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The Premiere Frank Capra Collection: American Madness, It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, You Can’t Take It with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1932-1939) 1.33:1 (Full Frame) Dolby Digital Monaural Sony Home Entertainment, $59.95
When Joseph Walker, ASC worked with Frank Capra for the first time, on That Certain Thing in 1928, the director tested Walker’s patience to the point that the cinematographer asked Columbia executive Sam Briskin not to assign him to any more Capra pictures. Walker changed his mind after he saw the completed film, however, and the cinematographer and director eventually collaborated on 20 pictures, five of which are included in the recently released, indispensable boxed set The Premiere Frank Capra Collection. The first film in the set is American Madness, which is new to DVD. This smart and funny tale of a bank in crisis reflects New Deal thinking and addresses issues both political and personal; the movie has a lot to say about class, and it’s equally insightful in its exploration of male-female relationships. Most of the story takes place in an elaborate bank set, which Walker often lit in a chiaroscuro style that foreshad16 February 2007

owed the film noir movement of the next decade. Walker shifted to a completely different style for the romantic comedy It Happened One Night, the film that put Capra on the map. The movie fulfills the most important requirement of any love story: two characters that the audience wants to end up together. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert’s iconic performances are enhanced by Walker’s gloriously romantic lighting, which makes both characters look gorgeous. After the success of It Happened One Night, Capra was in a position to do whatever he wanted, and he eventually used his new clout to make the social satire Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. In this story of a decent man who inherits a fortune, Capra developed themes that he would focus on for the rest of his career: the role of the individual in American society, the intersection between money and power, and the conflicts between institutions and communities. The movie features a terrific performance by Capra favorite Jean Arthur, whose work is greatly aided by Walker’s use of lighting and composition to illustrate her character’s changing feelings toward hero Gary Cooper. The early scenes in which Arthur views Cooper with condescension are lit in a flat, slightly harsh manner that underscores the methodical way in which she means to destroy him. But as Arthur’s character grows to love and respect Deeds, Walker frames the heroine in close-ups in which subtle gradations of light convey her softening feelings. Capra and his collaborators experimented on Deeds, eschewing conventional coverage for longer takes and opting for editing that prioritizes emotional continuity over spatial continuity. This approach was further devel-

oped in You Can’t Take It with You, a hilarious farce that marked Capra’s first collaboration with actor James Stewart. One year later, they reteamed on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, one of Capra’s best and most personal films. This story of a principled young senator fighting corruption is both an inspirational tale and a prescient examination of the media’s power to bring out the worst in human nature. The complexity of the piece is echoed in Walker’s visuals, which balance documentary-style realism and stylized Hollywood romanticism. Overall, Walker’s luminous images have been beautifully captured in these excellent DVD transfers, although the Deeds pressing exhibits some picture flaws. Each film is accompanied by an audio commentary by Frank Capra Jr., who proves to be an astute commentator on his father’s work. His recollections of his father’s relationships with studio executives and collaborators are a delight for anyone interested in Hollywood’s golden age. On American Madness and You Can’t Take It with You, Capra shares the commentary track with film scholar Catherine Kellison. Supplemental material also includes four featurettes totaling 70 minutes; these feature interviews with Capra Jr., Kellison, and film historians Jeanine Basinger and Richard Peña. The featurettes cover Capra’s family life, his collaborations with other artists, his golden period at Columbia, and his later years as a mentor to young filmmakers. There is some overlap among the interviews, documentaries and commentary tracks, but this is understandable given the massive amount of supplementary material here. The highlight of the bonus mate-

adultery and mood disorders might have been offputting to audiences in 1967. $19. Warner Bros. The DVD also features a 23minute segment of silent. and are all cleverly character-specific — Penderton’s riding is shot tightly and fragmented.” observes frustrated U. against Huston’s wishes.” he continues. After assessing the polarized responses of audiences and critics during the first week of release. The exterior sequences especially highlight the various characters’ penchant for horseback riding.” Full of self-loathing.35:1 (16x9 Enhanced) Dolby Digital Monaural Warner Home Video. Also included are theatrical trailers and radio promotions. with emphasis on composer Toshio Mayuzumi’s fluid. Langdon (Brian Keith).1 Tartan Video. “it’s better. available only in an out-of-print VHS edition and through rare showings on cable television. Langdon. particularly Taylor and Brando. As the days go by during an unusually warm autumn.35:1 (16x9 Enhanced) Dolby Digital and DTS 5. — Kenneth Sweeney Lady Vengeance (2005) 2. Passionately made by an excellent director who was trying to etch something new into commercial cinema. ASC. the movie features outstanding work by its four principal performers. it’s difficult to deny the powerful dramatic tension that lies at the heart of it. Army Maj. Whether you’re a first-time viewer or a fan of the film. tensions rise when the mysterious Pvt. Warner Home Video recently released Reflections in a Golden Eye as a stand-alone DVD and as part of the Marlon Brando Collection boxed set.98 “Any fulfillment at the expense of normality is wrong and should not be allowed to bring happiness. and tight. but the film’s frank depiction of marital despair and self loathing was certainly ahead of its time for American cinema. Presented full frame. a feature-length overview of the director’s work that contains interviews with key collaborators and admirers such as Oliver Stone. Wilson (Robert Forster) begins to pay clandestine visits to the Penderton household in the night. and Wilson brazenly rides naked through the forest. Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando) in Reflections in a Golden Eye. dramatically lit interiors of the homes in which the main characters fester. 18 February 2007 Penderton assumes that Wilson has come for him. John Milius and Allen Daviau. and the picture looks the way Huston originally intended. “In short. Forty years after its theatrical release. well-balanced transfer is very good and features exceptional detail. All of this adds up to a feast for Capra fans. Reflections in a Golden Eye remains an enigmatic and worthwhile dramatic piece. unhappily married to the frigid and emotionally disturbed Alison (Julie Harris). occasionally jarring score. The anamorphically enhanced presentation restores the picture’s widescreen aspect ratio. behind-thescenes footage of the principal performers and creative team shooting the film. where he lives with and largely ignores his equally frustrated and occasionally abusive wife. and his work on the picture has two distinct traits: wide-open exteriors of fields and forests that surround the base. South Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park . $22.02_07 dvd playback 12/21/06 1:49 PM Page 18 rials is Kenneth Bowser’s 1997 documentary Frank Capra’s American Dream.95 After making a splash in the U. Leonora and Langdon are passionate and competitive as they jump hurdles. with his ferocious 2003 thriller Oldboy. Lt. recalled all the “gold” prints and replaced them. As reported in AC in December 1967. is torn between his feelings of responsibility for his fragile wife’s condition and the growing passion he holds for Leonora. which offers a glimpse of the picture’s original color balances. golden sheen. this 16mm black-andwhite footage is fascinating to watch and is backed by Mayuzumi’s score. but it soon becomes painfully clear that Wilson has designs on Leonora. The most controversial aspect of the film’s look was Huston’s decision to use a special lab process to desaturate the colors and leave a sepia. Conflicted by his closeted desires. The movie was shot in Italy by cinematographer Aldo Tonti. with standard color prints that featured a more pedestrian palette. The monaural sound is clean and solid. Italy’s Technicolor lab worked for several months to create a process of desaturation that would meld Tonti’s images into Huston’s vision.S. Col.S. John Huston’s peculiar and absorbing adaptation of Carson McCuller’s Reflections in a Golden Eye has long been an obscure cult title. Leonora is fiercely engaged in a sexual affair with a neighboring officer. Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor). Penderton is an officer and teacher at a base in the American South. and Warner Home Video has seen fit to add the golden sheen back to the image — a disquieting visual detail that only adds to the film’s strange. the complicated and deceitful relationships between these two homes erupt with cataclysmic results. tension-filled narrative. The crisp. including the bizarre trailer for Reflections in a Golden Eye. — Jim Hemphill Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) 2. It’s easy to understand why the taboo topics of homosexuality. because it’s morally honorable for the square peg to keep scraping about in a round hole rather than to discover and use the unorthodox one that would fit it. Before the season ends. The supplements include an array of trailers for the Brando vehicles featured in the boxed set.

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