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Directed by John Cromwell
USA 1934

'Everything in my career dates BB (Before Bondage) and AB (After Bondage)', Bette Davis is quoted as saying. John Cromwell directed this 1934 version of Of Human Bondage which is based on the Somerset Maugham novel. Although considered early Bette Davis, she had already done over 20 films, but the camera picked up something in her here that would spawn a Hollywood legend. Her cockney accent is almost laughable by today's thespian standards, but her representation as the coy waitress Mille who proves a cold-hearted, selfish and manipulative slut, is a towering example of character personification. In fact, regarded as one of Davis' best and easily the one that established her initial big-screen presence... one which would continue for the next 50 years. The plot is simple enough - an exceedingly pleasant and sensitive artistic soul, Philip (Leslie Howard), becomes obsessed in the extreme with the alluring and aloof Mille briefly forgoing his medical career to control his love pangs for her.  Always painfully aware of his club-foot birth defect, which appeared to be at the root of his diminished self-confidence, Philip is a stationary target for the wrong woman. It was his emotional inadequacy that Mille unknowingly utilized keeping Philip under her abusive control to support her at her whim. The painfully honest story is all too recognizable and the pre-code freedom (released just before Hays code-restrictions) of the film added an intelligent rendering of the classic novel, easily surpassing the 46' and 64' remakes. A massively impacting tale of human frailty, the devastating power of love, and the extreme intricacies of personal interaction and bonding. A masterpiece in every sense.

Gary W. Tooze



Theatrical Release: June 28th, 1934

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DVD Review: Roan Group - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution Roan Group - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 1:22:33 
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.90 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles None

Release Information:
Studio: Roan Group

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• In a Boxset with 'Mille' (1931) and 'Kept Husbands' (1931)

DVD Release Date: June 29th, 1999

Double thick keep case
Chapters: 19



NOTE: Kino Blu-ray Of Human Bondage Reviewed HERE.

Unfortunately this film is in the Public Domain and hence there are a number of DVD representations, but the Roan Group's solid reputation supports this as the finest of the bunch. It even appears to be progressive, but as the film has limited horizontal pans it is hard to say with 100% certainty. I can say that I found absolutely no combing evident in this transfer. There are many scratches and damage marks, mostly in the first 1/3 of the film. There has obviously been no restoration although in my opinion the film definitely warrants one. Film grain is visible which is always a good sign as far as I am concerned. Audio has a few inconsistencies but was, for the most part, very clear and defined - I found the background music disproportionately dynamic beside the spoken dialogue. This DVD was produced in 1999 and understandably has no menus or bonus features relating to the film. Roan have, however, have added two other pre-code films, Millie, and Kept Husbands, both looking a little worse for wear (see captures below). These are on opposite sides of a separate DVD5. Both lesser films but they do contain a more salacious element than 'Of Human Bondage'. Certainly worthwhile viewing. Unless this gets put out by a major studio (it probably won't being PD) this is the edition that we recommend at present. An understated but very watchable DVD.

Gary W. Tooze



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DVD Box Cover


CLICK to order from:

Distribution Roan Group - Region 0 - NTSC


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Gary Tooze

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