Color, 1968, 87 mins. 24 secs.
Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring Robert De Niro, Jonathan Warden, Gerrit Graham, Richard Hamilton, Megan McCormick, Allen Garfield
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US RA/RB HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Platinum (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)

B&W, 1969, 91 mins. 48 secs.
Directed by Brian De Palma, Wilford Leach and Cynthia Munroe
Starring Charles Pfluger, Jill Clayburgh, Robert De Niro, William Finley, Jennifer Salt
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US RA/RB HD), Troma (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

Color, 1970, 86 mins. 31 secs.
Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring Robert De Niro, Allen Garfield, Lara Parker, Jennifer Salt, Gerrit Graham, Paul Bartel, Charles Durning
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US RA/RB HD), MGM (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

GreetingsThough best Greetingsknown today for his suspense and action films, Brian De Palma has always had a subversive, playful, and experimental streak running through his work dating all the way back to his early short films. His big breakthrough, the acclaimed chiller Sisters, is a great example of how he incorporated his puckish side into the demands of commercial filmmaking, and in fact that was his sixth traditional feature film. Before that he was known primarily for his freewheeling comedy Greetings, which earned its place in the history books as the first film given an X rating by the MPAA. (Bear in mind that's a 1968 X rating, a la Midnight Cowboy, so it's quite tame by today's standards.) De Palma's first feature to be filmed, The Wedding Party, was shot in 1963 and marked the first of his collaborations with Robert De NIro, a figurehead of sorts for his early comedies and later to return to play Al Capone in De Palma's The Untouchables. However, The Wedding Party didn't finish post-production until three years later and wouldn't get a release until 1969, hot on the heels of Greetings. Of course, the success of that latter film led to a direct sequel in 1970, Hi, Mom!, while the same four-year period also saw other De Palma projects including the borderline avant garde thriller Murder à la Mod (technically his first released feature and included as a bonus on Criterion's Blow Out), the very troubled studio project Get to Know Your Rabbit, and Greetingsthe counterculture split-screen filmed play, Dionysus in '69. All three of the early De Palma / De Niro ventures have been around on home video in separate editions of varying degrees of quality over the years, but they finally joined together in 2018 as a welcome boxed set from Arrow Video, De Niro & De Palma: The Early Films. Greetings

Taking its title from the first word spoken by the government to men drafted into the military, Greetings is an overtly political and anti-Vietnam satire created from an outline rather than a traditional screenplay. The structure revolves around three men caught up in the turmoil of the times: Paul (Warden), who's wandering through the new jungle of computer dating; Jon (De Niro), a voyeur who takes up amateur filmmaking and analyzes his fetish through literature; and Lloyd (Graham), who's so mired in conspiracy theories about the recent high-profile assassinations that he can barely talk about anything else. With the specter of Vietnam constantly hanging over them and sex providing an easy way to get their points across, they keep zigzagging through each other's paths before one of them finally ends up being shipped overseas to fight. Hi, Mom! picks up Jon's character in a more sardonic state as he's back home in New York with his filmmaking drive in higher gear than before. His voyeurism is stronger than ever, too, as his Greenwich Village apartment offers a vantage point of a colorful array of characters whom he films and "directs" on his own terms. Soon he becomes embroiled in a radical group putting on a theatrical production - or is it? - called Be Black Baby, an extreme statement about race and culture that puts The Wedding Partyhim on the path to even more extreme behavior. Put together, the films lay the groundwork for the obsessive cinephilia that would come into The Wedding Partyplay in later De Palma films, most obviously with the thematically similar Home Movies (which is in dire need of a good transfer and would have been a great companion piece to this set). The fragmented presentation of Vietnam would rear its head again as well in Casualties of War, while the cinema-centered treatment of war would become the entire focus of his divisive Redacted. Mainly though these are a great opportunity to see De Palma in full-on satire mode, something critics seemed to forget about and completely misread in his later films.

The Wedding Party is, like its companion films, a clear descendant of the French New Wave and the technically extreme comic approach of Richard Lester (especially A Hard Day's Night and The Knack). Also thin on traditional narrative, it's a snapshot of the events that transpire leading up to the island wedding of Josephine (Clayburgh) and Charlie (Pfluger) when groomsmen Cecil (De Niro, credited as "Robert Denero") and Alistair (Finley) arrive the day before to prepare. The bride's Hi, Mom!well-to-do family, the Fishes, are using their estate as home base for the festivities, but Charlie turns out to be less gung ho about tying the knot than he initially appears. Quirky characters abound as the groomsmen do their best to help him make up his mind without destroying his life. Slight but fascinating as a chance to see De Palma essentially operating on training wheels, the film may baffle newcomers but serves as a vital entry in his filmography. Most notably it marks his first time out not only with De Niro but with Finley, later the star of Phantom of the Paradise and a scene-stealing supporting player in The Fury and The Black Dahlia, and Jennifer Salt, who would go on to star in Sisters.The Wedding Party

For various distribution reasons, both Greetings and Hi, Mom! became the provenance of MGM during most of the DVD era but with only the second film being released by them on DVD in a solid widescreen transfer in 2004. That followed the studio's VHS release, which was actually the first time the film had been released fully uncut on U.S. home video. (Videotape editions under the titles Blue Manhattan and Confessions of a Peeping John made a few trims, most obviously the entire removal of Gerrit Graham's frontally nude body painting which was evidently even longer before the film Hi, Mom!was trimmed to avoid an X rating.) Greetings only hit DVD in a full frame edition from budget label Platinum, though it was actually one of their best-looking releases; meanwhile The Wedding Party was put out in a grimy-looking DVD edition from Troma in 2005.

When the rights to Greetings and Hi, Mom! reverted back to producer Charles Hirsch (who also co-wrote the films), the coast was clear for the Arrow box featuring new 2K scans of all three films. The Wedding Party is from the original film negative and looks exponentially better than it ever has before; the open aperture presentation (which would probably work fine cropped to 1.85:1 based on the soft matting in the titles) is very detailed and impressive which makes it far easier to catch nuances in the performances (mostly captured in medium or wide shots) than ever before. The other two films are simply cited as being from "original film materials," but they also look great and improve on the older DVD editions with plenty of natural film grain and vivid colors. All three feature LPCM English mono audio tracks in good shape with optional English SDH subtitles provided. Hi, Mom!

A new audio commentary for Greetings by Glenn Kenny offers some great context for the film including its indebtedness to Lenny Bruce, the use of volatile terms that would drive P.C. viewers insane today, the scrappy means used to raise the $43,000 budget, the origins of the voyeurism aspect, the stylistic influence of Hi, Mom!Richard Lester and Jean-Luc Godard, and the future career paths (or lack thereof) for the key players. "De Palma: Early Years" (11m41s) features filmmaker and Destructible Man co-founder Howard S. Berger charting the evolution of De Niro's Rubin character through the two films and its ties to related presence media including books and television that reflect the zeitgeist of the era. He also touches on The Wedding Party in the final stretch, noting how its island presence prefigures Sisters and ties in to De Palma's portrayals of New York. Both discs feature relevant interviews with
Charles Hirsch, divided between his work on Greetings (11m47s) and Hi, Mom! (9m38s) as he chats about meeting De Palma for the first time, the impact of Godard's Masculin Feminin, their fixations on voyeurism and the Kennedy assassination, the mechanics of putting together all of the complex apartment shooting and the logical decision to radicalize De Niro's character for the sequel. The theatrical trailer for Hi, Mom! and a Greetings press book are also included. (Interviews with Graham and actor Peter Maloney were originally announced but did not materialize on the final release.) The limited edition also contains a booklet featuring new essays by Brad Stevens, Chris Dumas and Christina Newland as well as an archive De Palma and Hirsch interview.

Greetings Hi, Mom! Hi, Mom! Hi, Mom!Hi, Mom!

Reviewed on December 10, 2018.