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Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: All About Eve

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Feb 1, 2011.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    All About Eve (Blu-ray)
    Directed by  Joseph L. Mankiewicz

    Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
    Year: 1950
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1   1080p   AVC codec  
    Running Time: 138 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish, German, others; DTS 5.1 music-only track
    Subtitles:  SDH, Spanish, French, others

    Region:  A
    MSRP:  $ 34.99


    Release Date: February 1, 2011

    Review Date: February 1, 2011



    The Film

    5/5


    Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve is the wittiest and most erudite film ever made, and part of its greatness is that the award-winning writer-director never, ever plays down to his audience. The film is literate, sophisticated, hilarious and yet also spellbindingly dramatic in its picture of the backstage lives of a group of theater denizens, hardly the kind of movie that one would think would have universal appeal, and yet it does. The study of ambitious newcomers trying anything to find success while those on top struggle to maintain their status is all too familiar, and yet ensconced in this continually brilliant and sparkling repartee, All About Eve has no equals. True, if you’re looking for innovative camerawork or brilliant shot making, All About Eve won’t be the first movie that will come to mind, but its masterful attributes lie in its character construction, its unparalleled performances, and a script so brilliantly designed that many of its epigrams are still being quoted more than half a century later.


    On the evening in which talented theatrical newcomer Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) wins the Sarah Siddons Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Theatre, three intimate acquaintances remember how she came into their orbit: Karen Richards (Celeste Holm), wife of playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), recalls introducing the mousy widow to her theater friends, critic-commentator Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) recalls his role in promoting the up-and-coming understudy, and theatrical legend Margo Channing (Bette Davis) remembers Eve’s insinuating herself into her life as her personal assistant. Eve’s ambitions are clearly greater than standing in the wings while Margo performs in her hit play, but to get anywhere, she’s going to need help and that means Margo’s younger director boy friend Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill).


    Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s love of theater and the people who put on shows, from the wardrobe mistress to the ulcer-ridden producer (Gregory Ratoff), is stamped onto every frame of this movie, and scene after scene: in dressing rooms, in the wings, rehearsing on empty stages, conversing in the lobby, make that love prescient. It’s a cutthroat business, and it’s never sugar coated, making all of the backstage melodrama with various sabotages and even blackmail delicious fun. With one of the most wickedly scheming characters in the history of movies squaring off with one of the toughest and most able stars as her target, Mankiewicz takes his time with the overt plotting and covert machinations so that it’s only near the end of the movie when the entire game is finally laid out before us with even more surprises to come. And yet, it’s a game of words: glorious, sparkling words which shimmer and strike with an acidic richness that sends out continual flashes of urbane brilliance. For those who find Mankiewicz’s camera to be too stagnant, there are still wonderful moments of inspiration: Bill’s pushing Margo back on a lounge filming her alternately from behind and above as their quarrel reaches a fever pitch, that stupendous final shot with Phoebe (Barbara Bates), the next in a never-ending sea of Eves, taking her own as yet unearned bows. The director knows just to right moment to go for a wow shot. As for the rest, the words supply his gleam.


    And what cast in history has ever been this good? (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Network? Mankiewicz’s own Sleuth? Arguments could be made for all of them, but they’re certainly no better than Eve’s cast.) Bette Davis’ career was reborn with her Margo Channing (the character based on a true experience in the life of actress Elisabeth Bergner, but Davis’ performance is obviously modeled on Tallulah Bankhead, down to the voice and lion’s mane hairstyle), and she’s alternately tough and tender as she does everything she can to hold on to her career and her man. Even Davis admitted, however, that Anne Baxter’s role was the more difficult part, and she was right. Eve must transform from a mouse to a titan in gradual stages without giving her game away, and Anne Baxter is marvelous in accomplishing this. Celeste Holm is matchless playing the loyal wife with no talent to offer but endless support and a naiveté that causes no end of trouble. Thelma Ritter as Birdie, Margo’s all knowing, all-seeing maid, makes an indelible impression even if she is inexplicably absent from the last half of the movie. Marilyn Monroe, in a memorable small role as the talentless Miss Caswell, a nightclub showgirl who has her own career ambitions but no talent other than her physical attributes, earned a new Fox contract as a result of her glamorous cameo role here.


    And those are just the female stars! George Sanders earned the only acting Oscar from the cast (four of the women were nominated) as the venomous theater critic Addison DeWitt, the many sly quips and biting asides just right for his urbanely frosty delivery. Gary Merrill might not be everyone’s idea of the object of more than one female’s attention, but he’s completely believable as a director who sees the theater as a profession rather than a religion. Hugh Marlowe has his best role ever as the gullible playwright who lets all of the females who surround him manipulate him without realizing his own weakness. Gregory Ratoff as the harried producer and Walter Hampden as the aged actor who makes a typically flowery show biz introduction add depth to the acting company.



    Video Quality

    4.5/5


    The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 is faithfully reproduced in 1080p using the AVC codec. The image is very clean with none of the dirt or scratches that afflicted the first DVD release of the movie (with each subsequent release increasing sharpness and decreasing the artifacts of the decades). The grayscale rendering is top notch with excellent sharpness and resolution which reveals weaves in herringbone jackets and silk dresses making them almost palpable. Black levels can be very good but do vary from sequence to sequence. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    3.5/5


    The Blu-ray offers both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encodes. Both feature slight hiss in the movie’s quieter moments, and the lossless track, which I used for most of my reviewing, is 5.1 in name only. The main and end title music is spread nicely across the fronts and there is some evidence of some low end during the marvelous Alfred Newman-composed main titles, but the rear surrounds and subwoofer really are not used to any real degree. The recording of the marvelous dialogue, of course, is of paramount importance, and it's handled with care and replicated here to perfection.



    Special Features

    4/5


    The two audio commentaries have been ported over from the last DVD release of the movie. In the first, Celeste Holm, Mankiewicz biographer Ken Geist, and Mankiewicz’s son Christopher have sporadic comments edited together to form one track. Holm is very frail and tends to focus on aspects of personalities which seemed to rile her. The others make comments that fans of the film will want to hear even if some opinions they have about aspects of the movie are arguable. The second track features Sam Staggs whose book All About ‘All About Eve’ was not universally adored, and while he also has comments of interest, he runs out of steam toward the end when remarks are sprinkled amid lengthy pauses.


    The disc contains Alfred Newman’s Oscar-nominated score isolated in a lossy (but generous bit rate) DTS 5.1 track.


    All of the featurettes are presented in 480i.


    “Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz” is a 26-minute feature with Mankiewicz’s sons Tom and Chris as well as his widow Rosemary discussing his producing, writing, and directing career at various studios featuring clips from his Fox features Dragonwyck, A Letter to Three Wives, Cleopatra, as well as All About Eve.


    Sons Tom and Chris and wife Rosemary also discuss Mankiewicz’s life apart from his movies in “A Personal Journey,” another 26-minute featurette.


    “The Real Eve” documents the real-life story of actress Elisabeth Bergner and the woman who wheedled her way into her life and attempted to benefit from it, discussed by film historian Jonathan Kuntz and others in this 18 ¼-minute short.


    “The Secret of Sarah Siddons” details the work of Chicago’s Sarah Siddons Society which was established two years after Mankiewicz invented the award for All About Eve honoring distinguished work in theater. Ironically, award recipients have included both Celeste Holm and Bette Davis. This vignette runs for 7 minutes.


    “AMC Backstory: All About Eveis another in the series of excellent behind-the-scenes documentaries produced for American Movie Classics about famous Fox features. It runs 24 ¼ minutes.


    A vintage Bette Davis promotional short on the film runs 1 ¼ minutes. A similar “interview” with Anne Baxter runs 1 ½ minutes.


    Four Movietone newsreels of the period document the 1950 Academy Awards where Eve won six Oscars including Best Picture (2 ½ minutes), the film’s premiere (2 minutes), the Holiday magazine 1950 movie awards (3 minutes), and the Look magazine awards (2 minutes).


    The movie’s theatrical trailer runs 3 ¼ minutes.


    The Blu-ray is housed in a Digibook case with a generous collection of stills along with text pages on Davis, Baxter, Monroe, and the director.



    In Conclusion

    4.5/5 (not an average)


    One of the greatest movies ever made, All About Eve comes to high definition in an appealing package that ports over the best from previous releases along with excellent picture and more than adequate sound choices. Highly recommended!




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
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  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Thank you for a fine review as I'm still awaiting delivery of my copy.








    Crawdaddy
     
  3. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the review, Matt. Like Robert, I am still awaiting shipment of my copy, but am very much looking forward to watching this classic again... this time in high definition.
     
  4. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    Will spin mine tonight. But I gotta say: whoever prepared this package is totally enamoured of Marilyn Monroe. The pic on the back is a giant photo of Bette and Marilyn... no sign of Anne Baxter. Marilyn is one of the four stars profiled with 2-page spreads in the book, along with Bette, Anne and George Sanders. No Celeste Holm. And several pics of Marilyn throughout the book. I know she became a huge star (esp. for Fox), but the presence in the book is not warranted by the size of her role. Honestly, anyone who'd never seen this film would think she played Eve. LOL.
     
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  5. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Does anyone making Blu-Ray and/or DVD cover art actually watch the film anymore?
     
  6. ajabrams

    ajabrams Second Unit

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    It's called marketing. Monroe is an iconic figure known to almost everyone. Marilyn still sells!!
     
  7. GMpasqua

    GMpasqua Screenwriter

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    how is it marketing if the photos are inside the book?
     
  8. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    They're not just inside the book. The entire back cover of the book is just a big picture of Bette and Marilyn.

    And I seriously doubt it's marketing when they've never done that with All About Eve in any other video incarnation. As if any Marilyn fan is going to think she stars in the film! LOL.
     
  9. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor
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    No Celeste Holm? Uh-oh this will just tick her off more. I sat next to her on an airplane many years ago and she was a complete delight. She told stories of Gentleman's Agreement, Tom Sawyer, The Snake Pit, Come To The Stable and her Broadway adventures. I made the mistake of asking her about All About Eve, not Bette Davis for I never go down that road of asking one star about another, but her thought of the film. She look straight in my eyes and asked, why does everyone ask her about that silly film. I made no mention of it again and continued my once in a lifetime trip talking about her work with UNICEF and Rogers and Hammerstein.
     
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  10. ajabrams

    ajabrams Second Unit

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    OK - Then you explain why they put Monroe on the back cover. To repel potential buyers who don't know the film?
     
  11. GMpasqua

    GMpasqua Screenwriter

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    Quote: Originally Posted by JohnMor They're not just inside the book. The entire back cover of the book is just a big picture of Bette and Marilyn.

    And I seriously doubt it's marketing when they've never done that with All About Eve in any other video incarnation. As if any Marilyn fan is going to think she stars in the film! LOL.

    Well, Marilyn was FOX's biggest star - probably ever, so it's not surprising - and Marilyn's role is more than just a walk on.
     
  12. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Well, Marilyn was FOX's biggest star - probably ever, so it's not surprising - and Marilyn's role is more than just a walk on.


    True. But Fox seems to be of the mindset that they need to aim this set at those who know Marilyn Monroe because of all the merchandise associated with her rather than by actually seeing her films.
     
  13. GMpasqua

    GMpasqua Screenwriter

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    that's true, but anyway to increase sales - right


    Watched the film last night - it was clean but not as crisp as some other film from the period (not that there are many on Blu-ray) Thought "Casablanca" looked better
     
  14. JoshuaB.

    JoshuaB. Second Unit

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    I just adore this film and was ecstatic that it was being released on blu-ray! I picked it up today and will view it this weekend!
     
  15. benbess

    benbess Producer

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    I'm watching All About Eve with my daughter. I've seen it before, but for her it's the first time. I like this poster, but the translation of the title is, maybe, slightly unusual? Not sure....

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    This is my favorite Bette Davis film but really the entire cast kills it. George Sanders made so many enjoyable "B" movies that it sometimes overshadows what a talented actor he really was.

    Eve is perhaps my favorite drama not named Casablanca or Maltese Falcon.
     
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  17. B-ROLL

    B-ROLL Cinematographer

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    Um I knew him as Mr. Freeze on on the 70s TV Bat-Man [​IMG] so when I saw AAE for the first time it was a little strange
     
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  18. Tony Bensley

    Tony Bensley Producer

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    That would be indeed most strange, as while George did also play Mr. Freeze on the iconic 1966-68 Television series, it is Otto Preminger who is pictured above.

    CHEERS! :)
     
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  19. benbess

    benbess Producer

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    As a PS, my daughter seemed to liked the film. She said that several things surprised her along the way, including the ending. Of all the actors in Eve, she called out Bette Davis twice for special praise.
     
  20. B-ROLL

    B-ROLL Cinematographer

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    My bad ... too much baked Alaska I guess ;)
     
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