Paul Bartel's Scenes From the Class Struggle In Beverly Hills in Anamorphic Widescreen

So Eating Raoul's received a rank in the glorious pantheon of the Criterion Collection. It even included the early short films: Naughty Nurse and Secret Cinema as extras. Shout Factory made a loaded special edition of Death Race 2000, Blue Underground handled Cannonball, Anchor Bay put together some nice packages for Lust In the Dust and Not for Publication. Warner Bros and MGM put out respectable, if not special, editions of The Longshot and Private Parts. Except for the very rare Shelf Life (which I'm also interested in), it seems like all of Paul Bartel's cult classics are accounted for on DVD in some good quality, fan-accessible releases. Except, it would seem, for one of his biggest and most infamous: Scenes From the Class Struggle In Beverly Hills. But I'm happy to report that, after some serious international poking around, I've found one.
Scenes, which naughtily takes its title from the very earnest and "important" political documentary Scenes From the Class Struggle in Portugal, is Bartel's most out there social satire. Not at all attempting to be naturalistic or provide nice, appealing characters; I can see many viewers, not familiar with Bartel, really disliking this. But if you're a fan, this is the goldmine. First of all, yes, it reunites cinema's most perfect perpetual couple since Cassavettes and Rowland, Bartel and Mary Woronov. They're not married in this one, so they don't combine their chemistry quite the way they did in films like Raoul, Mortuary Academy or even Chopping Mall. But they both have nice, sizable roles to play, which is all you need for a great time. And it's not just them; Bartel has assembled his greatest cast ever in this, including regulars and newcomers Robert Beltran (Raoul), Wallace Shawn, Ed Begley Jr., Jacqueline Bisset, Ray Sharkey, Arnetia Walker and even Paul Mazursky as a ghost.

Granted, the target of this satire - the shallow rich of Beverly Hills - is easy and played out. Especially since this came out shortly after Down and Out In Beverly Hills and the same year as Troop Beverly Hills, I don't think this was going to grab mainstream audiences. But if you're in the mood for a black, cynical yet campy and frisky romp with Troupe Bartel, then you need this movie in your life.
For a long time, fans have been living with old, VHS-sourced, full-screen crap DVDs of this film, imported from countries like Germany, and I think Spain. But a few years ago, this was issued again, with the translated title Scene di lotta di classe a Beverly Hills in Italy from Passworld Pictures, and holy cow - it's got a clean, high quality, anamorphic widescreen transfer! Is the image soft? Yeah, much of the grain looks natural and this may well've been shot on cheaper film stock; but I'm sure the lines and detail should be stronger than this. It's not blu-ray quality, that's for sure; it's not even a cutting edge DVD. But somebody seems to have gone back to some kind of film elements (from a print, I'd guess, since there are some minor but visible flecks and scratches) to restore this film to its OAR for home video (the back of the case sells itself short as being 1.85:1 in 4:3; but luckily that's wrong, it's actually 16x9 anamorphic), and I'm thrilled. And yes, it has the original English audio, in addition to its two Italian tracks.
Unfortunately, there are zero extras here. I mean, I wouldn't have expected much, particularly from a random Italian label. But at least the trailer would've been nice, especially since it's a very amusing one with original dialogue from Bartel, as himself, directly addressing the audience. I suggest you find that online. And the Italian subtitles can be a bit tricky. The menu wants to force you to play the film in Italian without subtitles, or English with Italian subtitles, and the subtitle button on your remote seems to be disabled. So depending on your player, you might be stuck watching this with Italian subs along the bottom... although, for the record, they're not burnt into the picture and I was easily able to disable them on my PC.
It would be great if Criterion or another label (Kino? Olive?) would shine it up some more and release this in America with some nice new interviews. Maybe they could even package it up with Class Struggle In Portugal... In a very weird way, they do make a fitting, if perverse, double feature. But I wouldn't hold my breath. And at least for now, this can be imported fairly inexpensively, giving us a very watchable edition of the film.

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