrait of Carole Eastman, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
• UK premiere on Blu-ray
• Limited Edition of 3,000 copies

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Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.