Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, Portuguese, & Japanese
The Program: 4/5
Here Comes Mr. Jordan is a classic fantasy/comedy which won Academy Awards for Best Original Story and Best Screenplay of 1941. It also was nominated for five other Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It was famously remade in 1978 by Warren Beatty as Heaven Can Wait.
The film stars Robert Montgomery as Joe Pendleton, a professional boxer who is in line for a championship fight in New York City. Following a sparring session he informs his manager, Max Corkle (played to great comedic effect by James Gleason) that he will fly his personal plane to New York. During the flight a cable to the plane’s rudder snaps, and the plane hurtles toward the ground and crashes.
Joe’s soul is plucked from the plane by Messenger #7013 (humorously played by Edward Everett Horton), whose job it is to escort the souls of the deceased to their final reward. Messenger #7013 brings Joe’s soul to a plane bound for Heaven. However, during the check-in process, Messenger #7013’s boss, Mr. Jordan (portrayed by Claude Rains with his usual charm), discovers that Joe’s name does not appear on the manifest. It turns out that Messenger #7013 has made a monumental error. In his haste, he claimed Joe’s soul a few seconds before Joe’s death. Indeed, Joe wasn’t scheduled to die until fifty years later, in 1991. Had Messenger #7013 not intervened, Joe would have pulled the plane out of its dive before it crashed.
Joe and Messenger #7013 then return to the scene of the crash, so that Joe can once again inhabit his body and live out his remaining fifty years. However, the body is nowhere to be seen. They then proceed to New York City, where they discover that Max Corkle has had Joe’s body cremated! Mr. Jordan then offers Joe the opportunity to inhabit the body of any man who has died recently. Joe proves to be picky, however – after all, he was an athlete whose condition was “in the pink,” so not just any body will do.
What follows is a series of amusing twists and turns, as Joe takes over the body of a married man but then falls in love with a young woman named Bette Logan (Evelyn Keyes). A highlight of the film is very funny scene involving Max Corkle and police Inspector Williams (portrayed by Donald MacBride). Robert Montgomery is wonderful as the disembodied boxer, and James Gleason was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his turn as Max Corkle. Director Alexander Hall also was recognized with a Best Director nomination.
The Video: 4/5
Here Comes Mr. Jordan was given a complete restoration by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, and it shows. I did an A/B comparison with the Criterion laserdisc, which was issued in 1991. The differences are significant. The laserdisc version contains numerous speckles and scratches, as well as a few unstable moments. Those problem areas have been completely cleaned up. Other than a few scenes which show some digital enhancement, the picture looks clean and smooth throughout. There is some grain, which is not unexpected in a film this old, but it is not enough to be distracting. The black & white image is sharp throughout and the contrast is strong and stable.
The DVD notes that Columbia funded the restoration at UCLA. They did an excellent job of restoring this film to its original glory.
The Audio: 3/5
The audio on the Criterion laserdisc isn’t horrible, but it is sufficiently scratchy to be annoying. All of that noise has been eliminated on the DVD’s mono soundtrack. This is a dialogue-driven film, and every word of it is completely intelligible. There is nothing here to give your audio system a workout, but it does what it does very well.
This is a bare-bones disc from Sony/Columbia which contains no supplemental materials. It would be nice to at least see the film’s trailer, but it does not even appear on the Criterion laserdisc, so it is possible that the trailer does not exist. The only supplement on the laserdisc is an interview with the late actress Elizabeth Montgomery, who was Robert Montgomery’s daughter.
There are none. The DVD has chapter stops, but the only way they can be utilized is through the chapter advance button on your remote.
The Final Analysis: 4/5
Although Here Comes Mr. Jordan deserves deluxe treatment, fans of the film will be so happy to see this restored version that they likely will not mind that the DVD contains no extras. The list price is $19.95, with a street price of $14 or so.
Equipment used for this review:
Cambridge Audio Azur 540D DVD player
Sharp LC-42D62U LCD display
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable
Release Date: February 6, 2007