Brewster's Millions comes to Blu-ray

Tuesday, 27 September 2016 23:00 Written by 

Brewster's Millions from 1985 is out now on Blu-ray“Brewster's Millions” is a 1985 comedy film starring Richard Pryor as Montgomery Brewster, the recipient of a bizarre request in a will, with John Candy as his slow-paced buddy Spike. Originally based on the 1902 novel of the same name by George Barr McCutcheon, it spawned several previous films, including ones in 1914 (directed by Cecil B DeMille!), 1921, 1935, 1945 and 1961 – and there was even a “Miss Brewster’s Millions” in 1926. There’s now a new version, called “Brewster’s Billions” which is in development. But in the case of this new Blu-ray version, it was directed by Walter Hill, who was on something of a roll at the time having recently helmed “Southern Comfort”, “Streets of Fire” and “48 Hours” (he would go on to produce the “Aliens” film franchise).

The plot sees a minor-league pitcher, Brewster, finding his services are no longer required, and then learns his great-uncle has left him $300 million. To inherit it, Brewster must spend $30 million in 30 days under a complicated set of rules that forbid him from donating too much to charity, or retaining any new assets when the period is over. Or, he can walk away with just $1 million if he doesn’t want the challenge. As he is not allowed to share details of the will's conditions with anyone, Brewster sets out to spend his money under the stern eye of paralegal Angela Drake (Lonette McKee – Maggie Davis in Third Watch).

As part of the action, and in an attempt to really frazzle the cash, Brewster stands against the two other candidates in a Mayoral election. Rather than try to win it, he opts to persuade people to scribble “None of the above” on their ballot papers. His contention is that, just like his rivals, none of them are the right candidates for the job.

The objective of this exercise was to demonstrate that no candidate should have a mandate to take up the post, if there was so much tangible opposition to them having the role. It is very much something which has been pushed for in the real world, on both sides of the Atlantic - given that most candidates are voted for to stop another candidate getting in, rather than being supported on their own merits. It is a widely held contention that with such election-turning percentages of people now divorcing themselves from the electoral systems by not voting, the alternative of “None on the above” would give a necessary voice to those who believe that the candidates actually create no alternatives.

For this reason alone, this turns “Brewster’s Millions” into something far more than a run-of-the-mill comedy movie.  It is a statement of intent which should be encouraged by those wanting to strengthen democracy around the world.

Richard Prior may have found this appealing, as he was definitely part of American counterculture. At the age of 16, he was expelled from High School for punching his science teacher. He was then expelled from a Catholic grammar school in Peoria, Illinois, when the nuns discovered his grandmother owned several brothels. Later in life, a fire which nearly killed him while taking cocaine was in fact a suicide attempt. His management created the ‘accident’ lie for the press in the hope of protecting him. He remarried two of his ex-wives and suffered from multiple sclerosis from 1986 until his death in 2005. He was chosen as top of the pile in Comedy Central’s ‘100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time’, and was awarded ‘The First Annual Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize’.

“Brewster’s Millions” is important from a production point of view due to the role played in it by an executive called Frank Price, who was very important to the development of several Cult TV series. One of the few Hollywood ‘top dogs’ to come from a writing background, Price had an early career as a story editor and writer for CBS-TV from 1951-53 followed by a stint as story editor for Columbia Pictures from 1953-57, which he would later return to at two further points in life. In the 1960s he produced or executive produced the likes of The Tall Man, The Virginian, It Takes a Thief and Ironside.

As the head of Universal TV in the 1970s, he developed and/or supervised The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, The Rockford Files, The Incredible Hulk, the original Battlestar Galactica, and the Rich Man, Poor Man mini-series.

In 1978, Price left the presidency of Universal TV to become President, and later Chairman and CEO, of Columbia Pictures where he was involved with such story-driven, award-winning films as “Kramer vs Kramer” (1979), “Tootsie” (1982) and “Gandhi” (1982), as well as more cult-ish offerings such as “Ghostbusters” (1984) and “The Karate Kid” (1984).

In 1983, after conflict with parent company Coca-Cola over his autonomy, Price jumped back to Universal as chairman of the motion picture group and president of Universal Pictures, where “Brewster’s Millions” was his first commission. He developed “Back to the Future” (1985) – you can see him talk about the film in the new documentary “Back in Time”, as well as “Fletch” (1985), “Out of Africa” (1985) and “The Breakfast Club” (1985).

“Brewster’s Millions” had a soundtrack by Ry Cooder. With a budget of $20m, the movie grossed $45m at the box office, so definitely had its fans. It still holds up well today, and moves along at a swift pace with plenty of laughs on the way. The rendition on Blu-ray certainly lifts the quality of the print. In terms of extras, we have the Theatrical Trailer (86 seconds) as well as four pages of “Production Notes”, plus several pages under the category “Cast and Filmmakers” - Richard Pryor (4 pages), John Candy (4 pages), Lonette McKee (3 pages), Stephen Collins (4 pages), Hume Cronyn (6 pages), and Walter Hill (4 pages).

“Brewster’s Millions” is out now from Fabulous Films/Fremantle Media Enterprises. It has a running time of 101 minutes approx, a ‘PG’ certificate, and a RRP of £19.99 – or why not get it for less at


Last modified on Friday, 30 September 2016 12:48

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