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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)


Torch Singer is reviewed on Blu-ray HERE


Merrily We Go To Hell is reviewed on Blu-ray HERE


Hot Saturday has been released on Blu-ray HERE


The Cheat has been released on Blu-ray HERE


Murder at the Vanities is reviewed on Blu-ray HERE


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.

The Cheat
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.

Hot Saturday
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).

Torch Singer
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.




In 1934, 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 jurisdiction.
The Production Code was designed to circumvent these local censorship boards by self-censoring and pre-censoring by the industry itself. There was a real fear in the movie industry that the federal government would pass their own guidelines in order to obviate the local boards. The code was set up to head this off. (Thanks Marvin!): THE CHEAT, starring Tallulah Bankhead as an adulterous wife; MERRILY WE GO TO HELL, a story about an abusive alcoholic husband; HOT SATURDAY, featuring Cary Grant and Nancy Carroll in a scandalous affair; TORCH SINGER, the tale of a woman (Claudette Colbert) who gives up an illegitimate child; MURDER AT THE VANITIES; and SEARCH FOR BEAUTY. See individual titles above for additional details.


Theatrical Releases: 1931 - 1934

 DVD Reviews

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)


Disc 2

Hot Saturday (1932)
Torch Singer (1933))


Disc 3 Murder at the Vanities (1934) / Search for Beauty (1934)

Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.54 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 
Audio English (original mono) 

English (CC), French, Spanish, none


Release Information:
Studio: Universal Pictures

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Featurette: Forbidden Film: The Production Code Era (9:46)

• Printed production Code in brown paper envelope

DVD Release Date: April 7th, 2009
3 tiered digipack (individual disc compartments) - inside a cardboard box (see image at top)

Chapters: various



Torch Singer is reviewed on Blu-ray HERE


Merrily We Go To Hell is reviewed on Blu-ray HERE


Hot Saturday has been released on Blu-ray HERE


The Cheat has been released on Blu-ray HERE


Murder at the Vanities is reviewed on Blu-ray HERE


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!        

Gary W. Tooze

Sample DVD Menus / Extras


Screen Captures


The Cheat (1931)


The Cheat has been released on Blu-ray HERE





Merrily We Go to Hell (1932)


Merrily We Go To Hell is reviewed on Blu-ray HERE





Hot Saturday (1932)


Hot Saturday has been released on Blu-ray HERE






Torch Singer (1933)


Torch Singer is reviewed on Blu-ray HERE





Murder at the Vanities (1934)





Search for Beauty (1934)






DVD Box Cover


CLICK to order from:

Distribution Universal (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC


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