Directed by Frank Borzage
USA 1958

 

  In China gruff Air Force captain Cliff Brandon (Victor Mature) wakes up after a night of drinking to discover he has purchased the housekeeping services of comely, young Shu-Jen (Li Hua Li) from her father. Disappointed by Cliff's insistence on staying out late in bars, Shu-Jen leaves for home when Cliff, made aware that she is carrying her child, finds her and marries her in a delightful traditional Chinese ceremony. Happy days are spent as Shu-Jen and her infant daughter join Cliff at a forward base until Cliff, returning from a supply-drop mission, hears the base is under attack by Japanese bombers.

Theatrical Release: June 8th, 1958

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DVD Review: MGM - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution MGM Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:39:15 
Video 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.63 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.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0), English (mono) 
Subtitles English, Spanish, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: MGM Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• none

DVD Release Date: April 24th, 2007

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Chapters: 24

 

 

Comments:

IMdb lists this film's original aspect ratio as 1.37 but this DVD is 1.85 (parsed to 1.78) - I don't know which is correct but it does seem every tight with some chopped heads. If anyone has evidence that this should actually be full frame please let us know.

Daryl says: 'In the rush to accommodate the wide-screen projection in most movie theatres by the late 1950s, a lot of films which were originally shot in aspect ratios of 1:33, 1:37, etc. were often "stretched": they were projected so that the tops and bottoms of the frame were cut off, in order to give the appearance of a 1:85 (or wider) ratio. (One notorious example: George Stevens's SHANE, which was shot in 1:33, but - in many first-run theaters - projected in Paramount's VistaVision ratio.)

I cannot speak about CHINA DOLL, because I have only seen the movie projected in a 16mm print, which was 1:33, and it looked fine that way. But i know that many times, the prints of certain films will come with projection instructions, to make sure that the film is properly projected. (Sometimes this does not happen; when i saw Hal Hartley's films at a retrospective, they were projected in 1:33, as opposed to 1:85, which is how they were intended. The result was that throughout the screenings, the microphone boom could be seen in every shot, as if technical incompetence were rampant.)

But I suspect that the original aspect ratio was 1:33.
' (Thanks Daryl!)

Brian says: 'By 1958, virtually almost no movie theater in the US could show academy ratio films. China Doll was projected at 1:85 just like every other non-anamorphic film of its era. In 1954 Daryl might have a case, but not by 1958...'

***

The DVD image looks very good - best I have seen from MGM is a long while.  Strong detail, anamorphic and progressive. Contrast is also at a high level with pure greytones. There is no untoward damage - quite clean overall. There are optional subtitles and a choice of original mono or bumped stereo.

There are no extras and although many film fans are starved for Borzage on DVD, China Doll might not be their first choice - where is Moonrise (1948), The Vanishing Virginian (1942), Seventh Heaven (1927) or The Mortal Storm (1940)? Still, I won't complain as I did find many elements about China Doll to enjoy and there are no complaints about the price.  

Gary W. Tooze

 

 



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Distribution MGM Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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