DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Marked Woman (RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, May 23, 2006.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]
    When a patron attempts to run out on a gambling debt with Mary's help, she and her co-workers begin to realize the depths to which Vanning will go to exercise his supreme authority, as the debtor turns into a corpse. Assistant D.A. David Graham (played by Humphrey Bogart), against the better judgment of his boss, Arthur Sheldon (played by Henry O'Neill), attempts to bring a case against Vanning. But without all his ducks in a row, and a shaky testimony from Mary, Vanning is acquitted, and the heat begins to turn up on Mary and the girls.

    When Mary's sister Betty (played by Mary Bryan) unexpectedly shows up to visit from college, things begin to spiral out of control. When Emmy Lou (played by Isabel Jewell) tries to show Betty a good time, she winds up as the match up for a high rolling friend of Vanning. Unwilling to cooperate in the romance department, Vanning forcefully slaps Betty, sending her careening down a flight of stairs.

    When Graham confronts Mary Dwight with the news of her sister's death, Mary finally decides to go on the offensive. In doing so, she becomes the "Marked Woman" of the title, bearing Johnny's carved cross on her cheek as a brand for her defiance. In rallying her friends from the club together, the time for Vanning's downfall is at hand, as Graham's new case against the mobsters now has solid evidence. It's masterfully played out, as Vanning and his goons are now in a fight for their lives.

    Directed by Lloyd Bacon (with an uncredited Michael Curtiz taking over for some of the shoot), the film was inspired by Thomas Dewey's indictment of Lucky Luciano - a trial where many prostitutes who suffered at the gangster's hands testified against him. This gritty 1937 Warner crime movie is one of the least compromised melodramas of the period in expressing solidarity with women. This was Davis' first movie for Warner Bros after she had sued the studio in a landmark court case - and lost.

    Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart appeared in six films together, this being their fourth outing. All are recommended viewing; The Bad Sister (1931 - Davis' film debut), Three on a Match (1932), The Petrified Forest (1937), Kid Galahad (1937) and Dark Victory (1939).

    The Feature: 4/5
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    Video:
    Very nice. Presented in 1.33:1, this transfer holds up quite well to other titles of a similar vintage. You'll notice right off the bat, there is a fair amount of heavy grain noticeable throughout the credit sequence (and including the closing credits), however, as the film starts, the amount noticeable seems to ease off to an acceptable amount of fine to medium density film grain. While a few reels looked slightly weaker than others, black levels were impressively deep while whites were usually clean and stark. Contrast levels and shadow detail were excellent.

    Image definition was about what we would expect; slightly soft with a diffused look on the female leads. The print looked mostly clean with only occasional signs of dust or dirt showing through including the odd scratch. The image was mostly solid with only infrequent signs of light shimmer or jitter (shrinkage..??).

    Video: 4/5
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    Audio:
    Not much to discuss here for this mostly dialogue driven track. Presented in DD Monaural, the fidelity here is mostly natural with little to speak of in terms of punch or heft. The track is mostly clean with only a hint of hiss noticeable throughout the entire track. Overall, a track on par with what we might expect from a vintage film.

    Audio: 3.5/5
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    Special Features:
    Warner has dressed this title with a few interesting special features starting with:

    Marked Woman: Ripped From The Headlines. Considering the film was based on the Luciano indictments, this feature does a good job at offering up some historical parallels and includes several heavy hitters in terms of film historians such as Rick Jewell and film noir writers and aficionados, Alain Silver and James Ursini. Duration: 12:33 minutes.

    Next up is a B&W Looney Tunes short, Porky's Hero Agency directed by my favorite, Robert Clampett. Save for a little bit of dirt and the odd blemish, this short looks very good. Duration: 7:31 minutes.

    She Was An Acrobat's Daughter is but another Merrie Melodies animated short. This Technicolor short was directed by Friz Freleng and appears in terrific condition. Be sure to check out the list of "Cast Off Characters" at the end of the film - keep the pause button handy, you'll need it - but it's worth it. Duration: 8:34 minutes.

    And finally, the Theatrical Trailer is included and appears to be well weathered - at least compared to the look of the film itself. Duration: 1:45 minutes.

    Special Features: 4/5
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    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    While I haven't necessarily done the math, I suspect Warner could release a Bette Davis Collection every week for the rest of the year and we'd still be watching quality films over the Christmas holidays. What's surprising - especially considering the magnitude of Davis' Warner star-power, is that they haven't done so. But really, considering how Warner treats their classic library, how can we really complain? One thing is for sure, we're sure to see more Davis titles released eventually. Marked Woman is yet another fine example of Warner's deep pockets which contain plenty of early crime films - one with an outstanding performance from it's star; Bette Davis. It's also interesting to see Bogart coming into his own and finding his familiar groove.

    Aside from a good film, Warner's terrific presentation, along with a decent assortment of special features all add up to a very easy recommendation. In fact, from a quick cursory glance, it would seem as though the entire Collection has been treated with much care.

    Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)
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    Recommended...!




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    Release Date: May 30th, 2006
     
  2. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    Herb - Nice review as always. Sounds like another winner from Warner Bros. Looking forward to picking up the boxset at the end of the month.

    - Walter.
     
  3. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    Thanks Herb! This set is a must buy for me. I have not seen this particular film, but any movie with both Allen Jenkins and Ben Welden is worth watching regardless of Bette Davis. [​IMG]

    Quick question for you: you mentioned Three On a Match in your review. I love this movie. Do you know if this is on WHV's radar either for a future Davis volume or perhaps one of the pre-code sets?

    Thanks in advance,

    Steve
     
  4. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

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    This is one of my favorite Davis films. I'm glad next week I'll finally be able to retire my nearly 20 year old laserdisc!

    This is Warners at its best, and Davis and Bogart have great chemistry.

    Thanks as always to Herb Kane for his thoughtfully written reviews. He is right that WB could release a new Bette Davis film every week for a year, but of course that is but a dream.

    With so many Davis films currently running on Turner Classsic Movie Channel right now, one can see that only the ones that are or are about to be on DVD look good. The rest look anywhere from fair to something that came from a meat grinder.

    The new transfers WB has been doing are surely expensive to do, but we fans surely appreciate them. Keep 'em coming!
     
  5. JohnPM

    JohnPM Second Unit

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  6. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Not that I've heard Steve.... although I must admit, I'm still surprised at how many Bogart titles are still being sat on by the bigger studios - particularly WB & Fox. I gave up on Paramount and their African Queen and ordered it from R2 last year.
     

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