Martin Scorsese’s Best?
King of Comedy out on Blu-ray
King of Comedy was always my favorite Martin Scorsese film and watching the new Blu-ray release reminds me of why. The story is rooted in its time yet oddly prophetic, the characters are striking and the cast is remarkably out of character. King of Comedy boasts Robert De Niro as Rupert Pupkin, a garrulous failure lost in obsessive fantasies of stardom, and Jerry Lewis as Jerry Langford, a bemused version of himself as a star pursued by celebrity’s dark side.
The movie startled audiences in 1983 for its lack of division between Pupkin’s fantasy life and the wider world. He rehearses conversations in his mind that he is convinced will take place; he has converted the basement of his mother’s house into a TV talk show set where he plays to the audience of his imagination and hears their laughter in his mind. He follows his dream into a dead end.
Langford is the primary object of his obsession. Pupkin and his often-antagonistic companion, Masha (Sandra Bernhard), are among the stalker fans lingering at the stage door of Langford’s talk show (a pitch perfect evocation of Johnny Carson complete with orchestra and such real guests as Dr. Joyce Brothers). They feel entitled to an audience, make that an audition, with the star, and are certain he would admit them to his circle of celebrity friends if only they can get past the gatekeepers. A font of show-biz trivia, the deluded Pupkin is such a self-absorbed bore that he signs his name into his own autograph book. Nowadays, Pupkin would have his own blog, a slot on Internet radio and a YouTube video. In 1983, the bar was higher. So were the stakes.
The new King of Comedy Blu-ray release includes a conversation between Scorsese, De Niro and Lewis, and deleted scenes.