DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Mr. Skeffington (RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Jun 13, 2005.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]


    Mr. Skeffington






    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1944
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 146 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Academy Ratio
    Audio: DD Mono
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: English & French
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $19.97
    Package: Single disc in a Keepcase





    The Feature:
    On June 14th, Warner will release two collections containing ten films of two of Hollywood's most celebrated and rival actresses, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. While The Bette Davis Collection isn’t necessarily a compendium of Bette's finest films, there are certainly two new welcome additions to the format. The Collection contains new-to-DVD The Star (1952) and Mr. Skeffington (1944), Now Voyager (1942) sporting the same beautiful transfer but repackaged in a Keepcase, an all new restored version of Dark Victory (1939) and finally, The Letter (1940) - the exact same version that was released several months ago. The titles are available individually and list for $19.97 or $49.92 for The Collection.

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    With a setting that begins during the inception of World War I, and ending just after World War II, Mr. Skeffington introduces us first to Fanny Trellis (played by Bette Davis), the most sought-after debutante in New York. She has so many suitors that she routinely has at least four men wooing her and proposing at a time. On the night of a big party, she and her brother Trippy (played by Richard Waring) are hosting an elaborate dinner party, when a man named Job Skeffington (played by Claude Rains) comes to the door asking to speak with Trippy. Trippy is an employee at Skeffington's bank, and after he refuses to see him, Fanny and her cousin George (Played by Walter Abel) arrange to talk to him. It turns out that Trippy has been embezzling from Skeffington, who is now planning on talking to the District Attorney regarding the matter. George and Fanny convince him to postpone his meeting.

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    The next day Fanny goes to visit Skeffington at the office, and over the next several months a romance develops. When they suddenly marry, she breaks the hearts of her suitors as well as Trippy, who sees Skeffington as a constant reminder of what a mess he has made of his life. Eventually, he enlists in the army and goes off to war in Europe. Over the next couple of decades, through various scenarios, we see the intense love that Skeffington has for Fanny, and the complete ambivalence she has for him, particularly when she gives birth to their only child, a daughter also named Fanny. The couple live together, but it's clear both have engaged in extra marital affairs. Ironically, Fanny decides to sue Skeffington for divorce on grounds of adultery. He decides to take his daughter and travel to Europe where WWII has not yet begun, and in the meantime, Fanny is jet setting and dating men half her age as she has managed to keep her beauty.

    When the war begins and her now grown daughter comes home because of the persecution of Jews, Fanny's world begins to crumble. She develops diphtheria and while she recovers, the disease has wreaked havoc on her physical appearance and she now appears years beyond her age. When she decides to try and gain her confidence back by hosting a party and inviting her former suitors, she is saddened when she realizes that they are all recoiling in horror when they see her, and also has to endure the cattiness of their wives. The final blow to her ego comes when her daughter announces that she is marrying the young man that Fanny was seeing before she became ill, and is moving across the country. Fanny, realizing that she is alone, becomes despondent, until George suddenly shows up at her house, telling her that Skeffington is back from Europe and waiting for her. It is only then that she realizes that she does have a purpose in life, and that she always did love him. Fanny finally realizes that looks are not important, because of what Job said many years before; "A woman is beautiful only when she is loved".

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    Just a quick word about the packaging and the included titles. All discs are in Keepcases (including Now, Voyager and Dark Victory). While you won't find a bigger supporter of Warner and their product than this reviewer, I'm disappointed by their decision to only introduce two new titles to the format via this Collection - especially considering the scope of Davis' work with the studio. And while the new restored version of Dark Victory is appreciated, the inclusion of the identical version of the recently released The Letter is downright disappointing. Surely, Warner would have to assume that loyal fans of Bette would have purchased The Letter upon it's release in January... To include such a new release serves only one real purpose; to force consumers to take a wait-see approach on upcoming individual releases. Even though Warner's value packed boxes make potential purchases painless, as a loyal consumer, I'd prefer to be rewarded with a new addition to the library. In all fairness, this isn't a collection of Bette's finest films so I would imagine we haven't heard the last of future Davis Collections, but I do view this as a missed opportunity.

    The Feature: 3.5/5
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    Video:
    Blacks were as quite deep and whites were decent and clean. There was an impressive level of grayscale and shadow detail was also quite nice. Presented in its original Academy ratio of 1.37:1, the transfer is very nice and on par with many of Warner's recent efforts.

    The majority of the film looked reasonably sharp with only occasional instances of softness, save for the expected close-ups on the female actresses. Fine grain was present and was minimal and appropriate, with the overall look of the film having a rather smooth look to it.

    The image appeared to be solid in nature as light shimmer or jitter never became in issue. There were only slight instances of dirt and dust and infrequent scratches but this transfer was mostly clean. Thankfully, there were no compression errors or any type of enhancement issues.

    Great job...!

    Video: 4/5
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    Audio:
    Not much to say in the audio department. The track is DD Mono encoded and for the most part is more than adequate.

    The overall fidelity of the track is natural. The track is virtually free of any hiss as well as any popping or crackling. Dialogue was always intelligible and bold, never becoming strained or edgy. The overall dynamics of the track are rather limited but are on par with what we would expect from a 60+ year old film. Worthy of praise, is another standout score by the incomparable Franz Waxman which sounds terrific.

    The track accomplishes what it needs to do quite nicely.

    Audio: 3.5/5
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    Special Features:
    Only a couple of features, but they are good ones. First up is a:
    [*] Commentary By Vincent Sherman. As he had done with his film in the Crawford Collection, The Damned Don’t Cry, the director also appears here for a full commentary. Mr. Sherman reveals a great deal of information and trivia relating to the film and he is as sharp as a tack. He tells some particularly interesting and personal stories about working with Davis as well as his good friend, Claude Rains. There's a little dead time here and there but again, to get a commentary from the director of a 60+ year old film is special, to say the least. Also worth noting is the fact he is almost 100 years old. Well worth your time.
    [*] Mr. Skeffington: A Picture of Strength is a brief feature which focuses on analysis of the film, its characters and how the film fit in with women during the period of WWII. Those who appear include Vincent Sherman, John Anderson - film critic, biographer Charlotte Chandler and Dr. Drew Casper. Duration: 8:38 minutes.
    [*] Theatrical Trailer is in nice shape but doesn’t show nearly as well as the feature itself. Duration: 2:49 minutes.

    Special Features: 3/5
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    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    I’ve always had a hard time buying into the fact that Fanny/Davis was the most beautiful and sought after lady in New York – though, there’s no denying she was able to compensate with her pure ability to act. Still, this is still a great movie which explores inner beauty versus outer beauty. Bette Davis and Claude Rains are magnificent together, just as they were in Now, Voyager two years earlier. Claude Rains is the secret ingredient and is the standout as the main man in Davis' life. The dialogue is rich with warmth and humor, and both Davis and Rains garnered Oscar nominations for their roles.

    Warner’s presentation is terrific and once again, the inclusion of the Sherman commentary virtually seals the deal. Fans of Davis and Rains will be pleased indeed.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5 (not an average)
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    Recommended.





    Release Date: June 14th, 2004

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    The Bette Davis Collection
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  2. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    Thanks Herb for another great review. I had not purchased "The Letter" when it came out because most of my money was going toward the box sets so I guess I'm lucky in that regard. Still, your points above about its inclusion are very well taken and need to be said.

    Sounds like Warners has another couple of winners with this set and the Crawford set.

    Steve
     
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Well stated and sentiments that I agree with wholeheartedly! [​IMG]







    Crawdaddy
     
  4. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    A wonderful film which is a major favorite of mine. My copy is ordered. Nice review! [​IMG]
     
  5. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Great work Herb; those screencaps look lovely.
     
  6. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

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    Thanks again, Herb.

    I was hoping for THE CORN IS GREEN
    and THE OLD MAID, two of my favorites.

    Still, i've always liked Skeffington.
    The video release was the "long" version, as it is here.
    Evidently it was heavily edited upon one of its rereleases.

    MR SKEFFINGTON has the kind of score where every gesture is punctuated musically...some might find that annoying, but i love it.
     
  7. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Cinematographer

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    I'm still waiting for All This And Heaven, Too- one lesser-known Davis film that should be seen by any fan of classic film.
     
  8. GerardoHP

    GerardoHP Supporting Actor

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    I love this film. It's got great costume design, with Bette Davis' styles changing realistically through the years to reflect the passage of time, which is something that wasn't done too frequently in those days (e.g., RANDOM HARVEST). I can't wait until tomorrow!
     
  9. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    I've only seen this on film, but it's a damn good flick I'd like to have on DVD. I might very well pick it up sometime this summer. I wonder if inserts are included for this film and the others in the box set, because there were none in my last warner box sets, but I noted that the individual releases of Easter Parade and Band Wagon both had inserts (the box set versions did not). Is this a regular policy of Warner's to cheap out on the box sets? Or do none of their regular releases have inserts? and only the 2 disc dvds get them (unless in a box set)?
     
  10. DavidBC

    DavidBC Second Unit

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    I just watched this (it was the last title I got to in the Davis box) and really enjoyed it. By the end, the cumulative power of the whole thing caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting the ending to move me as much as it did.
     
  11. Paul Penna

    Paul Penna Supporting Actor

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    A puzzling moment in the bonus featurette "Mr. Skeffington: A Picture of Strength," during a clip from the "Silly Woman" segment, in which the aged Fanny visits the psychiatrist who dubs her thus. In the film itself, the verbal sparring between them over her real age ends with George Coulouris as the shrink barking out "Fifty!" (1:51:12). In the featurette, Coulouris's line is quite obviously replaced with a distinct "Sixty!" (7:40). It's clear that the element or transfer is different than the one used for the feature itself, but still, what the ever-living-heck?
     

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