HTF REVIEW: "You Can't Take It With You" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 15, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    [​IMG]

    You Can't Take It With You




    Studio: Columbia
    Year: 1938
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 125 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Full frame (1.33:1)
    Subtitles: English, French, Japanese, Portugese,
    and Spanish



    Having done some research on director Frank Capra,
    I found out something very interesting about his
    rise to Hollywood fame. He actually bluffed his
    way into the film business during the early 1920s.
    He started from the ground up, working in the prop
    and lab departments, eventually settling in as a
    gagman with Mack Sennett. By the early 30s he had
    moved to Columbia Pictures where he started directing
    small low-budget films that entertained movie audiances
    during the Depression. His first huge success was
    a film called It Happened One Night, a
    comedy starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
    The film won Oscar acclaim and Capra became an
    instant success.
    [​IMG]
    Four years later, Capra won another two Oscars (Best
    Picture & Director) for You Can't Take It With
    You, a wonderful screen adaptation of Kaufman
    and Hart's Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play.
    The story concerns Tony Kirby (James Stewart) the
    son of wealthy banker Anthony Kirby (Edward Arnold),
    a ruthless tycoon who is about to buy out an entire
    neighborhood in order to make room for a munitions
    plant. Standing in this tycoon's way is the zany
    Sycamore household, presided over by Grandpa
    Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore), who has turned his
    back on a stressful society, enjoying life at its
    fullest. His entire family lives on the same
    philosophy -- always singing, dancing and partaking
    in general everyday merrymaking.
    [​IMG]
    It just so happens that young and wealthy Tony
    Kirby is madly in love with the most sane member
    of this household, Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur).
    Tony suggests that the only way the two families
    can come to a compromise is if they meet each other
    in person. This sets up a set of hilarious screwball
    encounters as the wealthy stuffed-shirt Kirbys meet
    the carefree Sycamores.
    [​IMG]
    Columbia's release of You Can't Take It With You
    on DVD is not entirely welcomed here. On the one
    hand, I thoroughly loved this film. In addition
    to its offbeat humor and quirky characters, the film
    has an important social message to it. The
    performance of its cast is just sensational, in
    particular, Barrymore and Arnold who have opposite
    viewpoints yet want to attain the same things out
    of life. Capra has such a warm way of capturing
    the essence of his characters. It's no wonder he
    became such a popular filmmaker, making audiences
    feel uplifted during America's darker times.
    So why do I feel that You Can't Take It With
    You is an unwelcome presence on DVD? Read on...
    How is the transfer?
    In a single word -- miserable. To look at the back
    box cover one would be highly enthusiastic when
    reading that this film was Remastered in High
    Definition
    . It's sort of funny to read the
    words remastered and high definition
    only to see a final product that looks no better
    than what one would expect from VHS tape.
    I am at complete odds here over this transfer. I
    can't help but think that Columbia did the best
    they could with this release. But thinking about
    all the beautiful B&W transfers of this period
    from studios like Fox, Warner and Paramount, this
    transfer looks like garbage.
    [​IMG]
    Looking over my review notes, I see words like
    dirty, noisy, and gritty. Those
    words properly sum up this entire transfer. The
    print is just filled with all sorts of blemishes
    from nicks to scratches and even a sudden half-second
    blackout near the end of the film. If that wasn't
    bad enough, the picture is not very sharp and the
    overall contrast level is a bit too bright. There's
    a night scene in the beginning of the film where
    Stewart and Alice are sitting at a park bench. The
    scene is just totally blurred.
    The audio portion of this DVD is also supposedly
    digitally mastered. To be honest, I wouldn't rave
    about it. The audio is a bit muffled, scratchy,
    and often very shrill.
    Special Features
    [​IMG]
    Another disappointment here is that a Best Picture
    film like this has no additional content to support
    the film. Perhaps some sort of tribute to Frank
    Capra may have been in order here, and more
    importantly, perhaps the simplest thing like the
    film's original theatrical trailer would have been
    nice as well. Not here.
    Instead, we are given trailers for Mr. Deeds,
    Picnic
    and Sense and Sensibility. Yawn!
    Final Thoughts
    [​IMG]
    It astonishes me that a studio has given such
    disregard to a Best Picture film like this. I
    really wasn't exaggerating when I said that one
    could do equally well watching this film on VHS.
    Had Columbia put more effort into this release
    in both transfer and content I would hailed this
    as a Highly Recommended viewing. It's a
    shame, instead, that this very special movie has
    been ruined by the very studio the film won an
    Oscar for.
    Tsk. Tsk.
    Release Date: February 18, 2003
    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
     
  2. BrianP

    BrianP Supporting Actor

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    I was looking forward to this release and now I don't know if I want it after hearing how poorly it was treated. Sounds like I should just keep my copy on laserdisc and forget about this one.
     
  3. Tommy G

    Tommy G Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the review, Ron [​IMG] . Are you sure that the transfer is that miserable? I mean the screenshots look pretty darn good to me and it is afterall a 1938 film. Just looking for additional comments as I would definitely pick it up if it ends up being a decent transfer. I have been spoiled by Criterion but I will put up with sub-Criterion transfers if they are decent.
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    You should most certainly await other reviews.
    Never make a decision based upon one review --
    especially from a person like myself that has
    never seen this film on any previous format.
    I can only leave you with this....
    I have seen enough B&W DVDs from this
    period to make a reasonable comparison as to
    what acceptable transfer quality should be.
    In fact, I have just finished watching Columbia's
    Pennies From Heaven, a film two years
    younger, and it looks considerably better than
    the transfer of You Can't Take It With You.
     
  5. ChuckDeLa

    ChuckDeLa Cinematographer

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    Sad news indeed... this is one of my favorites, though so far I've only seen it on a lousy VHS transfer. Sounds like this isn't much better. And the lack of supplements is a damn shame too.

    I'll be giving Columbia my money anyway, but I'm not happy about it.
     
  6. Tommy G

    Tommy G Screenwriter

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    This is me [​IMG] . Thanks Ron, that was what I was looking for. I really wish these studios would take the time to do a decent job with the transfer instead of rushing these out the door. I would gladly pay a higher price and wait than have to pass on some of these classics.
     
  7. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter
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    Ron, I don't know if you were aware of this, but Columbia was notorious for abusing their negatives. It's very hard to find pristine classic Columbias. I would imagine that a popular film such as this one probably suffered more than most, unfortunately. I could be wrong, but I seem to remember being told once that Columbia sometimes used their negatives to strike prints! Maybe Mr. Harris can elaborate on what he knows.
     
  8. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This news is very unwelcome and now I wonder about "The Talk of Town" which is coming out soon. I'm still going to buy this dvd and compare it to my super vhs copy.




    Crawdaddy
     
  9. Jeff Brooks

    Jeff Brooks Second Unit
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    I've never seen a good print of this movie. Perhaps they worked with the best material they had, without spending any more than they had to on the transfer.
     
  10. Jim Peavy

    Jim Peavy Supporting Actor

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    A shame, though I believe this wonderful movie has had a very checkered history on video, so I'm not surprised. Although, a bad print is one thing; a bad transfer is another, and pretty inexcusable. A real shame to think this is as good as YCTIWY gets.
     
  11. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Damn, I was looking forward to this release.

    You know, Warner did a bare-bones Arsenic and Old Lace (another Frank Capra masterpiece), but at least made the a/v near flawless.

    Columbia did a wonderful job on It Happened One Night...and it's a movie 4 years older than this one, and the DVD came out in 1998!

    I just hope The Awful Truth doesn't suffer the same fate.
     
  12. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Also, don't forget about Columbia's effort with "His Girl Friday" which was outstanding and a good point about "The Awful Truth" dvd release.




    Crawdaddy
     
  13. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    Well, with these older movies it's hard to know how much to attribute to original elements vs. the transfer.

    Still, this only further fuels my recent dissatisfaction with Columbia Tri-Star. In many ways they seem to have gone from first to (nearly) worst. I guess they still beat Artisan.

    When I first got into DVD in 1998 CTS was consistently praised for the quality of their transfers. Now that is definitely not the case. It's like they haven't improved with the technology. Studios like Warners, Fox, and Paramount routinely beat them nowadays. Even their DVDs of brand new movies aren't as top-notch as they should be. They still employ too much edge enhancement and don't look as good as reference material from the others. Add to this their recent lack of support for OAR on many titles (something they were pretty good at early on).

    I'm a little suspicious of the many new title announcements (e.g., Cary Grant, Bogart stuff) that have come out of CTS in recent weeks. It seems they may be adopting a policy of dumping more catalog/classic titles on the market but without a lot of work on them, thus lower quality.

    Between this and Disney's recent releases it truly looks like DVD is starting to be treated like VHS on disc by some studios.

    Thanks for the review Ron.
     
  14. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

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    Do you mean "His Girl Friday?"
    I agree with what has been noted above.
    I have never seen this film look any other way.
    And yes, Columbia has always had notoriously bad prints,especially the films from this era. But they
    fixed up "Mr Smith" and some of the other Capra classics.
    What gives?
     
  15. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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  16. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    Glad I hung on to my VHS.
    [​IMG]
     
  17. Mike Knapp

    Mike Knapp Supporting Actor

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    I am of mixed feelings here. I am sorry the transfer is not up to snuff but I am glad it has been released. A little over a year ago I actually played the part of Mr. DePinna, the lonely man living in the Sycamore's basement making fireworks, on the stage. This is a story close to my heart and I will probably pick the disc up for just that reason.

    Thanks for the heads up Ron, this one had escaped my radar until I saw your review.

    BTW, Mr. DePinna is the gentleman in the last screen shot (far left) that has on the toga and is posing for the painting of the discus thrower. Yes, I wore the toga, it was a guaranteed laugh each night of the run.

    Mike
     
  18. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Well since I don't own this on LD, I'll be buying it. It may look like a vhs, but at least it won't deteriorate any further with repeated viewings. It's a shame it couldn't look better, but I love this movie too much to not have it.

    I am assuming Ron that, while disappointing, this isn't Madacy-type quality. If that were the case, I'd definitely skip it.
     
  19. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    I bought the disc despite not having read any reviews. [​IMG] Sorry to hear about the lackluster presentation but I figured as much given the less-then-classy cover art. Columbia did this one on the cheap and that's a shame.
     
  20. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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