The Fisher King (Criterion) – Blu-Ray Review

Not many people would imagine Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges to be an unforgettable duo, however, in 1991 we got to see exactly what that was like.  The Fisher King is a unique film that explores the dichotomy of a man and how he can evolve and/or devolve given the surrounding circumstances.  Here we have a completely unexpected film that seems to take us on a roller coaster of events and tragedies throughout.  The film would not go down as that well known and not even that life changing for the actors involved (with the exception of Mercedes Ruehl who won an academy award for best-supporting actress for her role in the film). However, the film was culturally significant enough to the filming community that Criterion took notice and made it number 764 in their growing collection.  

Terry Gilliam definitely makes his stand for his unique style and camera work in this one.  It feels very raw and unsettling most of the time you are watching. Gilliam accomplishes this by giving us camera angles and perspectives that the audience is not used to seeing in a film of this nature.

The Film

The Fisher King is a story about two men who have experienced an unspeakable tragedy due to the actions of a radio personality named Jack.  Jack inadvertently gives the wrong kind advice to a regular call-in and he ends up shooting down a fancy restaurant, killing multiple people and possibly ruining Jack’s career forever.  Jack’s life takes a terrible turn and he goes into an alcoholic spiral eventually ending up trying to commit suicide and being saved by a homeless man named Parry.  Jack quickly discovers that Parry has gone through some sort of mental break and is convinced he is on a quest for the holy grail.  Jack soon finds out Parry was at the restaurant and makes it his mission to help Parry overcome his shortcomings and ultimately find his grail, and even more, find happiness once more.  


Here is a film that has many layers.  We get to how the duality of man can surface in a variety of ways.  Jack is an interesting character, ultimately being the man we are supposed to root for, but surprisingly, he is not a particularly likable man. Whereas Parry, the man who if we saw someone like him on the street we most likely turn up our noses, is very likable and we tend to root for him in everything he does.  The other interesting side of this story is the fact that both men have fallen from their former selves and in all reality their more likable selves.  We are left to root for the shells of men that may not exist ever again, which slowly becomes the realization of the audience as the film progresses.  


The Film 4.5/5

Picture Quality

Here is where things get a little interesting.  I find that the camera angles chosen in the film are unique and off-putting really giving the film its own individual feel.  It would seem Gilliam wanted to show the duality of the men through certain moments and switch very traditional camera angles out for one more reflective of their former selves.  Gilliam chose Roger Pratt to help him frame this story.  Having once before working together on Brazil which also found its way onto the Criterion list. It is clear that these two had something good going on and clearly both films show the result of their partnership.  The Criterion Blu-ray transfer is absolutely perfect.  Criterion always does such a great job of capturing the originally intended picture and bringing it to life on Blu-ray.


Picture Quality 5/5

Audio Quality

We have a beautifully edited film for home viewing.  This comes, of course, as no surprise from Criterion as they always handle each film with the utmost care.  For the music featured in the film, seasoned veteran of the industry George Fenton is at the helm.  He manages to create an eclectic vibe that simultaneously captures the late eighties/early nineties and keeps the extraordinary Robin Williams grounded with the heartfelt score that brings each moment to life.


Audio Quality 5/5


Like most of the new standard packaging for the Criterion Blu-ray releases, The Fisher King features unique artwork and a beautiful insert.  The artwork is whimsical and fresh, it gives the whole film a very light-hearted feeling to it.  The insert which can be used as a mini poster (I imagine, I mean who actually does that) has an essay on the back of it and features the cast and crew’s names all around the border of it.  The same kind of artwork is featured on the disc itself and all around the packaging seems to have a great feel and look to it.  My one complaint with this edition is the way the insert tends to peek through the case at the bottom, this, of course, being a very nitpicky issue but nonetheless, they had to notice it and know that aesthetically it is less than ideal.

The Packaging 5/5

Special Features

As with every Criterion release, we can expect some outstanding extras to be included and of course, The Fisher King is no exception.  With exceptional behind the scenes looks at what the cast and crew went through to words straight from Gilliam himself it’s about all I could ask for in extras from a release.  The Special Features included are as follows:


  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Tale of the Fisher King
    • The Fool and the Wounded King
      • We get to see how the film ended up being written and how Gilliam was immediately drawn to it.
    • The Real and the Fantastical
      • We get a glimpse at how the four featured actors/actresses worked together and found their own voices
  • The Tale of the Red Knight
    • Keith Greco and Vincent Jefferds recall what it was like to create the red knight in a time that wasn’t dominated by Computer Generated effects
  • Jeff’s Tale
    • We get to see production through Jeff Bridges’ eyes using photographs he took during filming
  • Jeff and Jack
    • We get to see first hand the radio sessions Jeff Bridges recorded in order to help become the his character
  • Robin’s Tale
    • We get to watch an interview Robin did where he talks about his time filming The Fisher King
  • Costume Tests
  • Trailers

Special Features 5/5


The Fisher King stands alone, with its unique style and storyline it makes a case for its individuality and undertones.  Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges make an undeniably addicting duo to watch and you just cannot wait to see what may happen next.  Williams makes a serious case that his acting ability transcends that of a comedy-centric genre.  The story itself, however tragic, begs the question – what each of us would do in the face of tragedy, in the face of a mistake, or the with the opportunity for redemption?  It is an absolutely enjoyable watch and will stick with you for a few days at least.  I highly recommend this one.  If for no other reason than to add it to your Criterion collection.  You can purchase this edition HERE.


Overall 4.5/5 -Highly Recommended