Week Ending February 6, 2004 What an incredible week I have had discovering some of the best classic films I have ever seen. It should come as no surprise that this week's picks all come from the recent crop of MGM releases through the Warner Home Video library. Never before in the history of this format has there been a period as exhilarating as right now. We are truly seeing the cream of the classic film library making its debut on DVD. This week I picked four films that simply cannot be ignored by film enthusiasts. Not only did I have the opportunity to watch two Best Picture winners here, but along the way I fell in love with a beautiful, talented actress by the name of Greer Garson who was discovered in London by MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer. Though very hard to put in exact favorite order, here are the four films I picked this week.... Mrs. Miniver Slightly edging out my other picks, Mrs. Miniver takes top honors. A Best Picture Winner of 1942, it was evident that audiences connected with this story of a typical English family struggling through the outbreak of World War II. Though most have labeled the film as propaganda to sell Americans into joining the war, you can't help but to be emotionally moved by many of the sad events that happen throughout the film. Perhaps the reason this film is so identifiable is because of the realism of its characters. I can't remember any other film I have ever watched where people seem so true to life as the Kay and Clem Miniver (Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon), their son Vin (Richard Ney) and his bride Carol (Teresa Wright). These are well-to-do people who suddenly come face-to-face with extraordinary circumstances. All of it seems so real and comes across the screen so believably. Look for one of the cutest performances by child actor Christopher Severn, who plays the young Toby. This kid had me laughing aloud several times and is just priceless to watch. Of all the films selected here, Mrs. Miniver had one of the cleanest transfers. Any scratches or debris were kept minimal and the overall video quality was quite good. If you are pondering just one of the classics I have picked in this week's column, I would put Mrs. Miniver at the top of the list. It is a wonderful morale-boosting film for its time that is certainly not without its share of emotional moments that will bring tears to the eyes. Goodbye Mr. Chips How many times has Hollywood repeated the formula of a school teacher or good-deeder who reflects upon his life and the people he touched along the way? Though it sure seems to have become a popular story to tell, this is perhaps the film that told it first. It's a simple story of a simple man named Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat) who helped mold and inspire the thousands of students that came in and out of his life during his 60+ years as a teacher at Brookfield, a prestigious school for teenage boys. It's fascinating to watch Robert Donat age through the years. The film opens in present day late 1920s where we see an energetic 80-year-old Chipping reflecting upon his arrival in 1870 at the Brookfield Boys School as a withdrawn, shy 24 year-old newcomer. As years pass, and a new crop of students arrive at Brookfield (watch out for those Colley kids), we watch Chipping's extraordinary story further unfold. The highlight of this film, is of course, the meeting of a lively English girl named Katherine Ellis (Greer Garson) whose passion for life affects the stick-in-the-mud schoolteacher in ways he never before imagined. It's worthy of noting that in one of the toughest Academy Awards years of all time, Robert Donat took the Oscar for Best Actor, beating out Clark Gable, Laurence Olivier, James Stewart and Mickey Rooney. Transfer quality is a little rough. Many shots are overly grainy and the print has its shares of film debris. One must step back, however, and realize this film is 65 years old and perhaps this is the very best we can expect from a film this age. Though the film often borders on being a little too "shmaltzy," I thoroughly enjoyed the nearly two hours I spent watching Goodby, Mr. Chips. It just edged out the competition as being my second favorite pick of the week. Mutiny On The Bounty You know, the first time I became aware of Mutiny On The Bounty was through a Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs was dressed in Captain Uniform sporting a stiff upper-lip and barking out orders to "Mr. Christian" (Yosemite Sam). It wasn't until my first viewing of the film this week that I realized how well that cartoon captured the mannerisms of Charles Laughton's Captain Bligh. Winner of a Best Picture award in 1935, Mutiny On The Bounty was perhaps the grandest story of the sea filmed to that date. Adapted from the Charles Nordhoff-James Norman Hall 1932 best seller, the film loosely sticks to historical accuracy in telling the story of the sailing of the H. M. S. Bounty in 1787. Leaving from Portsmouth, England, the Bounty heads for Tahiti on a mission to transport breadfruit to the West Indies. Under the strict command of Captain Bligh (Charles Laughton), the crew is subjected to inhumane discipline which leads to a mutiny headed by first officer Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable). Transfer quality is questionable. I blame the sheer age of this film which is now nearly 70 years old. Though I am sure some restoration effort was done by Warner Bros., the print still looks very grainy and dirty. Many of the effects shots that include officers fighting the fiercest weather elements at sea often look blurred. Still, the film is quite watchable in its current presentation. I loved Mutiny On The Bounty just for its grandness and epic feel. Much of the film was shot on location in the South Pacific, though sadly, it is these island scenes that significantly slow the pacing of the film. Surprisingly, the film still holds up quite well 70 years later and I think it's worthy of a purchased addition to anyone's library. Gaslight Last, but certainly not least in this week's picks, Gaslight succeeds more as a mildly suspenseful yarn with outstanding performances than anything that could be considered plausible. It's the story of Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman) falls in love with Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). The relationship starts out normal enough with two people seemingly in love with each other. However, things soon change once they move into a London house where Paula lived as a child before her Aunt was mysteriously murdered there. Through clever manipulation we watch as Mr. Anton slowly chips away at Paula's sanity. But what are his reasons for doing this and what secrets lurk in within this London home? Though its amazing to watch Boyer's performance as the cool, calculating Hungarian -- it is actually Bergman that shines with a memorable performance that won her first Best Actress Oscar in 1944. It also should be noted that this was the film debut of another soon-to-be-famous actress by the name of Angela Lansbury. The transfer seems to handle the film's many dark scenes quite well despite the fact that it seems many of Cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg's shots of Thornton Square were vaseline covered for effect. Print dirt and scratches are nominal which makes the overall presentation quality quite good. If you are looking for a fairly decent psychological thriller from the heyday of Hollywood, you can't go wrong curling up to Boyer, Bergman and Gaslight. That's it for this week. See you next week!