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Directed by Anatole Litvak 
USA 1940

 

John Garfield is a tough, smart-alec gangster who draws a 25 - 30 year stretch in Sing Sing for knocking over a jewelry store. While he combats the discipline inside the 'castle', his loyal girl friend (Ann Sheridan) tries to effect his release. She is seriously injured in an auto crackup, which gives the parole-minded and humane warden (Pat O'Brien) a chance to let Garfield loose on honor system to see the girl.

Excerpt from Variety located HERE

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John Garfield finds himself typecast by Warner Brothers once again in Castle on the Hudson (1940), a remarkably faithful remake of the Spencer Tracy vehicle 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932). In Tracy's old role, Garfield stars as Tommy Gordon, a jewel thief serving a 25-year-minimum sentence but expecting his political pals on the outside to help spring him from prison. Pat O'Brien plays the reform-minded yet kind-hearted warden who helps Tommy see the error of his ways, and Ann Sheridan (in the role previously played by Bette Davis) is the faithful girl-he-left-behind.

Garfield was on voluntary suspension from Warner Bros. because of dissatisfaction with roles the studio was offering him (usually criminals or prison inmates) when he was sent the script for Castle. His reported response when offered one more prison saga was, "Parole me!" It was director-screenwriter-producer Robert Rossen, a friend of Garfield's, who persuaded him to take on Tracy's old role. Garfield agreed to do the film provided the studio would not change the original ending, which had Tommy going to the electric chair to cover for the girlfriend, who had shot and killed a treacherous lawyer. When the film opened, The New York Times began its review by joking, "This is merely a routine notice that Mr. John Garfield, formerly of the Group Theatre, who was recently sentenced to a term in Warner Bros. Pictures, is still in prison."

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

 

Posters

 

Theatrical Release: February 17th, 1940

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DVD Review: Warner Home Video (Warner Archive Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution

Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:16:54
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.50 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) 
Subtitles None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Warner

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Archive Advert (:59)

DVD Release Date: May 5th, 2009

Keep Case
Chapters: 9

 

Comments:

A more modern 20,000 Years in Sing Sing with Garfield, the Depp of yesteryear, fitting into his role like a well-tailored pinstripe suit. He's a cocky punk who sees the error of his ways. Pat O'Brien is the obliging Warden. The redemption is underplayed. He'll take the chair to cover for his faithful gal. Spencer Tracy was great in his role but Garfield seems more natural... behind bars.   

It's another single-layered, but progressive, DVD-R treatment with only extensive light speckles and surface scratches keeping it from being a 'very impressive' appearance. It's totally watchable and smooth in-motion. No errant artefacts and contrast is decent - detail fairly strong. This transfer would have been worthy for one of the Warner Gangster boxsets - or perhaps more appropriately a 'Tough Guys' packages. No chroma or other deficiencies - it is in the top 25% of Warner Archive transfers. 

As usual, no subtitles - and, unremarkable 2.0 channel audio that has no glaring faults. No extras at all besides the usual Archive advert that starts the disc presentation.

 

I'm a sucker for the 'big house' flics - especially with the pulpy feel and some wholesome melodrama tucked in the back pocket. I'm always keen to see Garfield in one of these, typical, roles - no one really did it better. Sheridan doesn't get enough screen time, and Burgess Meredith shows some unsuspecting range - one of his best early roles. What about the amazing fashions seen prior to incarceration? - or check out these hats on the 'gals on the outside':

 

I could watch this stuff at anytime - maybe I was born in the wrong era. The Noir relationship exists if not in the 'essential' category. If this sounds like your cup-of-tea - don't hesitate - wonderful vintage film and above-average transfer. Go for it.

Gary W. Tooze

 



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DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

 

Distribution

Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC



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