Wednesday, April 25, 2012

LASSITER

Another title that I've had on my "Most Wanted" list for years has finally made its way to DVD. In this case, it's the 1984 caper, LASSITER, starring Tom Selleck - at the height of his MAGNUM P.I. fame - and Jane Seymour, which came out just this week from Hen's Tooth Video.

Nick Lassiter (Selleck, QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER, RUNAWAY) is a daring, dashing American cat burglar living in London in 1939 with his girlfriend, dancer Sara Wells (Seymour, LIVE AND LET DIE). He is blackmailed by the FBI and Scotland Yard into stealing 10 million dollars worth of diamonds from the German embassy - diamonds intended to finance Nazi espionage activities in South America. In order to gain access to the embassy, Lassiter romances a cruel and kinky Nazi courier (Lauren Hutton, GATOR, VIVA KNIEVEL!) - which doesn't exactly go over well with his English girlfriend. Can Nick pull off the heist without getting killed by the Nazis - or screwed over by the cops?

I've long been a fan of this period caper film - ever since I saw it in the theater in '84. Along with HIGH ROAD TO CHINA (which has also just recently received a DVD and Blu-ray release from the same company), it marked the TV star's first real attempt to move into feature films, and for my money, it was a good start. Deliberately paced but never sluggish, LASSITER is a terrific, stylish little pre-World War II thriller. Veteran TV director Roger Young does a workmanlike job - it's not a visually flashy film - but the story is straight-forward and fun, the action is good (especially one particularly brutal brawl), and the cast - which also includes snarling English bulldog Bob Hoskins (THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, UNLEASHED) and familiar character actors like Morgan Sheppard, Ed Lauter and Joe Regalbuto - is great. Selleck has good chemistry with both Seymour and Hutton, and displays copious amounts of roguish charm and appropriate physical agility and toughness as the title character.

Hen's Tooth Video (in association with Fortune Star) brings LASSITER to DVD with an adequate, if unspectacular, transfer. Presented in what appears to be its correct (or close to it) aspect ratio of 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the image quality is only fair, with an overall softness and lack of fine detail. The source print itself is near-pristine, however, with no notable damage or dirt/debris evident. Audio is a somewhat muffled 2.0 Mono that sounds a little too highly-pitched and makes me wonder if the film was ported over from a PAL master (PAL format runs about 4% faster than NTSC, which can lead to voices taking on a slight chipmunk quality when transferred to NTSC). There are no bonus features, although English subtitles are included.

Overall, I'm grateful to Hen's Tooth Video for finally making LASSITER available on DVD, even if the transfer isn't quite reference quality. It's a highly entertaining film with fine performances from its talented cast. Recommended.

BUYLassiter