Pre-Code Hollywood Collection (3-disc)
The Cheat (1931) / Merrily We Go to Hell (1932) / Hot Saturday (1932)
Torch Singer (1933) / Murder at the Vanities (1934) / Search for Beauty (1934)
For the first time ever, Universal
opens its vaults to bring you 6 classic films from the most decadent
era in motion picture history: Pre-Code Hollywood. In 1934,
Hollywood was turned upside down by the enforcement of a strict
“Production Code” that would change the way movies were made for the
next 34 years. During the “pre-code” period (1929 to mid-1934),
censorship barely existed in Hollywood and filmmakers had free reign
to make the movies they wanted and the public demanded. No subject
was taboo including adultery, murder, immorality and sex. Starring
screen legends Cary Grant, Fredric March, Claudette Colbert,
Tallulah Bankhead, Randolph Scott and Sylvia Sidney, the Pre-Code
Hollywood Collection forever captures one of the most influential
periods in cinema history.
A compulsive gambler (Tallulah Bankhead) will do anything to pay off her debt – including turning to a wealthy businessman behind her husband’s back.
Merrily We Go to Hell
An abusive alcoholic (Fredric March) reunites with a woman from his past driving his wife (Sylvia Sidney) to drastic measures.
Scandal erupts after a young woman (Nancy Carroll) innocently spends the night with a notorious playboy (Cary Grant) and neglects to tell her fiancÚ (Randolph Scott).
After giving up her illegitimate child for adoption, a notorious nightclub singer (Claudette Colbert) attempts to reunite with her daughter through a children’s radio show.
Murder at the Vanities
While musical revue “The Vanities” captivates audience on its opening night, a murder investigation secretly takes place backstage.
Search for Beauty
Olympic swimming champions (Buster Crabbe and Ida Lupino) are tricked into endorsing a “fitness” magazine that features racy photos.
censorship arrived in Hollywood in the form of the
"Production Code," - The "Code" was an attempt
(which worked) to avoid government guidelines. At that
time, censorship was carried out at the local level and
the rules varied all over the map- literally. This was a
nightmare for the distribution companies, who had to cut
(and then restore) prints for virtually every
Theatrical Releases: 1931 - 1934
DVD Review: Universal (3-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC
|DVD Box Cover||
CLICK to order from:
|Distribution||Universal (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC|
Disc 1 - The Cheat (1931) / Merrily We Go to Hell (1932)
Hot Saturday (1932)
Disc 3 Murder at the Vanities (1934) / Search for Beauty (1934)
Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.54 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
|Audio||English (original mono)|
English (CC), French, Spanish, none
• Featurette: Forbidden Film: The Production Code Era (9:46)
• Printed production Code in brown paper
Release Date: April 7th, 2009
Release Date: April 7th, 2009
After Warner's, constantly improving, Forbidden Hollywood Pre-Code DVD packages (Vol. 1, Vol. 2 + Vol. 3) fans voices and enthusiasm for more have echoed to Universal's ears (and vaults). This is fabulous news.
This package has 3 dual-layered discs sharing two Pre-Hayes Code features each from the early 30's - The Cheat + Merrily We Go to Hell on disc 1, Hot Saturday + Torch Singer on disc 2 and Murder at the Vanities + Search for Beauty covering disc 3. There is only a short 10-minute bonus feature documentary Forbidden Film - The Production Code Era placed on disc 1. But while the supplements are limited with no commentaries - the level of un-censored onscreen activity (including nudity) is surprisingly, and amusingly, high. The transfers image quality suffer from their age of the films but are all progressive, coded for region 1 and in the NTSC standard. The package itself, has separate holders compartments (no overlapping) in a three-tired digipack. All six films have original English mono and optional English close-captioned, Spanish, or French, subtitles.
Aside from The Cheat these don't vary much in quality with all the expected weaknesses of slight damage, contrast fluctuation and lack of pristine detail. The oldest entry (The Cheat) is pretty rough but as you give yourself over to the source inferiorities it remains very watchable. In comparison Merrily We Go To Hell, on the same disc, looks far superior. Those purchasing are probably not expecting much better although I'd say these are on-par with Warner's output (image-wise) or perhaps a small notch below. They tend to look a bit darker to my eye. The light blemishes and digital compromises seem to instill the nostalgic kitsch I was feeling while watching the Forbidden Hollywood sets. Noise is fairly even and appears as heavy grain - I like this aspect. I can't complain too much as I don't expect to see them look any better - in my lifetime. I hope the screen captures below give you a fair idea. I'm sure they look far better than the PD editions that occasionally surface. The audio is equally as degraded over time. One should keep in mind that these films are at least 75 years old each and premium sound quality was not at a high level when the films were initially shown theatrically. There are slight to heavier hiss instances but it wasn't anything that I would consider fatal to my viewing pleasure.
Supplements consist of only one 10-minute featurette that serves as a decent introduction to this 'genre'. I recall that Warner's first kick-at-the-can for Pre-code was limited as well in this area but grew as they found sales escalate. Let's hope Universal follows suit with more Pre-code packages eventually stacked with commentaries and informative featurettes.
I almost forgot - you also get the 20-page 'Code' in an envelope.
The appeal of Pre-code's continued for myself following right behind Warner's recent Vol. 3 from a couple of week's back. It's great to recognize the stars, Cary Grant, Lupino, Crabbe, Colbert, Sylvia Sidney, Randolph Scott and Frederic March. These are ALL good films with the most 'shocking' Search for Beauty' probably being the best (I'd definitely show to friends on a film night!), but I had some real fun with Torch Singer and Hot Saturday too. Despite the lack of extra features this is a winner giving abundant pleasure and we strongly recommend!
Sample DVD Menus / Extras
The Cheat (1931)
Merrily We Go to Hell (1932)
Hot Saturday (1932)