4K UHD Review: American Gigolo (Limited Edition)

Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story

Normally when you talk about a 44-year-old movie, the director and the star are mentioned in the past tense. A serious exception must be given to American Gigolo since writer-director Paul Schrader and star Richard Gere were recently on the red carpet in Cannes for their upcoming Oh, Canada. These two guys still have it. American Gigolo is where they got it. Schrader’s movie about a male prostitute came out in Febuary of 1980 and set the aesthetic tone for the decade. The movie was sleek from Giorgio Moroder’s synth score to Gere’s Armani wardrobe. Schrader fills the screen with smooth Steadicam shots and atmospheric lighting. American Gigolo remains seductive experience.

Julian Kay (Pretty Woman‘s Richard Gere) is living the good life. He’s driving all over Beverly Hills and Palm Springs in his convertible Mercedes sports coupe. He wears only the latest men’s fashions that hang just right on his tight body. He has a swank apartment with a growing art collection. What’s his secret? He’s a male prostitute who focuses on mature ladies that are either widowed or want a little spice in their dull married lives. The ladies like to take him shopping on Rodeo Drive to look fancy on their date nights. How does he please the ladies? First by paying attention to them. He’s learning Swedish for future client flying to Los Angeles from Stockholm in a few weeks. Second, by being a seductive stud. He stays occupied by working through a couple pimps that set him up on dates outside of his regulars. Anne (The Long Goodbye‘s Nina van Pallandt) gets frustrated that Julian wants a bigger cut since he considers himself top boy in her stable. After playing limo driver to a wealthy widow, Julian cruises the hotel bar. It’s here he meets Michelle (Viva Knievel’s Lauren Hutton). They flirt hard enough that Julian gives her a freebie back at his apartment. She is hooked on him and wants more even if she’s got to pay for his time and effort. Julian also works with Leon (Predator‘s Bill Duke) who is rather shady. He pressures Julian to go out to Palm Springs when his regular boy disappears. The couple in Palm Springs expect a bit more than what Julian normally provides. The husband wants to watch Julian get rough with his wife. It’s not fun for him. The next day he complains to Leon about the scene. Leon points out that the couple want him back for another round. After a night out with another older lady, he wakes up to a newspaper report about something really bad happening to the wife in Palm Springs. Detective Sunday (Pretty Woman‘s Hector Elizondo) visits Julian’s apartment to ask a few questions. The answers are hard since part of being a male prostitute is discretion to his clients. Will anyone back him up as an alibi? Is Julian being screwed by the husband?

There are probably a few people wondering why Julian took Leon’s kinky Palm Springs gig. Back in film school, Bill Duke dropped by as a guest artist. I was working in the film archive/theater complex. We were responsible for his screenings and presentations. He was so nice and soft-spoken to me. The thing is…when he locked eyes with me and asked for something, I feared disappointing Bill Duke. I could not say no to the guy. There was no threat or rage from him. He just gave off a vibe that made me not want to deny his expectations and experience the consequences. The only things I said was “yes” and “I can make that work for you.” I completely get why Julian didn’t duck Leon.

American Gigolo hasn’t lost a step over the years. The movie isn’t stuck in the ’80s even though it is so ’80s. Paul Schrader constructed a film that lures your eyes in with the luxury joys of Julian’s life and keeps you glued with the murder mystery at its core. It’s amazing rewatching the film and seeing how much of the look and attitude of the ’80s spiraled out of the movie. Miami Vice borrowed so much from the film including the “blue season” look. Richard Gere has never been better than playing Julian. He’s had a great career over the decades, but this is his greatest moment on screen. You can easily understand why the mature ladies and Lauren Hutton want him. We also believe him melting down as his career goes in a tailspin with the cops on his tail. Visually and sonically the movie captures an opulent lifestyle in Southern California. American Gigolo is as timeless as Julian’s Armani shirts.

There is also a Blu-ray version of American Gigolo: Limited Edition with all the bonus features.

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The Video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 4K UHD Blu-ray featured a 4K remaster from the original negative. The beauty of the film shine on the screen. You’ll be impressed by the textures of Richard Gere’s wardrobe. The Audio is LPCM Mono. There’s also the DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo mix. There’s also a new DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix so you can be swept up in Giorgio Moroder’s synth score. The movie is subtitled in English.

Audio commentary with film critic Adrian Martin gets into how this film set the tone for what we view as ’80s style. The opening montage and the lighting did get used in Miami Vice.

Below the Surface (19:37) lets writer/director Paul Schrader explain that John Travolta had the role for most of pre-production. This was going to be his big film after Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Schrader got word through a connection that Travolta was uncomfortable with Julian’s bisexuality. He bolted the film and ended up with Urban Cowboy instead. Schrader had already lined up Richard Gere to take over the role before Travolta could announce he wasn’t doing the film.

Six Ways to Sunday (10:46) has actor Héctor Elizondo gets into his early desire to play pro baseball and Latin Jazz. As a kid he was on one TV show and hated being in the studio. But he came around later in life. He gets into meeting Schrader and Richard Gere over the part. He says Schrader was subtle in his direction. He talks about the fashion in the movie even though he wasn’t too fashionable in the film. Elizondo and Gere would reunite in Pretty Woman.

The Business of Pleasure (15:26) has actor Duke reflect on Leon’s profession. He liked learned about the world of pimping with guys involved. Duke played Leon as a businessman. He gets into the attitude Leon had towards Julian. Growing up, he had a wealthy pimp for a neighbor. He reveals how a fluke school acting performance led to him realizing he wanted to act. He got a big break in Car Wash. He gets into how Paul Schrader works with the actors.

Montages and Monologues (7:15) has editor Richard Halsey talk about how after winning the Oscar for editing on Rocky (with Scott Conrad), he wanted to work on smaller character driven project instead of studio blockbusters. This is what drew him to American Gigolo. He digs into the time Schrader wanted to edit his own opening credit scene. Halsey also cut Sister Act, Mannequin, Earth Girls Are Easy, Edward Scissorhands and So I Married An Axe Murderer.

The Non-Conformist (25:05) gets camera operator King Baggot to talk about framing American Gigolo. His grandfather was an actor/director starting in 1909. His father was also a camera operator and died on location in a mishap. He got hired at ABC news before moving into film work. He started back when studios had their own camera departments. He specialized in the Steadicam. Director of Photography John Bailey hired him onto the crew for American Gigolo. He gets into the opening driving shot down the PCH. It was rather dangerous, but nothing bad happened which is why Baggot is talking to us. He gets into how they wanted the film to have the same feel as The Conformist. Baggot went on to be Director of Photography on The Last Starfighter and Revenge of the Nerds.

Man Machine (15:03) has music supervisor (not on American Gigolo) & KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox on the music of Giorgio Moroder. He enjoys the coked-out synthesizer score. He gives a little bit about how Debbie Harry turned Moroder’s “Man Machine” theme music into Blondie’s “Call Me.” The song became a massive radio hit. Turns out Paul Schrader wrote the lyrics to the song in the leather disco scene.

American Icon (18:54) allows Professor Jennifer Clark to get into the fashion landscape of the 80s. She sees American Gigolo as the opening to the ’80s fashion after the ’70s. The movie gives us the Rodeo Drive look as Julian goes on shopping sprees at the luxury clothing stores. Armani originally designed an entire wardrobe for John Travolta. When he split, they made outfits for Richard Gere. The film became their catalog.

Original trailer (1:57) sells Richard Gere as the ultimate lover and a possible murderer.

Image gallery includes 26 Stills, 8 Posters & 8 lobby cards.

Double-sided foldout poster featuring original and new artwork by Tommy Pocket

Six postcard-sized reproduction artcards suitable for framing.

Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring an essay by Neil Sinyard, an vintage article by Bill Nichols, and original pressbook materials

Arrow Video presents American Gigolo: Limited Edition. Directed by Paul Schrader. Screenplay by Paul Schrader. Starring Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton, Hector Elizondo, Bill Duke and Nina van Pallandt. Running Time: 117 minutes. Rating: Rated R. Release Date: June 18, 2024.

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Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.