When their beloved, yet morbidly obese, cousin Sal drops dead at 39, Antoinette (Anne Bancroft, The Prisoner of Second Avenue) insists her brother Dominick (Dom DeLuise, The Cannonball Run) to lose some weight. After breaking down at the funeral, Antoinette tells Dom she has made an appointment for him with a doctor. A chronic overeater, Dom has loved food his entire life. As a baby, when he cried, his grandmother placated him with cannoli. As anyone who’s grown up in an Italian family knows, food is a huge part of the culture. Of course, living in New York City, Dom can’t go five feet without someone offering him something to eat. When Dom finally does go to a dietician to get put on a diet, he brings everyone in the office takeout from Balducci’s. When the nurse shares aloud a list of things he can no longer eat, by the time she gets to bread and macaroni, a tear rolls down his cheek.

Largely known for his supporting roles (often alongside Burt Reynolds or Mel Brooks), Dom DeLuise shines in the starring role. He proves himself equally adept at the emotional elements of the story as the comedic. Years ago, I saw an interview with writer/director/co-star Anne Bancroft, where she said she wrote Fatso specifically with Dom in mind. That’s not surprising, given the actor’s well documented, lifelong struggle with his weight. At first, it’s tempting to dismiss Fatso as just another ethnic comedy, playing up Italian stereotypes for a few laughs. Eventually though, it becomes Dom’s mission to find a better version of himself. Eventually, Fatso becomes a romance, as Dom finds himself smitten with the lovely Lydia (Candice Azzarra). Suddenly, food isn’t the most important thing in his life.

Is that simplistic or manipulative? No. Fatso is sincere in the belief that Dom was filling an emptiness in his heart with food. Sometimes, when you feel alone, hitting the kitchen for your favorite snack seems like the only solution. It’s not a spoiler to say Fatso ends happily. That’s how this story should wrap up. After all, even though Antoinette and the rest of his family are a loud, boisterous bunch, they love Dom and want the best for him.

Sadly, this was Anne Bancroft’s only writing and directing credit. She shows flashes of tremendous talent. A real sense of comic timing is no surprise, given her long marriage to Mel Brooks. She also offers an authentic perspective on Italian American life. She even went so far as to use her mother’s maiden name, DiNapoli as Dom’s last name.  I saw Fatso for the first time sometime in the late eighties on cable. I think the film plays better now than it did then, given our increased understanding of why some people overeat. I would highly recommend Fatso to fans of both Dom DeLuise and Anne Bancroft.

Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Shout Factory has provided an adequate 1080p transfer. While some of the hazy appearance is intentional, the rest is inductive of outmoded mastering. This means that sharpness is never at peak form. Resolution is fine, but for a handful of close-ups where it would have to be categorized as poor. Colors are fine, though there never what could be considered bright. Contrast is a bit dull. There are some noticeable specks of dust and dirt on the image.

The DTS-HD mono soundtrack provides clean, clear and concise dialogue throughout. Ambient sounds come through nicely, and the score displays some nice highs and lows.

English SDH subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Looking Back on Fatso (HD, 12:20) in this new interview, producers Mel Brooks and Stuart Cornfield discuss the making of Fatso. Brooks is noticeably emotional when discussing his late wife, Anne Bancroft.
  • Interview with Maya Montañez Smukler (HD, 26:14) Author of Women Directors and the Feminist Reform of 1970’s American Cinema.”
  • Image Gallery (HD, 2:01)
  • Press Kit (HD, 2:45)