Ishtar [VHS]
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Product Description

At the time of its release in 1987, this Elaine May production was bandied about as one of the worst films of the decade. It was nominated for three Razzie Awards that year--Worst Picture, Screenplay, Direction--but it still was not the nadir detractors claimed it to be. (Remember, that was the year Norman Mailer's self-indulgence spilled all over the screen in Tough Guys Don't Dance.) If this comedy had been made by unknowns, it would have simply faded into the obscurity it deserves. The fuss came about because May squandered much talent and a ridiculously large budget, rumored to exceed $40 million, returning less than half of that in ticket sales. Two artistically challenged lounge musicians (Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman) are jettisoned out of the States by their agent, who finds them a gig in Morocco. En route, they become pawns in an international power play between the CIA, the mythical emir of Ishtar, and upstarts hoping to overthrow the emir's regime. There are some humorous bits, such as when Hoffman and Beatty so badly perform their horrible ditties that audiences are left appalled. Most of the time however, we are the ones lulled into a near daze by a hokey script and boorish jokes about blind camels. If Abbott and Costello had made this flick, it might have worked. --Rochelle O'Gorman

Customer Reviews:

  • "...How Big is Heaven? How BIG Am I?"-Rodgers and Clarke
    ISHTAR was touted as an updated Hope/Crosby "Road to.." movie but fails in its execution. It is only funny when Rodgers and Clarke (Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman respectively) are either trying to write songs together (nose-to-nose a'la Lennon/McCartney) or trying to perform on stage (a'la Simon and Garfunkle), but once the adventure aspect (in Ishtar/Morocco) of the story begins, it falls apart as the plot is muddled, not very adventurous, and not very funny. Ishtar is on the verge of civil uprising as the singing duo are booked to perform there and get involved with a CIA operative (Charles Grodin) involved in the coup and a mysterious woman (Isabelle Adjani). The finale when the two are given their "big break", is hilarious but by then, its too late to save the film. Actor/Composer Paul Williams and Elaine May (who directed) co-wrote the songs. If the film had been a monstrous hit, perhaps a soundtrack with the songs performed by Beatty and Hoffman might have been released because they are very funny songs. Lots of wasted talent in this movie. Tess Harper (TENDER MERCIES) as Rodger's (Beatty) girlfriend is seen either sleeping or dozing off in her small and thankless role. Also wasted is the late Jack Weston (THE RITZ, THE FOUR SEASONS, THE INCREDIBLE MR LIMPET) as their agent Marty....more info
  • Who told you that? The Secretary of State?
    I have seen this movie so many times that my VHS tape is falling apart. I desperately need a DVD of this wonderful film. When I saw this movie as a teenager, I knew it was a moment of greatness. The subsequent barrage of bad reviews taught me something valuable about the world: don't judge a movie by its reviews. This movie was right on time, yet it was also ahead of its time. Criticism that the first part of the movie is better than the second is well-taken; however, both parts are better than a lot of movies that have been box-office smashes. The trouble with "Ishtar" is that it respects its audience and invites critical thinking, but does so via the absurd. In the present era of literal, us-vs-them thinking, as in the Reagan era when the movie was made, there is a shocking lack of appreciation for the absurd. Ishtar's time has come again....more info
  • Why has this not gotten a US release on DVD yet? Don't they know it's a CULT CLASSIC?
    I have loved this movie since I was a kid watching it on cable in the 80s. This movie flopped because of the bad press, not because it's a bad movie. Sure, it's a little long and there isn't much of a plot, but it has so many weird funny little moments, it's one of my favorite to watch again and again. I had an old VHS tape that I wore out, and I am very sad I haven't been able to watch this movie for a couple years! I wish whoever owns the rights would wise up to it's cult status and release it on DVD in America!

    Dustin Hoffman is absolutely inspired as Chuck Clarke, a middle-aged dreamer who writes one awful song after another, and has fantasies of becoming the next Art Garfunkel. One day Chuck meets Lyle (played by Warren Beatty) and an unholy musical partnership is born. I've never liked Warren Beatty, usually I can't stand to watch the guy, but in my opinion, this is the best thing he's ever done. He's totally believable as Hoffman's adoring and clueless sidekick.

    With songs lyrics like, "I can see her standing in the backyard of my mind, she cracks her knuckles and the scab that's on her knee won't go away/can see the woman waiting in her eyes and I can see the love but I can't see the Brooklyn Dodgers in LA" (I'm quoting from memory and haven't seen the movie in at least three years--that's how much I love it!) And..."She said come look, there's a wardrobe of love in my eyes/Take your time, look around, see if there's something your size" how could you not love this movie?

    These guys are two songwriter/performers who love what they do, but unfortunately are completely unaware of how terrible they are. This does not stop them from trying to book paying gigs, though unfortunately the only gig their deflated agent can get them is singing Simon & Garfunkel tunes in hotel bars in the Middle East. After their first night, they are a surprise hit with homesick expats and local sheiks alike, and soon grow bold enough to sing their own orginal tunes. Of course, success rarely comes without a price, and it's no different for Rogers and Clarke. Somehow they manage to get caught up in a secret mission with CIA agent Jim Harrison (played with brilliant deadpan accuracy by Charles Grodin) and local rebel leader Shirra "look...what you have!" Assel (played by Isabelle Adjani). They think they're playing both sides (and each other) brilliantly, but eventually what they end up doing is wandering the desert with no water on a blind camel. (I know the feeling well.)

    The original Rogers and Clarke song snippets in this movie are hilarious, Beatty is actually funny, and Hoffman is HILARIOUS. The scene that has him desperately trying to score some water by acting as auctioneer of machine guns to Bedouin traders, all in a dialect he has completely made up, is absolute GOLD.

    I miss Ishtar. I keep checking to see if it's been released on US format DVD yet, still with no luck. Fools! Don't they know there's a whole couple of new generations of people who have had no exposure to the pre-emptive (and rumored vendetta) bad press this movie got?

    Give us ISHTAR!
    ...more info
  • Little known treasure!
    When Ishtar first came out in the theaters - my husband and I wondered aloud "was this the worst movie we've ever seen, or the BEST?" We decided it was the BEST -- at least one of the best, anyway.....We usually have to rent it once a year (sometimes more) to get a good laugh. It's so funny I literally cry! Can Amazon please get behind this and get some copies of this movie in DVD for all the loyal ISHTAR fans? We need our own copy of ISHTAR! We're ready to buy it NOW! PS "Half-an-Hour" is one of the greatest songs in the film!...more info
  • I would buy the DVD~!
    You have to bring this out on DVD

    It is a milestone movie! It has to be done!!
    Yes it takes great acting to come up with this totally funny Movie...
    Everything that killed it when it was released only adds to the legend!!
    I am having the whole neighborhood over when it comes out on DVD....more info

  • Beatty and Hoffman in a totally ridiculous debacle!
    I have finally seen ISHTAR for the first time since it's theatrical release in 1987. I remember all of the hullaballo about how much it cost and how poorly it was received. So after twenty years I thought I would see for myself......UGH!.....and boy, was this one dull and not funny movie! What a waste of ability,especially Warren Beatty who truly was ridiculous in his role. Hoffman fares only slightly better. The humor falls absolutely flat and the film is consumed in it's own folly.I kept thinking if Will Ferrell could have made this any funnier. Hoffman and Beatty are two marvelous actors, but this film cannot be saved by their presence. In fact, their presence actually makes the film more impossible to sit through. The blind camel in the desert scene is painful to watch!!! Only the lounge singer episode in Morocco was even the slightest bit humorous. Now I have seen it and can decide for myself.....what a terrible film!!!...more info
  • I loved Ishtar
    Ishtar is one of the best movies I have ever watched. I thought the actors were brilliant. These two extremely talented actors had to act untalented and that takes talent. The message in the little one liners was profound. Take time to really listen to the wisdom so simply delivered and you will enjoy and be amazed. The movie critics were simply wrong. This is a great movie....more info
  • Destablize the entire Middle East!
    I love Ishtar! It is one of the best movies ever made. I watch it every 6 months and laugh out loud each and every time. It is classic and funny and fabulous. All the songs are great! The dialog is awesome: "wasn't I good enough to be recruited as a Communist?" - Why didn't anyone get an Oscar for this? Ishtar is on my "top 10" list of all time great movies. I love all the characters, and just remember: "we did not shoot at two we did not"! Telling the truth can be dangerous business..... and don't forget about the hilarious "arms auction" scene...That's Amore! ...more info
  • Still Devastating
    Neither Hoffman nor Beatty have ever delivered funnier performances than they do here. And given the body of their work, that's saying something! More importantly, given the packet of mid-80s films that this movie came out of, it's mystifying why this is tagged a disaster. Why should you or I care that it cost more to make than it was budgeted for? Does that make their songwriting scenes less funny? Or the weapons-auctioning in mock-Arabic less delightful? There are things that don't work--Adjani unfortunately for those of us who find her appealing is one of them--but for sheer invention, surreality and enjoyment, this movie stands head and shoulders above it's competition ("Spies Like Us," "Jewell of the Nile,""The Man with One Red Shoes" and the many other adventure/spy/comedies that glutted the 80s.). I hope it'll be released in a format we can watch in the US because it deserves a fresh start! ...more info
  • Do some serious thinking on this
    People who watch TV too much are used to being entertained. The worst thing about TV is when it pretends to be serious about the news, which it hardly ever is. It is just displaying sentimentality when it leads with whatever bleeds the most. I have been trying to read THE GLOBAL VILLAGE, a Marshall McLuhan book that was completed years after his final stroke in 1979, getting published in 1986, but full of details about why CIA attempts to understand anything that is going on in parts of the world that have a culture so different from the kind of control that superpowers naturally tend to associate with alpha male behavior gets so twisted around, you ought to start thinking that Americans have been buying a blind camel for so long in the Middle East that even an eternal promise to the nation of Israel might be capable of causing some trouble. Though the plot has some comic aspects, reality is not much different from all the things that are wrong with this movie. I enjoyed it immensely for attempting to communicate on a cultural level that many people just won't get, and it starts with telling the truth is a dangerous business, and spies need to know this stuff more than any of the rest of us do....more info
  • A very funny film.
    I agree with the people who say "yes" to this film. Very enjoyable, funny performances all around....more info
  • I saw this movie and it didn't make me laugh!
    I did see this movie. I didn't hear it sucked before I went. To bad I didn't hear about it before I went. I went and saw it at a theater when it was originally released. I was a fan of both Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty at that time, and I am even today. I kept watching this movie and thinking this movie has to get better. These stars are great, there's no way they would perform in a movie without a real story. But they continued to try and wing it and sing along throughout this movie. Have you ever heard these guys sing? Let's just say don't rush out and buy any CDs if they ever made one. Now I have seen comedies were someone can't sing and it is obvious that is part of the comedy. This however just wasn't funny when they sang. So give me any of Mel Brooks, or any other comedy movie, but don't give me Ishtar. Bottom line. If you like it fine, I didn't get their jokes. Perhaps you get it and I don't, perhaps thousands of others like me didn't get it. But when thousands of people did see it and they say it wasn't any good, don't try to say only a few really saw it and know if it is any good. Many people saw it based on the stars Beatty and Hoffman, and many people said it was one of their least favorites. If more felt it didn't flop it would have made the money they poured into it back. As it stands it was a total dud. I don't make the statistics up, the bean counters can give you the facts on this one. So you handful of fans are lucky to have this on DVD. I should be so lucky to have a classic like "African Queen" on DVD instead of you having this one....more info
  • Yes, it IS on DVD, but...
    You can buy it for less than ten bucks (including postage) on, and it comes with optional subtitles in: Arabic, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish. The catch is you need a region-free DVD player....more info
  • Fantastic Movie!
    PLEASE produce in DVD! This is one of the best comedies of all times!...more info
  • Hilarious
    There are people who just don't get this movie. You may be one of these.

    Then there are people who aren't put off by the fact that the movie bombed, and are brave enough (and astute enough) to evaluate it on its own merit, regardless of how trendy it once was to sneer at it. Or perhaps these are simply people who can recognize when music is bad, and can make the fine line distinction between "bad music," and music that's so bad it's brilliant.

    This movie - if you get it - will make you choke, you're laughing so hard. Two "musicians" (Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman), of slightly sub-average intelligence and slightly sub-levels of musical talent, come together to form a very bad lounge act. The lounge act is very, VERY bad (but not so bad that its insipidness looks deliberate), and these two very earnest fellows put their hearts into writing perhaps the worst (or best) songs every written, then performing them. You have to see the movie twice because the first time you hear their songs you'll be laughing too hard to listen closely.

    Somehow this very bad lounge act gets a gig in the Middle East, and is drawn into the political situation. The movie then follows two very earnest fellows of slightly sub-average intelligence and talent as they play in Middle Easter hotel lounges while also playing the part of spies.

    It's reached cult status over the years. It deserves a look - you'll never know if you're going to be a fan unless you watch it!...more info
  • a funny movie
    this movie is well acted and funny. it is unusual in that it casts the excellent actors against type, and this offends many viewers. i.e. the principals do sing badly, as this is a main point of the humor, and still some reviewers say they disliked it because the actors cannot sing well (see above). hellooo.....

    warren beatty plays a guy who cannot get a date, and there aRE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO DO NOT LIKE SUCH PORTRAYALS. who would have believed such a good movie could become synonymous with a bad movie?

    intelligent reviewers like vincent canby and eleanor ringel loved it, but movies that lampoon untalented morons do not appeal to the average viewer. i have even been dissed at blockbusters by imbecile counter help (who had not seen it) when trying to rent it.

    if you like hoffman, beatty and grodin, you should enjoy this movie.

    i logged on here to buy it, but unbelievably the movie is not even availalle in region 1 format. what a joke. somebody definitely had a grudge against this movie....more info
  • How could I be so wrong? Did I miss something?
    I laughed at this movie from start to finish...the songs were hilariously awful and some of the scenes (the vultures, the blind camel, Charles Grodin) were brilliant and new.

    I guess I saw something others didn't...Mel Brooks thinks it is one of the funniest movies ever obviously not EVERYONE hated it.

    If you are a musician, hopefully you will find something to like in this flick....more info
  • Telling the Truth (about this movie) Can Be Dangerous Business
    I don't care what anyone says about this movie---it is the best comedy ever created. Don't be a schmuck and miss out on it! ...more info
  • Way ahead of its time
    This movie was a harbinger of movies like "Waiting For Guffman", etc. It's hilarious....more info