You Never Can Tell Blu-ray Review

3 Stars Amiable comic fantasy
You Never Can Tell Review

In You Never Can Tell, A dog solves his own murder in this whimsical fantasy caper film.

You Never Can Tell (1951)
Released: 23 Sep 1951
Rated: Passed
Runtime: 78 min
Director: Lou Breslow
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Fantasy
Cast: Dick Powell, Peggy Dow, Joyce Holden
Writer(s): Lou Breslow, David Chandler
Plot: An ex-army dog inherits a fortune from his eccentric millionaire owner, and which is poisoned, asks the leader in the heaven for animals to send him back to Earth, as a human private investigator, to solve his own murder.
IMDB rating: 7.0
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 18 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 04/09/2024
MSRP: $24.95

The Production: 3.5/5

Lou Breslow’s You Never Can Tell is a 1950s version of a screwball comedy. It’s a fantasy to be sure, and there’s a decided mix of bizarre, cornball, and genuine humor with a fair mix of sight gags and double entendre to keep things interesting. Dick Powell plays against type, neither a crooner nor a tough guy (his two most famous movie personas), and he’s supported by a sturdy collection of character types. You Never Can Tell is never quite fall down funny, but it has its charms and whimsy to hold one’s attention.

When millionaire Andrew Lindsay passes away, he leaves his $6 million fortune to his beloved German shepherd King with Lindsay’s secretary Ellen Hathaway (Peggy Dow) as King’s trustee. King had once been a military police dog, and he’s visited one day by a former corporal from his regiment, Perry Collins (Charles Drake). After the visit, King mysteriously dies, and suspicion falls on Ellen. But King, now a spirit in animal heaven known as Beastatory, asks for permission to return to Earth to bring his murderer to justice. His request is granted as he transforms into “humanimal” Rex Shepherd (Dick Powell), a private detective. Also sent from the spirit world to assist King is a former champion racehorse now called Goldie Harvey (Joyce Holden). With only a few days in which to find evidence of Perry’s guilt before Perry sweeps Ellen off her feet and into marriage, Rex and Goldie have their work cut out for them.

Director Lou Breslow’s story has been fashioned into a screenplay with David Chandler as his collaborator. Every possible dog-tagged expression in the English lexicon is used in the dialogue and explanations of the events that transpire once King comes back to Earth as Rex Shepherd. It’s amusing to realize how smoothly and nonchalantly these expressions form a part of our basic vocabularies, and Dick Powell has been given some physical business to fortify the illusion (nibbling kibble, using the doggie door, chasing a ball, staring at a fire plug, growling and howling at thoughtless or sinister humans). Joyce Holden hasn’t been left out of the “humanimal” shenanigans either as she nibbles grass and outruns a city bus trying to catch up with it (and wins large at the racetrack after scoping the odds with her friends). Director Breslow doesn’t do much to enhance the whimsical fantasy of his premise: the Beastatory sequence is presented in film negative to suggest an extratemporal plane, but that’s about the extent of it in terms of anything another than banal filmmaking. The fun is down to the performances and the dialogue, neither of which is overplayed or overused.

Dick Powell’s gentility is first and foremost in his characterization of Rex Shepherd; he’s no hard-bitten gumshoe (well, except when hulking Henry Kulky attacks him in a jail cell and he has to defend himself the only way he knows how), but one rather wishes the denouement Chandler and Breslow have come up with wasn’t so conventional and convenient. Peggy Dow has some presence but not much charm as the film’s nominal leading lady, but her character’s wishy-washy on again/off again attitude about solving King’s murder is rather off-putting. Joyce Holden’s go-for-broke characterization as the Southern thoroughbred is much more fun (she even has horseshoes on the bottom of her pumps, a hilarious touch). Charles Drake makes for a smarmy gold digger of the male sort. Albert Sharpe has a keen scene or two as Ellen’s feisty grandfather, and Frank Nelson does what he can with the underwritten Police Lieutenant Gilpin.

Video: 3.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film has been framed at its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Though the grayscale is pleasing and the master is a new one scanned from a 35mm fine grain, image quality is only slightly above average: sharp and reasonably detailed but tainted with a fair amount of dust specks and small scratches that weren’t removed or repaired in the mastering process. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.

Audio: 3.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix has reasonably good fidelity, good enough to hear clearly the pithy dialogue, the Hans Salter-directed music, and occasional sound effects. A fair amount of ADR is rather noticeable when it occurs, and there is on several occasions some muffled noise on the soundtrack that engineers didn’t remove in the mastering process.

Special Features: 1.5/5

Audio Commentary: film historians Michael Schlesinger and Darlene Ramirez have a laid back if slightly disorganized back and forth talk about the film and the people involved before and behind the camera. Darlene concentrates on the careers of Peggy Dow and Dick Powell while Mike gives deserved credit to almost every supporting actor and bit player in the cast offering really interesting information about them all.

Kino Trailers: Never Say Die, The Bank Dick, Murder He Says, Bedtime for Bonzo, Francis in the Navy, The Man in the White Suit, Some Like It Hot.

Overall: 3.5/5

An amusing fantasy with some whimsical dialogue and a delicious central performance from Dick Powell, Lou Breslow’s You Never Can Tell is certainly unusual enough to be worth a look. Though the Kino Lorber Blu-ray release is certainly welcome, a little more care with the video and audio encodes would have been appreciated.

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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Robin9

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A pity more care was not taken with the picture quality of this disc. I might, just might, buy this disc for Joyce Holden.
 

timk1041

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Timothy
I usually buy the Blu Rays to replace a DVD if I like the movie enough (and I like this one), but on this one I might just keep the DVD.
 

Ed Lachmann

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Some people really love this movie, I among them, and I pre-ordered it. Even if it's only a bit sharper and a bit cleaner than the old DVD, I'm totally in. Few joyful and fun classic movies like this make it to blu-ray and it is a rare event for me and long hoped for. So, yes, I bought it and loved buying it. I may buy a second in case this one goes bad, but Kino discs seem immune to that which is also a reason for celebration.
 

Ed Lachmann

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Edmund Lachmann
Mine arrived yesterday and I'm joyful to report that, through my eyes, the visuals have excellent sharpness and are such an improvement over the old DVD. The "beastatory" scenes are in negative so a bit wonky but were intended to have a haunting dream-like quality. All in all just love this edition!
 
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