Unfaithfully Yours, generally acknowledged to be the best entry in filmmaker Preston Sturges' post-war filmography, gets a new release to home video courtesy of the 20th Century Fox Cinema Archives collection of manufactured on demand DVD-Rs. Viewers seeking to enjoy Rex Harrison's tour de force performance in the blackest of Sturges' acclaimed series of comedies, will be able to purchase the film at a lower price point than the Criterion Collection DVD release from 2005, but will also be foregoing several interesting and informative special features.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 45 Min.
Package Includes: DVDin standard DVD "ECO-BOX"
Disc Type: DVD-R
Release Date: 03/01/2013
Directed by: Preston Sturges
The Production Rating: 4/5
Starring: Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Rudy Vallee, Kurt Kreuger, Edgar Kennedy, Barbara Lawrence, Lionel Stander
In Unfaithfully Yours, Rex Harrison plays internationally acclaimed symphonic conductor Sir Alfred De Carter. When a miscommunication occurs between Sir Alfred and his brother-in-law, August Henshler (Vallee), August hires a private detective (Kennedy) to follow Sir Alfred's wife, Daphne (Darnell), while he is out of town. Upon his return home, the mercurial Sir Alfred is furious to learn about the detective and violently refuses to look at any of the reports he has compiled. Despite his objections, farcical circumstances conspire to make Sir Alfred aware of the detective's observation of an extended late night visit between Daphne and Sir Alfred's personal secretary, Anthony (Kreuger). Sir Alfred's subsequent jealous rage manifests itself in three operatically murderous fantasies that play out in his imagination while he is conducting an orchestra in three pieces of music from Rossini, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky. His efforts to enact his revenge fantasies in the real world, however, are thwarted by circumstances and comic ineptitude.
Preston Sturges' post-war output as a (mostly) independent filmmaker can be as frustrating as his early forties run was magnificent. The stretch of films from 1940's The Great McGinty to 1944's Hail the Conquering Hero are among the best film comedies made in the talking picture era and justify putting his name in the same sentence with directors like Lubitsch, Wilder, and Hawks. After a change of pace biographical drama (1944's The Great Moment), Sturges ventured in to the murky waters of independent filmmaking, and stumbled lightly on the artistic front and heavily on the commercial front with the Harold Lloyd "comeback" vehicle The Sin of Harold Diddledock. Unfaithfully Yours was viewed as a return to form by critics, but was met with commercial indifference by audiences who were likely not attuned to its pitch black sense of humor.
Modern audiences familiar with the subsequent 65 years of cinema should have no trouble getting their minds around the concept of such a black comedy. Rex Harrison, and indeed the whole supporting cast, are perfectly attuned to the fast-paced rhythms of Sturges' trademark rapid fire repartee to the point where viewers/listeners will undoubtedly benefit from multiple viewings of the film in which they can appreciate jokes and asides they may have missed or previously only understood on one of multiple levels.
As fast as the dialog exchanges are, the film's one minor flaw relates to the pacing of its overall farcical plot. Viewers will likely figure out where the plot is going long before the film's ending, and it occasionally does seem to be spinning its narrative wheels. This amounts to a minor complaint when said wheel spinning is accompanied by the wonderful music of both Sturges' dialog and of the actual symphony portrayed in the film.
Presented in its original 4:3 theatrical aspect ratio, Unfaithfully Yours exhibits very good detail, natural film grain, and very little visible element damage, comparable to the previously released Criterion Collection presentation. On the negative side of the ledger, apparent contrast manipulation results in a subtle degradation of the image causing occasional instances where dark areas of the screen fall off too quickly to black, harming shadow detail. The effect is subtle, but noticeable, especially when comparing side by side with the earlier release.
Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA
The disc's only audio option is film's original mono soundtrack encoded as a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. The track exhibits some fidelity limitations typical of vintage optical tracks (mostly limitations in dynamics that cause mild artifacts during louder peaks). A much lighter hand has been applied with respect to digital noise reduction on this release versus the 2005 Criterion DVD. While this results in slightly higher levels of background noise, I also think it results in an overall improved fidelity, which is an important consideration for the film's orchestral music-heavy soundtrack.
Audio Rating: 3/5
There are no special features on the disc.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
While Preston Sturges devotees are advised to seek out the full-featured 2005 Criterion Collection DVD of his darkest comedy, Unfaithfully Yours, this manufactured on demand DVD-R release will do for fans only seeking the film itself. It exhibits video subtly worse than its predecessor due to some apparent contrast manipulation in the digital video domain and audio fidelity subtly improved over its predecessor due to a lighter hand with digital noise reduction.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Ken_McAlinden
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