(aka 'A Certain Mr. Scratch" or "All That Money Can Buy" or "Daniel and the Devil" or "Here Is a Man')

directed by William Dieterle
USA 19
41

 

William Dieterle adapts Stephen Vincent Benet's transformation of the Faust legend from the tale of an aging genius to that of struggling New Hampshire farmer Jabez Stone, played by James Craig. When Stone absently exclaims that he would sell his soul for a little money and a decent crop, up pops the Mephistophelean Mr. Scratch (Walter Huston). Thinking the whole thing a joke, Stone takes Scratch up on his offer of seven years of prosperity in return for his soul. As Stone's fortunes change and his coffers swell, so does his character. Ignoring his kind and patient wife, Mary (Anne Shirley), he takes a mistress, Belle (Simone Simon), builds her a mansion, and even allows her to raise his son. When Scratch comes to collect his debt, the terrified Stone realises his error and begs legendary New Hampshire lawyer and politician Daniel Webster (Edward Arnold) for help. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER is a nearly perfect film, very well acted and directed, with an exceptional performance by Huston. Even better are the Oscar-winning score by Bernard Herrmann and the gorgeous black-and-white photography of Joseph August.
 

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Theatrical Release: October 17th, 1941

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DVD Review: Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Region 2 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

    

Distribution

Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Spine # 70

Region 2 - NTSC

Runtime 1:45:56
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: ? mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
Audio Mono Dolby Digital English
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Eureka (Masters of Cinema)

Aspect Ratio:
 - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• A lavish 60-page booklet with archival publicity stills; an essay by professor Tony Williams; an article by director William Dieterle; and a celebration of the film by author Stephen Vincent Benét, whose "The Devil and Daniel Webster" short story is reprinted in its entirety.

DVD Release Date: February 23rd, 2009
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Chapters 18

 

Comments NOTE: DVDBeaver's UK correspondent for MoC, Henry Kedger, is continuing his reviewing and we are appreciative. He has sent us some captures and comments below for Spine # 70 The Devil and Daniel Webster.

Gary Tooze

***

The disc is dual-layered taking up almost 7 Gig. I've been informed that this is the same HD restoration as the older Criterion disc, and it also has a very strong progressive image. I believe the transfer for this new NTSC disc is licensed directly from Janus Films. Detail and contrast are spectacular - far better than I was anticipating. Like all Masters of Cinema releases the subtitles have been Anglicised with English spellings (ex. neighbour, plough, colour, etc) for an English audience (see subtitle grab included below).

Instead of the Criterion on-disc reading of Benét's short story by Alec Baldwin, the MoC edition features a strapping 60-page booklet containing a full reprint of the Benét short story. It also includes original woodcuts from the first edition book! There are archival production stills of Dieterle on-set; an essay by professor Tony Williams; writings by Dieterle; and an appreciation of the film by author Stephen Vincent Benét. It really is a very lovely book, and a sizable extra in itself (compared to Criterion's leaflet).

 

Beyond the book - there is another extra. There is a digital comparison as it was first previewed under the title "Here s a Man." It's interesting to actually see the editing disparities that exist between the preview version and this final cut (originally entitled 'All That Money Can Buy' - see the posters above.)

The film is described wonderfully on Amazon.UK and in the package - "A morality tale for the ages, émigré Hollywood director William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster (aka All That Money Can Buy) combines European expressionism with quintessential Americana. Based on a short story by celebrated author Stephen Vincent Benét, it offers a study in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, in which patriotism is cast in dramatic conflict with servitude to greed and materialism. Echoing the German legend of Faust, down-on-his-luck farmer Jabez Stone (James Craig) makes an existential pact with the devil seven years of prosperity in return for his soul. When the devil incarnate Mr. Scratch (Walter Huston) comes a-calling, Stone begins to have second thoughts, enlisting famed orator and folk hero Daniel Webster (Edward Arnold) to fight what becomes, for each of them, a case of life and death. The Devil and Daniel Webster was widely lauded on its release Bernard Hermann's score won an Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture, while Huston was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role and is still regarded as an American classic."

I can't agree more with the accolades for the film as it has always been a personal favorite. This Masters of Cinema package, with the book, is a fine testament to the timelessness of The Devil and Daniel Webster - an undeniable piece of golden-age cinema that, at 68-years, is only slightly older than myself... but looks infinitesimally better via this MoC DVD. That, my friends, is an unequivocal purchase recommendation.

Henry Kedger

 



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DVD Box Cover

    

Distribution

Eureka (Masters of Cinema) - Spine # 70

Region 2 - PAL




 

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