The Hotel New Hampshire

The Hotel New Hampshire (1984)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Rob Lowe, Jodie Foster, Beau Bridges, Nastassja Kinski, Wilford Brimley
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

Tony Richardson’s disjointed, sluggish adaptation of John Irving’s novel ’The Hotel New Hampshire’ charts the tribulations of the oddball Berry clan. How weird are they? ’Father’ (Beau Bridges) perpetually dreams of running any hotel named ’New Hampshire, ’ adult sister Fran (Jodie Foster) and brother John (Rob Lowe) sexually tease each other, younger sister Lilly (Jennie Dundas) is convinced she has stopped growing, and youngest son Egg (a very young Seth Green, from the ’Austin Powers’ films) keeps plopping Sorrow, their dead dog’s stuffed carcass, all over the house.

If there was a plot in the novel, director/screenwriter Richardson did a superb job of jettisoning it for the film. To compensate, he speeds up the action in Keystone Kops-fashion (characters chasing motorcycles, snapping occupied jock straps, etc.) or has characters speak in ’truths’ instead of natural speech. I am unfamiliar with the novel, yet even if the book offers no justification for the Berry’s motley view of life and family, the literalness of film demands some context for their increasingly strange actions. Alas, Richardson simply stitches incidents together without a point of view, something sorely needed here. I guess gang rape, incest, chronic canine flatulence and group transvestism don’t need any explanation.

MGM Home Entertainment just released 1984’s ’Hotel’ on DVD. Although presented in 1.85 widescreen, the transfer lacks anamorphic enhancement. While colors, like blue pom-poms and bright red-shingled roofs, transmit vibrantly and without bleed, the contrast levels vary widely. Hot background light sources practically burn out foreground shadow detail while nighttime or low-lit interior scenes drown the image in an inky darkness. Mastered from a clean source print, the video shows minimal but detectable edge enhancement. At least there are no digital or compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital stereo surround audio might just as well have been in mono. Granted, Richardson’s use of Jacques Offenbach’s heavenly music rates a definite plus for me (Offenbach is one of my favorite classical composers), the matrix surround track mostly collapses into the center channel. I counted exactly four times the rears emitted sound of any kind. A French mono soundtrack is provided.

A theatrical trailer accompanies the film. Presented in non-anamorphic 1.85 widescreen, the contrast looks better balanced than the feature and the mono audio could have used some re-equalization.

Save for Anita Morris’ sly performance as a libidinous maid, consider this ’Hotel’ condemned.