(aka 'Baghdad on the Subway' or 'Full House')
Henry Hathaway (segment "The Clarion Call")
Howard Hawks (segment "The Ransom of Red Chief")
Henry King (segment "The Gift of the Magi")
Henry Koster (segment "The Cop and the Anthem")
Jean Negulesco (segment "The Last Leaf")
John Steinbeck, looking and sounding disconcertingly like Ward Bond, hosts five tales by O Henry, of which only Hathaway's segment ('The Clarion Call') is devoid of interest. Negulesco and King both contribute sentimental valentines ('The Last Leaf' and 'The Gift of the Magi') in which love transcends the miseries of illness and poverty respectively. Hawks' 'The Ransom of Red Chief' is about two child-kidnappers who end up paying their victim's dad to take the little horror off their hands. It's noteworthy for the casting of the two most mournful comics of the day as a double act; and for the fact that the adventures of such unprofessional no-hopers interested someone like Hawks in the first place. At the front of the movie, Laughton characteristically generates his own atmosphere of benign fantasy, playing a bum trying to get himself jailed for the winter. This episode ('The Cop and the Anthem') also includes an encounter between two sacred monsters - Laughton's hobo and Monroe's hooker meeting on a windy street corner for a brief demonstration of the virtues of kindliness and respect.
A starry cast, including Laughton, Widmark and Monroe, head up this portmanteau of films by five respected directors, each based on one of the stories of classic American author O Henry. Meanwhile, Steinbeck provides the narration for the films, which see Laughton trying to spend Christmas in jail, Baxter as a woman convinced she will die with the falling of the last autumn leaf, Monroe playing a prostitute, and lots more besides.
Theatrical Release: September 19th, 1952
DVD Review: 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC
|DVD Box Cover||
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|Distribution||20th Century Fox Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 5.11 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 (Mono), English (Dolby Digital 2.0)|
|Subtitles||English, Spanish, None|
by Dr. Jenny Lind Porter
First off let me say - super enjoyable film. A pure joy with some great stars giving grand performances. The Fox DVD is not quite up to the levels we have been expecting from them recently, but its not fatally poor by any stretch. Progressive - a little murky at times - average contrast - but certainly watchable. There is the original mono track and an optional 2.0 channel stereo one offered - both sounded fine and consistent to my ear. There are optional yellow subtitles in English or Spanish.
Dr. Jenny Lind Porter gives a strong commentary elaborating and identifying O. Henry's penchant for economy of language and his ability as a master of tempo. She has researched her topic well and the only flaw may be that she imparts excessive factoids with very few personal opinions - which might have added to the warmth of her dissertation. She has an occasional tendency to narrate as well. Regardless - this is worth listening to. There are two featurettes (about 15 minutes each) - "The Life and Writings of O. Henry" and "The O. Henry Museum". There are some click-thru stills and a split-window restoration demonstration.
This is a fabulous film for the holiday season - focusing on the gentleness of human behavior and its occasional amusing eccentricities. Performed for us with solid professionalism. Strongly Recommended!