Combustible Celluloid Review - The Automat (2022), Michael Levine, Lisa Hurwitz, Mel Brooks, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elliott Gould, Colin Powell, Carl Reiner, Howard Schultz
Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mel Brooks, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elliott Gould, Colin Powell, Carl Reiner, Howard Schultz
Written by: Michael Levine
Directed by: Lisa Hurwitz
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 79
Date: 02/18/2022

The Automat (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Window Pangs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Lisa Hurwitz has made an absolute delight of a documentary telling a seemingly non-essential and yet totally essential piece of forgotten history. The Automat restaurant only existed in New York and Philadelphia, but during its time was the biggest restaurant franchise in America. Customers could view various dishes through little windows, enter coins into a slot, and then take out a plate of delicious salisbury steak or macaroni and cheese or creamed spinach of sandwiches or pie. The restaurant prided itself on its coffee, which was sold for a nickel for as long as they could afford it, and which flowed from a dolphin-shaped spout. The company took good care of its employees, served only quality food, and even had a non-discrimination policy when it came to who they let in the door. Mel Brooks is one of the movie's enthusiastic interviewees; he begins the film by giving Hurwitz advice on how to begin the film. Hurwitz includes plenty of photos and clips, and even has a prized interview with Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I wish someone could bring back a place like this; I'd be the first in line.

Kino Lorber's DVD release includes an audio commentary track by Hurwitz, an extended interview with Brooks, a new introduction by Brooks, and archival footage on Automat founders Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart. (There is no Blu-ray release.)

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