A Few Words About A few words about... The Life of Emile Zola

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, Feb 5, 2005.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    During the '30s and '40s most the studios produced an occasional bio-pic.

    One of the earlier, and still one of the most beutifully produced, is Warner's 1937 The Life of Emile Zola, which is oriented for most of its length around Zola's role in the Dreyfuss affair.

    It was the winner of three Academy Awards, inclusive of Best Picture, out of fourteen nominations.

    This is not an artifact of film history which one might feel obligated to view as part of an education. Rather, like Warner's recently released Public enemy, this is a film which has stood the test of time, and plays as well today as it did almost seventy years ago.

    The surviving film elements are more than acceptable, but show some obvious poor lab work in the production of dupe or preservation elements long ago. You'll note this as an occasional flat look, along with chemical or processing flaws, but generally the film looks fine. I've never seen the film look better or cleaner than it does in this new transfer.

    Paul Muni, who plays Zola, was one of the era's finest screen actors. He only appeared in 22 films over three decades. While he was seen earlier in the original production of Scarface (1932), which Universal should make available outside of the re-make's special edition, he also played the lead in other quality biographical films inclusive of Juarez and The Story of Louis Pasteur. His final performance as the elderly doctor in The Last Angry Man is a textbook on acting. It is currently unavailable on DVD, and this is a pity. Columiba release it.

    Over the past few years, the missing Best Picture winners have become available almost to completion. Warner Home Video has done a beautiful job (again) in releasing a product which is something special at a very fair price. Once you own this DVD, you'll find a very special extra included -- a very rare and generally unseen Vitaphone short in three-strip Technicolor -- The Littlest Diplomat. An excellant example of early three-strip.

    To help place the importance of this short film in perspective, there were only eight Technicolor features produced in 1937; four in 1936; thirteen the following year, and eleven in what many consider to be the most important year in the development and acceptance of three-strip - 1939.

    There are more extras on this release, which I'll let someone go into in a full review.

    The Life of Emile Zola is one of the best biographical productions of the era, and comes highly recommneded as a special edition from Warner Home Video.

    RAH
     
  2. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    Just watched this the other day and agree completely with Robert. I hadn't seen this in years and had forgotten Paul Muni's magnificent performance, especially his climatic courtroom speech which is absolutely spellbinding. The DVD is certainly worth a purchase though the lack of a commentary is a bit disappointing - this is one film where there would certainly be enough to talk about!

    Meanwhile I'm still waiting for I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang... [​IMG]
     
  3. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I got introduced to this film when I was a young teenager in the mid-70s. My local PBS station used to show classic films on weekend days. I got introduced to Ingmar Bergman films (pretty heady stuff for a young viewer!) and films such as Zola and Chaingang and High Sierra and White Heat. I remmber watching them and loving them...and while my love of film did not take off at that particular age...it has been revived in recent years with my home theater/DVD hobby.

    I recently became reacquainted with Chariots of Fire after having not seen it since its theatrical release. And, I now have The Life of Emile Zola on my shelf as I wait to be reaquainted with it. I remember thinking (when I was a young teen) that this Paul Muni fellow was very talented to have made both Zola and I was a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. I am betting that Zola will not disappoint just as Chariots of Fire blew me away.
     
  4. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Mr. Muni split his time between film and legitimate theater.

    Arriving in the U.S. in 1902 from Austria-Hungary, he grew up in the Yiddish theater, following in the footsteps of his parents.

    He was nominated for five Academy Awards in the Best Actor category, beginning with The Valiant in 1930. His performances also brought him nominations for I Was a Fugitive... in 1934, a win for Louis Pasteur, and additional nominations for Emile Zola as well as for his final performance in The Last Angry Man.

    I'll note again that Columbia should make this film available on DVD.

    RAH
     
  5. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Producer

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    Picked it up on Friday but so far, only had a chance to watch the Merrie Melody "Ain't We Got Fun"...

    Great cartoon, but almost p.d. video quality unfortunately. I hope to see it remastered on a future Golden Collection... it'd be great to see it with vivid saturated colors as it originally looked.
     

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