All That Money Can Buy Blu-ray Review

4.5 Stars A classic film gets a worthy restoration and presentation.
All That Money Can Buy Review

All That Money Can Buy is William Dieterle’s fantasy bit of folklore and a genuine classic.

All That Money Can Buy (1941)
Released: 17 Oct 1941
Rated: Passed
Runtime: 107 min
Director: William Dieterle
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Cast: Edward Arnold, Walter Huston, Jane Darwell
Writer(s): Stephen Vincent Benet, Dan Totheroh
Plot: A nineteenth-century New Hampshire farmer makes a pact with Satan for economic success, then enlists famed orator Daniel Webster to extract him from his contract.
IMDB rating: 7.6
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Criterion
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English PCM 1.0 (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 46 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: clear keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 03/12/2024
MSRP: $39.95

The Production: 4.5/5

William Dieterle’s All That Money Can Buy is a pictorially splendid and emotionally evocative rendering of Stephen Vincent Benét’s fanciful folktale “The Devil and Daniel Webster.” It’s perfectly cast, staged and shot to bring out the most of its folksy wisdom and common sense morality, and moodily resplendent to linger in the mind. Director Dieterle has some classic cinema on his resume (among others, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Life of Emile Zola, Portrait of Jennie), but All That Money Can Buy ranks right alongside the best of them.

New Hampshire farmer Jabez Stone (James Craig) after a string of misfortunes agrees to sell his soul to the devil, known in his parts as Mr. Scratch (Walter Huston), who gives Jabez seven years of good luck beginning with finding a crock of gold, having year after year of bountiful harvests, and fathering a healthy son (Lindy Wade). Thus, Jabez is able to pay off his debts and initially helps many neighboring farmers though eventually he becomes greedy for wealth and begins to become a loan shark to them. When Jabez’s contract with Mr. Scratch nears its conclusion, he in desperation turns to celebrated politician and fellow area farmer Daniel Webster (Edward Arnold) to represent him in a trial for his soul.

Author Stephen Vincent Benét collaborated with Dan Totheroh to flesh out his short story with backstory on Jabez and by adding additional characters to the tale allowing us to see Stone’s rise and fall in fateful terms and with increasingly ominous details. Director William Dieterle really outdoes himself in making this harrowing fantasy a visual spectacle with a spectacular entrance for Mr. Scratch and then using stark visuals at key moments (the devil’s assistant Belle played by Simone Simon is vibrantly debuted, and at key moments the lost souls of ghostly victims inhabit real space in a softly focused, completely eerie manner abetted by composer Bernard Herrmann’s haunting accompaniment). Some of the homespun philosophies espoused by Jabez’s grounded wife (Anne Shirley) and mother (Jane Darwell) may cause a momentary sag in the film’s middle portion (they’re used as contrast to Jabez’s fall from grace with his obsession with money and the allure of the enticing Belle), but it’s all to build up to the film’s climactic quarter-hour which features the trial for Stone’s soul as Daniel Webster defends his client against a court of the damned with the ghostly presences of everyone from Bluebeard to Benedict Arnold.

Edward Arnold’s Daniel Webster and Walter Huston’s Mr. Scratch get top billing, and they both bring all of their acting expertise to the forefront giving performances that crackle with authority and, in Huston’s case, sizzle with good-natured deviltry. James Craig has the largest and most difficult role as the conflicted Jabez Stone, earnestly working hard for his family but later struggling to reconcile his ill-gotten gains and succumbing to the temptations of the dark side and then regretting it. Anne Shirley and Jane Darwell give sincere portrayals of simpler, less complex characters. Simone Simon’s femme fatale Belle doesn’t have any shades, but she’s certainly effective as an object of desire. Familiar faces like Gene Lockhart (the town squire), H.B. Warner (as the deadpan – in more ways than one – trial judge), and John Qualen (as the pitifully unhappy loan shark miserable with his devil pact) all make notable appearances.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 is faithfully delivered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. A restoration of uncommon quality and surprising depth, the images are continuously startling and impressive in their beautiful grayscale with only the newly restored negative inserts showing Scratch causing a series of disasters for Jabez looking a bit tatty and unworthy of the quality which surrounds them. The movie has been divided into 20 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The LPCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix offers excellent clarity of sound and dialogue. Bernard Herrmann’s Oscar-winning score is heard to great effect here, and the restoration has cleared up any hiss, pops, flutter, or crackle from the age and condition of its audio elements.

Special Features: 4/5

Audio Commentary: film scholar Bruce Eder offers another of his astute and well delivered commentaries that are always a pleasure to encounter. (He has added to the original commentary with additional remarks edited into his research throughout the presentation.) Midway through the presentation, music scholar Steven C. Smith provides information of Bernard Herrmann’s work in the film and of his career as a whole.

Version Comparison (4:38, SD): a brief montage of three differences between versions of the film titled The Devil and Daniel Webster and Here Is a Man.

“The Devil and Daniel Webster” Reading (33:43): actor Alec Baldwin reads the classic Stephen Vincent Benét short story.

Observations on Film Art (13:05, HD): film historian Jeff Smith’s video essay on the editing styles present in the film.

Radio Dramatizations: two vintage radio programs presenting Columbia Workshop dramatizations of Stephen Vincent Benét stories: 1938’s The Devil and Daniel Webster (29:51) and 1937’s Daniel Webster and the Sea Serpent (29:47)

Restoration Demonstrations (6:15, HD): a brief story of the film’s production history followed by a montage of three sequences showing before and after restoration of the film.

Theatrical Trailer (0:49, HD)

Enclosed Pamphlet: contains cast and crew lists, information of the video and audio sources for the presentation, a film critique by author Tom Piazza, and a 1941 essay by Stephen Vincent Benét on the film.

Overall: 4.5/5

All That Money Can Buy offers the complete 106-minute restoration of director William Dieterle’s classic retelling of “The Devil and Daniel Webster” with beautiful picture and sound and an interesting mix of bonus material worthy of the Criterion Collection. Highly recommended!

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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t1g3r5fan

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Mychal Bowden
Great review, Matt! I just picked up a copy from my local Barnes & Noble along with Poor Things using the gift card I got from my parents for my birthday.
 

lark144

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mark gross
Hey Matt! Great review! Makes me want to see the film again, especially with this gorgeous master. I was talking to Bruce Eder today, and he said the last time he added anything to the commentary was in 2006, when it went from Laser Disc to DVD. He hasn't touched it since.
 

Matt Hough

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Hey Matt! Great review! Makes me want to see the film again, especially with this gorgeous master. I was talking to Bruce Eder today, and he said the last time he added anything to the commentary was in 2006, when it went from Laser Disc to DVD. He hasn't touched it since.
Thanks for the information. It's clear it was edited with additional remarks added (volume levels are different). I guess he added commentary when it went from laserdisc to DVD?
 

lark144

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mark gross
Thanks for the information. It's clear it was edited with additional remarks added (volume levels are different). I guess he added commentary when it went from laserdisc to DVD?
Yes. In 2006.
 
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