Archive for the ‘Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)’ Category

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Distributor: Sony Pictures

Release Date: October 04, 2016

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:55:35

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

Spanish (Castilian) Mono

Spanish (Latin American) Mono

French Mono

German Mono

Portuguese Mono

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Finnish, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Hungarian, Turkish, Hebrew, & Arabic

Ratio: 1.37:1

Notes: This is the Blu-ray debut of this title, but it was previously released in various DVD editions.

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Frank Capra and Gary Cooper on the set of “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.”

“Beginning with Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, my films had to say something. And whatever they said had to come from those ideas inside me that were hurting to come out.‎” –Frank Capra (The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography)

Mr. Deeds Goes Town (based on the 1935 short story Opera Hat by Clarence Budington Kelland) is undoubtedly one of Frank Capra’s most celebrated films. It marks the beginning of a string of Capra films that honor and champion the struggles “common man,” and his efforts won the director his second Academy Award. (The film was also nominated in the Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Sound Recording categories.) The New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review named it the “Best Picture of 1936,” and it is very likely that the movie deserved the honor.

The film follows Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), a man living a simple and anonymous life until he inherits a vast fortune from a late uncle. A crooked attorney (Douglas Dumbrille) brings Deeds to New York City, where the unassuming heir is the object of unwanted media attention. When wily reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur) gains the trust and affection of Deeds, she uses her position to publish condescending articles about him—until she actually comes to know him. Love blossoms between the two as Bennett’s big city cynicism withers into nothing. It is exactly the sort of “Capra-corn” that audiences would come to expect from the director.

It isn’t difficult to understand why depression-era audiences responded to a film that follows the story of a man who inherits a vast fortune and decides to redistribute the wealth among the less fortunate only to be double-crossed by his cynical big city lawyers (who actually try to have him declared insane so that they can control the wealth). Capra was preaching to the initiated.

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is the third release in Sony’s (hopefully) ongoing “Capra Collection” series which launched two years ago with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Like their previous Capra releases, this disc is housed in attractive “Collectible Digi-book Packaging” with an all-new essay by Film Historian, Jeremy Arnold. The text is beautifully illustrated with rare photos from the film’s production, and this makes for a uniquely attractive package.

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The disc’s static menu is also quite attractive and features music from the film’s score. The overall result is an extremely elegant presentation that is easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Sony Pictures should be commended for their 4K 80th Anniversary restoration of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, which by all accounts was in desperate need of a proper restoration. Rita Belda explained this meticulous process in the liner notes:

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town fared a bit better than some films from that era, because the studio created duplicating negatives in 1935 and 1949 which were used to create prints. But in 2014, the original camera negative for Mr. Deeds was in poor physical condition with numerous notches and stressed perforations (making the physical element less stable and prone to breakage) and was missing footage in nearly every reel.

The 4K restoration of Mr. Deeds is not the first time this film has seen the loving care of preservationists. In the early 1990s, a comprehensive restoration was complete by the Library of Congress, using nitrate elements (primarily the nitrate dupe negative from the 1930s), creating preservation fine grains: the source for the video transfers previously available. This photochemical work was limited by the fact that much of the damage in the nitrate materials was printed across to the new safety materials, and in 2004 when Sony Pictures created a new HD transfer of the film, hours of restoration were needed to try to improve on printed in scratches and dirt, not to mention the softer image quality resulting from mutigenerational elements. Digital tools have developed over the years, and the fixes done ten and twenty years ago are easier to achieve. But the real achievement in the restoration of Mr. Deeds comes from the ability to scan the original negative as its source.

The duplicate original negative was evaluated, repaired and scanned at 4K by Cineric, in New York. Employing wet-gate scanning eliminated countless scratches in a tried-and-true technique developed in photo-chemical restoration but practiced by few facilities offering scanning services today. This provided a cleaner basis than any of the duplicate materials with their multitude of printed-in damage and utilized the best resolution material which made the digital restoration work (completed by Prasad) more efficient and effective. But there was still plenty of restoration work to be done, especially on the shorter sections of film that had been lost from the original negative—sometimes a few frames to nearly half a shot or more. For these materials, we turned to the duplicate nitrate negatives and were able, using digital restoration and color correction, to insert just the frames that had been lost from the alternate elements. Scott Ostrowsky, [the] colorist at Sony Pictures’ DI facility Colorworks, worked to minimize the difference in contrast, density and shading in the alternate materials, and blend the frames into the scenes, as well as grading of the final picture to bring out all of the details captured in the original photography.’ –Rita Belda (Liner Notes, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” Restoration in 4K)

This painstaking work appears to have paid off in spades. If the result isn’t a perfect print, it is certainly a tremendous improvement over previous prints (and previous Home Video transfers). One doesn’t imagine that a better print will ever be forthcoming in the foreseeable future. This is a truly amazing transfer that can only be described as revelatory! The strength Joseph Walker’s cinematography finally reveals itself as the remarkable feat that it was (and is). Fine detail and clarity is incredible even considering the natural layer of grain that adds an old school film texture to one’s viewing experience (purists should be happy to find that this hasn’t been artificially scrubbed away). Contrast is well balanced and blacks are deep without crushing. There doesn’t even appear to be any pesky digital artifacts to mar one’s appreciation of the image. This is truly a beautiful job.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars 

Of course, the sound elements of the film were also given special attention by Sony’s restoration team.

“…and the transfer of the original variable density track was critical to the success of the audio restoration. This work was completed by Chace Audio by Deluxe, where special attention was given to maintaining the full dynamic range of the original recording, but minimalizing distortion and noise in key scenes, such as where Deeds and his new servants test out the echoes in the great hall.” –Rita Belda (Liner Notes, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” Restoration in 4K)

 A film of this era is obviously going to have a number of limitations to its audio track, but this lossless 2.0 Mono track is a serviceable representation of the source. Dialogue is always clearly rendered and is certainly approved upon here. Those who have seen previous transfers of the film should certainly notice a marked improvement. Music sometimes needs more room to breathe, but this is really an issue with the original elements. Any sound issues are a result of the technological limitations of the 1930s and were simply impossible to fix. Listeners shouldn’t have any trouble enjoying this track.

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 Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Audio Commentary by Frank Capra Jr.

Those who have heard other commentaries from Frank Capra Jr. will know what to expect from this interesting track. His style is casual and conversational but focused as he discusses his father’s work on the film, and the background information about the production is consistently interesting despite a less than articulate disposition. Unfortunately, there are long stretches of film where he goes completely silent. This could have become bothersome if the film weren’t so engaging on its own. It is certainly worth the occasional listen.

Frank Capra Jr. Remembers Mr. Deeds Goes to Town – (11:11)

Frank Capra, Jr. discusses the circumstances surrounding the production of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and gives an overall appreciation of the film. Statements are illustrated with stills from the production, promotional artwork, and footage from the film itself as one expects from this sort of featurette, and the result is an engaging and informative conversation about the film. One might wish for a comprehensive documentary about the creation of this Capra classic, but such a program would be rather difficult to produce. Most of those with any “first hand” knowledge have now passed away.

Theatrical Re-release Trailer – (01:28)

The film’s re-release trailer is rather traditional in its approach as viewers are shown scenes from the film itself. This is a nice artifact and it is really nice to have it included here, but one wonders why the original theatrical trailer hasn’t been included.

Vintage Advertising Gallery

This is a small collection of stills (mostly lobby cards) that were used to promote Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. It is interesting to see how the film was marketed to the public.

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Final Words:

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is one of Frank Capra’s most popular classics, and it is nice to see that Sony Pictures has seen fit to restore the film for future generations. This “collector’s” edition will be available exclusively through Amazon for some time before the film is given a more traditional wide release.

Review by: Devon Powell

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