MY CHAUFFEUR (1986) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: David Beaird
Vinegar Syndrome

Deborah Foreman is upsetting the world of gentlemen's gentlemen when she becomes MY CHAUFFEUR, a memorable Crown International 1980s pic making its Blu-ray debut from Vinegar Syndrome.

Of the many companies owned by wealthy Witherspoon (E.G. Marshall, CREEPSHOW) is Brentwood Limousine Limited, a chauffeur company upon which he unexpectedly foists spunky dishwasher girl Casey Williams (Foreman, APRIL FOOL'S DAY) as the sole female among a cadre of older, reserved bachelor men – among them Julius Harris (TROUBLE MAN), John O'Leary (THE LAST STARFIGHTER), and Laurie Main (TIME AFTER TIME) – with whom she clashes almost immediately. With some encouragement from fellow chauffeur O'Brien (Sean McClory, THEM!), who is informing on her progress to Witherspoon, Casey weathers the difficult assignments on which boss McBride (Howard Hessemen, PRIVATE LESSONS) sends her to discourage her during the trial period. She whips punk rocker Catfight (Leland Crooke, MAID TO ORDER) and his bimbos into shape, helps a broke college student (Stan Foster, ACTION JACKSON) impress his date (Regina Hooks, BREWSTER'S MILLIONS) with a free ride, and gives a reserved young sheik the time of his life with the unexpected help of a conman ("introducing Penn & Teller"). Casey only strikes out with Battle (Sam Jones, FLASH GORDON), Witherspoon's handsome, icy, arrogant, workaholic executive son. Casey and Battle discover the thin line between love and hate when they are stranded in the desert and share a bed while seeking shelter from a thunderstorm. Turning a new leaf, Battle courts Casey and tries to convince her to marry him, but doing so may expose some family skeletons Witherspoon has been eager to keep hidden.

Not the usual Crown International sex comedy, MY CHAUFFEUR is more of a thirties screwball comedy with 1980s music, clothes, hair, and a bit of T&A. The script is by turns sweet and silly, with a climactic set of soapy revelations rushing through to a happy ending that seems less trite than it really is thanks to the game performances of Foreman, Marshall, McClory, and even the more limited Jones (who lets loose in more ways than one with a drunken nude romp through a public park as part of the film's unpermitted shoot). Production value is surprisingly lush throughout, although there is an economy to the photography of Harry Mathias (CREATURE) in which it appears quite obvious that several scenes were shot on the same days as the camera movements throughout the film at these same locations are identical (the pan and dolly in each time O'Brien, Battle, and Casey come down the stairs to Witherspoon's study, the identical crane down from the stained glass exterior of an office building as Casey arrives to pick up Witherspoon and later Battle, and even pans across the landscape alongside the same stretch of California mountain road previously seen in Crown's THE HEARSE which was also a Miramark production). Having avoided this title for a number of years as just another Crown sex comedy, MY CHAUFFEUR proved an unexpected delight to this reviewer who hopes Vinegar Syndrome will do a boxed set of the studio's 1980s comedy output from the fun TOMBOY, JOCKS, and MY TUTOR to the likes of WEEKEND PASS and HUNK.

Released on VHS by Vestron, MY CHAUFFEUR made the rounds on DVD like most Crown titles with barebones fullscreen transfers from Rhino Home Video, BCI, and Mill Creek before Vinegar Syndrome's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray derived from a 2K scan of the original camera negative. The image is crisp and colorful with only the deliberate use of diffusion in some exteriors and backlit interiors impeding resolution occasionally. The new transfer restores a degree of "studio" gloss shared by this film and Crown's similarly-themed TOMBOY. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono mix sounds great throughout in terms of dialogue and music while the optional English SDH subtitles transcribe both dialogue and lyrics. The music score of Paul Hertzog (BLOODSPORT) is presented isolated on a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, highlighting some nice 1980s synth work and pop/punk songs.

The film is accompanied by an audio commentary by writer/director David Beaird (SCORCHERS) and co-star Crooke. Beaird reveals that Crown was interested in his previous sex comedy PARTY ANIMAL but the producers sold it to another distributor. When Crown contacted him about doing another project, they revealed that they had a backseat car set and an idea about a female chauffeur but did not like the previous hired writer's script. Hired to rewrite the script for five thousand dollars, Beaird approached it as three driving vignettes with an overarching story. Aware of Crown's reputation for softcore exploitation, he hoped to sell Crown on more of a screwball comedy approach, even to the extent of rewriting just the descriptive action of his script in a spicier manner in order to preserve what he actually wanted to shoot. The film was initially titled A CLASS ACT but Crown decided to rename it to tie-in to MY TUTOR. Beaird attributes much of the film's casting success to David Cohn (NEON MANIACS) who filled out the chauffeur staff with character actors while discussing how he helped the Meisner Method-trained Foreman get into character by showing her Carole Lombard movies, as well as how he directed Jones who was "shell-shocked" from his the makers of FLASH GORDON. Crooke recalls being cast for the role only for producer Mark Tenser (COACH) to insist that the punk rocker was British even though the script and Beaird had not specified it. He and Beaird also discuss Marilyn Jacobs Tenser (GALAXINA) being on the set and having to flatter her in order to convince her to let them shoot a scene that she deemed as animal cruelty (even though the animal was an obvious fake).

A secondary audio commentary by production assistant Jeff McKay is a more free-wheeling, looser, less organized discussion (as admitted by McKay) mixing anecdotes of his time on the set, factoids about the locations, and his thoughts on the plot. It is not as riveting a discussion as the other track but it does shed more light on the production as well as independent filmmaking in the 1980s. Foreman appears in "License to Drive" (15:59), a new interview in which she discusses her beginnings as a teen model, the move to Los Angeles and her role in VALLEY GIRL before coming to MY CHAUFFEUR. She fondly remembers Beaird, Tenser, as well as Jones and their chemistry. Interestingly, she notes that the film originally had an attempted rape scene that was wisely cut because it did not fit in with the tone of the rest of the film. She also touches upon later credits like APRIL FOOL'S DAY but recalls this film as her favorite even if her opportunity to promote the film was scuttled by Crown lying about the numbers and claiming that it sold more tickets than the competing THE COLOR PURPLE whose studio contested the claim. The film's theatrical trailer (1:41) and TV Spots (1:37) are also included along with a still gallery (0:40). The cover is reversible with the original artwork on the inside. (Eric Cotenas)