Margin for Error (1943)       A Royal Scandal (1945)

Directed by Otto Preminger and Ernst Lubitsch



Product Description: This two disc set from Otto Preminger brings together two of his 1940's titles. A Royal Scandal dwells upon a fictional incident in the life of Russia's Catherine the Great. The story of sexual shenanigans amongst royalty was classic Ernst Lubitsch material. Lubitsch intended to direct the film, however, after being taken ill offered the assigment to Otto Preminger who gave his cast room to manoeuvre and make the most of their epigrammatic dialogue. Tallulah Bankhead takes the lead with blue-blooded bawdiness in one of her all too rare screen appearances. Also of note is the deliciously camp cameo from Vincent Price as the French Ambassador. Margin for Error - When Preminger was asked by William Goetz at Fox to reprise his stage role in Clare Booth Luce's anti-Nazi comedy Margin For Error for the screen, he also convinced Goetz to let him direct it. Preminger, unhappy with the original script, secretly hired a young Sam Fuller to re-work it - although he remains uncredited for it. The film stars Milton Berle as Moe Finkelstein, a Jewish Brooklyn policeman assigned to guard Nazi consul Karl Bauner (Preminger) in pre-World War II New York. Preminger's gleefully hammy performance sets the tone - shaving his head and inserting a monocle he shamelessly steals every scene with his ripely sneering arrogance.


Theatrical Release: January 8th, 1943 + March 26th, 1945

DVD Review: BFI - Region 2 - PAL

DVD Box Cover


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Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1:11:21 + 1:29:54 (4% PAL speedup) 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.46 + 5.82 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

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

Bitrate:  Margin For Error

Bitrate: Royal Scandal

Audio English (Dolby Digital mono) 
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• 16-page liner notes booklet 

DVD Release Date: March 31st, 200
Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 13 + 12



This, kind of unusual, package from BFI includes two single-layered bare-bones discs.  Described as "Two classic films by Oscar-nominated director and actor Otto Preminger. The first set in pre-WWII New York, Margin For Error stars Milton Berle as a Jewish policeman assigned to guard Nazi consul Karl Baumer (Preminger). The second, A Royal Scandal, is a fictionalized account of Russia's Catherine The Great and her sexual dalliances. The film stars Tallulah Bankhead in a rare screen appearance, and Vincent Price camping it up as the French Ambassador."

Although both DVDs are progressive they each suffer from a weakness. Margin For Error can tend to look marvelous, with stellar contrast but suffers from some occasionally prominent edge enhancements. This can make individuals appear like cardboard cutouts although the halos produced are not as prominent as I have seen from other releases. Those ignorant of the phenomenon will not be detracted by the digital manipulation. A Royal Scandal can look fairly hazy at times as if being viewing through a screen door. If you look closely at the caps you can see a kind of light checker-boarding. It also shows some contrast boosting (more than Margin For Error) perhaps to disguise damage marks. I didn't find either disc had excessive dirt or speckles although A Royal Scandal does have the most of the two. They both offer optional English subtitles and a slight, undemonstrative, hiss in the audio. Now, stating those negatives - both are both certainly watchable and enjoyable. I kind of got a kick out of the lesser Margin For Error but there is no denying the, somewhat muted, brilliance of A Royal Scandal. Typical of BFI - the menus look aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately there are no digital supplements but a nice booklet is included with two page essays by Phil Kemp (on each film) and a bio on Preminger - plus cast and crew listings.

I actually don't see it as a negative that the films don't share one disc - its nice to have them separate although you accrue no technical benefit. Fans of classic cinema will rejoice having these films to digital but it might be prudent not to get your hopes up about the transfers. Very good... just not great. 

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus


Margin For Error - LEFT - A Royal Scandal - RIGHT




Margin For Error



As an occasionally witty intrusion into the inner sanctum of a Nazi consulate before the war, Miss Boothe discovered a veritable hotbed of lies, recrimination, mutual distrust and hatred among the members of the consul's staff. When the hated consul was found poisoned, stabbed and shot —in that order— practically all of the characters were suspect and at least two were guilty of intended murder. In the play the killing occurred comparatively early. In the film, however, the greater part of its length is devoted simply to establishing motives, and rather banal motives they are, for the sundry characters. When the murder does finally occur it is cleared up in no time at all. As a story the film has practically no suspense.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE.


Subtitle Sample




Screen Captures












A Royal Scandal



This should have been an Ernst Lubitsch film: it's a remake of his 1924 movie Forbidden Paradise, and he had just started it when he succumbed to his fifth heart attack. (He still gets nominal producer credit.) Preminger stepped in, fresh from the triumph of Laura, and obviously had little success in getting Tallulah Bankhead to tone down the fruitiness of her performance as Catherine the Great, torn, as usual, between lust and sentimentality. There are hints of what might have been in the performances of Coburn and Price.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE


Subtitle Sample




Screen Captures






DVD Box Cover


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Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL


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Gary Tooze

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