Americans Treated Much Better In Germany

My Fellow Americans is a light, amusing comedy. Fondly remembered by the few of us who do; but it's largely neglected. That's a shame, because I think it's pretty underrated. There's no arguing that it's a quick and painless star vehicle for its leads Jack Lemmon and James Garner. They play former vice presidents, one Democrat and one Republican, who have to go on the road together when they unwittingly stumble upon a silly but murderous political conspiracy. So, lots of the leads playing off their charm, lots of bickering and hi-jinx, and some easy Republican and Democrat jokes. But I think it's smarter than its given credit for; and it features a fantastic supporting cast including Dan Aykroyd, John Heard, Wilford Brimley, Sela Ward, Lauren Bacall, Esther Rolle(!) and Twin Peaks' Everett McGill as a genuinely menacing assassin.
Americans was released in the mid 90s, when laserdiscs were going strong, so it actually got a nice, little widescreen LD release. No special features or CAV treatment, naturally - it's not the kind of movie to receive a loaded special edition - but cheap, respectable release in its correct aspect ratio.

...Which is more than can be said for its DVD. By the time it was to come out on that format the following year, the label (Warner Bros) was already happy to throw it out on a cheap, full-screen disc with a pan & scan transfer made for television. At least it had a fun extra: a brief but very funny three-minute reel of bloopers; but the picture was flat, and all the disappointing because it had been already been issued in its OAR on laser.
Warner Bros has reissued My Fellow Americans relatively recently, in 2011, as part of a 4-film set of politically themed comedies. You know, one of those budget packs. And yes, I've checked; it's still 4.3.

I'd been tempted to pick it up anyway, since you can literally get the original WB disc for a penny on Amazon; but knowing that a widescreen release exists always put me off. Ideally, the thing to do would be to track down the laserdisc and pick up the DVD (for the gag reel); but as much as I enjoy this film and will speak up for it; it's not Citizen Kane.
1996 US DVD on top; 2008 German DVD below.
But the itch kept me occasionally googling over the years, and I finally wound up discovering this 2008 DVD release in Germany. It's not only presented in its proper, widescreen aspect ratio, it's anamorphic, so it handily trumps the old laserdisc as well. As you can see above, too, the colors are a lot more vivid compared to how washed they look on the old DVD. Are those walls green or brown? It does tend to make use of a little more vertical information, but at the cost of cutting off the sides. At least the old DVD's not interlaced, but it sure is murky, mis-framed and boxy.

And yes, the German disc features the gag reel, as well as the trailer (the back cover only mentions the trailer; but I promise you it's on the disc).
1996 US DVD on top; 2008 German DVD below.
The old disc had some good language options: English Dolby 5.1, French stereo and Spanish mono for audio, plus subtitles in the same three languages. Meanwhile, the German disc has seemingly the same Dolby 5.1 English track, plus a German dub (Dolby Surround); and optional subtitles in English, German, Danish, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian, plus separate closed captioning subs in English and German. Even the gag reel has the subtitle options. The menus, meanwhile, offer an amusing, language-free set-up, where instead of saying things like "Chapters" or "Set Up," in English, German or any other language; it's all in pictures. You click the little Christmas gift icon to access the special features, for example.

Remember, the US DVDs weren't just 4.3; but pan & scan... not even open matte. So this release looks a million times better. This is probably the kind of film that appeals mostly to people who don't care how a film looks, ha ha.  But if you do, and if you remember this film fondly, I definitely recommend dropping by, or whatever your preferred source for German discs is, and picking this one up. Just remember to search for it under the title Ein Präsident für alle Fälle.

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