Fire Sale (1977) – Film Review

fire sale film review arkin

Director: Alan Arkin
Cast: Alan Arkin, Rob Reiner, Sid Caesar
Certificate 12

By Roger Crow

Comedy is such an art form that when done right it operates like a Swiss watch. There are lots of moving parts, from the cast, script, pacing, editing, score, direction and obviously that magic quality which takes all of those elements and creates something hilarious.

fire sale film review bluray coverWith opening titles that look like it was crafted circa 1969, what’s remarkable is that Alan Arkin’s Fire Sale was made in 1977. And what a strange creature it is.

“Concocts a scheme”

Aside from Arkin himself, one of the greatest comedy actors of his generation, the movie also boasts Rob Reiner, a few years before helming and starring in the iconic This is Spinal Tap, and directing a string of blockbusters. Oh, and there’s comedy legend Sid Caesar, who a year later starred as the coach in Grease.

But the thing about great comedy movies is they often happen by accident, and Fire Sale is anything but a great comedy movie, which is why you’ve probably never heard of it. Some of the gags are so laboured and annoying that you’ll be rolling your eyes at the ill-judged scenarios.

It centres on Benny, who owns a department store – and he’s approaching bankruptcy. As he prepares to go on vacation, Benny concocts a scheme to solve his financial problems: he’ll get his mentally ill brother-in-law to burn down the store and then he’ll collect the insurance money.

Meanwhile, Benny leaves his sons, Ezra and Russell in charge of the store. When they discover the cash problems, his kids develop their own solution.

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“Knockabout gags”

There’s a sub plot involving a basketball genius, and the sort of knockabout gags that really worked in a sketch comedy like Kentucky Fried Movie around the same time, but here just fall flat.

On the plus side it clocks in under the 90-minute mark, which for some reason is the perfect length for most comedies, but a 30-minute version would probably have outstayed its welcome.

The extras feature an interesting video essay on director Paul Mazursky by film critic Mark Searby.

Special Features:
• High-Definition Transfer • UK Blu-ray Premiere • Original Mono Audio • Still Gallery • Optional English SDH Subtitles for the Main Feature • Still Gallery • Video Essay on Director Paul Mazursky by Film Critic Mark Searby • Audio Commentary by Director Paul Mazursky and Actress Ellen Greene • Trailer
Fire Sale is released on Blu-ray by Signal One, £14.99

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