Posted in: Disc Reviews by David Annandale on October 15th, 2004
Three philanthropic businessmen — the boisterous Irishman, the English Gent, and theOklahoman Grump — live together on Central Park South, tended to by exiled Russian countessMaria Ouspenskaya (best known today for her turn as Bela Lugosi’s mother in The WolfMan). One Christmas Eve, they experimentally toss wallets out into the snow to see if theyare returned. A young man (Richard Carlson) and a young woman (Jean Parker) turn up andunder the happy gaze of our lovea…le codgers, romance blooms. When the elderly trio are killedin a plane accident, they return as ghosts to watch over their young friends and make sureeverything turns out for them.
Looking for a cinematic incarnation of the “anodyne”? Here ya go. There is zero conflictuntil over halfway through the film, when Carlson’s budding singing career puts him in contactwith The Other Woman. Otherwise, the relentless niceness of it all is sure to trigger diabeticshock. There is, perhaps, a certain morbid fascination in seeing, from the vantage point of ourpost-Enron age, this unbelievably utopian picture of capitalism (as represented in our elderlysaints).
The score is a bit of a gurgly mess during the opening credits, and there is a fair bit ofbackground static. The dialogue is perfectly clear and audible, however, and the film is from1940 (though it arguably sounds older than that).
First, the print quality. For the most part, it isn’t bad. The speckling and other damage isminor, though the flicker is sometimes very noticeable. The grain isn’t bad for the film’s vintage.There are also a few awkward splices. Now, there are two ways of viewing the feature:colourized, and in the original black-and-white. The B&W is decent though the contrasts aresometimes a bit off, bleaching out the lighter elements. The colourization, however, is nothingshort of horrific being the dismal collection of blues and browns one associates with the earlydays of the process. The characters’ teeth are sometimes green, and the washed-out look is deeplyunattractive (especially when one considers the brilliance of the Technicolor movies of the sameperiod). Hideous stuff, but at least the original is also provided.
The trailer is colourized too, so don’t look at it too long. The better extras are four vintageshorts — filler, really, that would have played in before the main feature in the theatres (so, forinstance, Bob Hope pushes Christmas Seals, and Bette Davis shills War Bonds). There are alsofour deleted scenes. The main screen is animated and scored, while the secondary screens arescored (rather loudly).
“Rare holiday treasure” translates as “deservedly obscure,” but there is some historical valuein any old film being preserved. Avoid the colour version at all costs, however.
Special Features List
- Vintage Shorts
- Deleted Scenes