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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka 'Frank Capra's Meet John Doe')

 

Directed by Frank Capra
USA
1941

 

Written by a discharged journalist as a publicity stunt, and as a parting shot at the paper's new editor, the premise of the letter unexpectedly fires the imagination of the Bulletin's readers and the wider American public. Its real author, Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck) who has fabricated the letter in her final column, is rehired, and now needs to find someone to play the part of the fictional John Doe. Gary Cooper is perfectly cast as Long John Willoughby, an injured and penniless former baseball pitcher lured into impersonating John Doe with the promise of medical treatment. In what would have undoubtedly been an Oscar winning performance, were it not for his own success that same year in Howard Hawk's Sergeant York, Cooper excels himself here as Willoughby's initial indifference to his undertaking turns to genuine concern at his role. But, as he becomes an increasingly culpable pawn in an ever more treacherous game, just how can John Doe redeem himself? The film explores a recurring notion in Capra's work that of the universal everyman exploited by a corrupt and powerful establishment, the film's reflections on corporate control of both the media, and of ordinary people's lives is still a resonant social commentary as ever.

Posters

Theatrical Release: May 3rd, 1941

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DVD Review: VCI - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution VCI - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 2:02:04 
Video 1.32:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.94 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 English (Feature and commentary), none
Features

Release Information:
Studio: VCI

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.32:1

Edition Details:

• Audio Commentary (with optional English subtitles) by Laureate's Ken Barnes with archival contributions from Frank Capra
Disc 2
• Meet Mr. Cooper (16:37)
• Meet Miss Stanwyck (14:46)
• Meet Mr. Capra (18:20)
• Restoration comparison (3:07)
• Vintage Lux Theater radio productions: Sorry Wrong Number (58:40) starring Barbara Stanwyck & Burt Lancaster, For Whom The Bell Tolls (50:12) starring Gary Cooper & Ingrid Bergman

DVD Release Date: November 30th, 2010

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Chapters: 20

 

Comments:

Frankly, I am getting tired of supporting VCI. This is a very lackluster transfer - it is interlaced (yet again). It is dual-layered but looks to be from a poor source - with the jaggie break-ups (uneven lines on the top and bottom edges) it may even be a port of the UK Sanctuary DVD (PAL but from an unconverted NTSC source) HERE - but, now, out-of-print. Both have Laureate logo superimposed at the beginning - thanks David!

They are calling it a 'Ultimate Collector's Edition' but even in their split screen comparison on disc 2 it isn't easy to see any improvement. The combing (from the interlacing) is quite heavy and although most players can compensate - it will soften the image - and this looks hazy enough all by itself. Surely Warner have a more stable print with better contrast range. The main reason VCI have chosen to do this title is that it has slipped into the Public Domain. They advertise this as "Aspect Ratio - 1.37:1" but this DVD transfer has the slightly picture-boxed image at almost exactly 1.32:1. Leonard has kindly sent us some comparative frames from the out-of-print 2001 Image Entertainment, previously available HERE. VCI's digital restoration may simply be some DNR and/or Teranex cleaning. Ending my griping I just say I was not impressed with the appearance and was, foolishly expecting more from the VCI Entertainment image quality.

Audio is unremarkable but a shade better than the video representation. VCI have invested in including optional English subtitles (for the commentary as well). Despite the weak font and gaudy yellow - it is a step towards proper DVD production.

Extras, and price, are where VCI, partially, redeem themselves. Included is an interesting audio commentary (with optional English subtitles) by Ken Barnes. It includes some archival contributions from Frank Capra. It was moderately interesting and a worthwhile investment in time to listen. There is a second dual-layered region free DVD that has three decent featurettes totaling more than 3/4 of an hour each on historical homages to Gary Cooper, Stanwyck and Capra plus a short, inconsequential, split-screen restoration demo and two lengthy vintage Lux Theater radio productions: Sorry Wrong Number (58:40) starring Barbara Stanwyck & Burt Lancaster and For Whom The Bell Tolls (50:12) starring Gary Cooper & Ingrid Bergman. It's nice to see VCI put some effort into extras - they do appear to be improving in this area.

I guess only you can judge whether you may think the extras are enough to make this a worthy package. I really had my hopes up for this a/v transfer and will try to get some other discs to compare. This is a GREAT Capra film and maybe Warner will release it - even in their bare-bones Archive Collection. This VCI is more suitable to CRT viewing but we are suggesting that improved rendering attributes (progressive transfer, superior source and individual scene as opposed to 'blanket' digital restoration) would fare better for the eventual SD presentation. The reasonable asking price is, at least, worth the extras. 

Gary W. Tooze

 



DVD Menus


Disc 2

 


 


Subtitle Sample

 

 

Commentary Subtitles

 

 


 

Screen Captures

 

VCI TOP vs. Image Entertainment BOTTOM

 

 


VCI TOP vs. Image Entertainment BOTTOM

 


VCI TOP vs. Image Entertainment BOTTOM

 


VCI TOP vs. Image Entertainment BOTTOM

 


 

 


VCI TOP vs. Image Entertainment BOTTOM
 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


Combing from interlaced transfer
 

 


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CLICK to order from:

 

Distribution VCI - Region 0 - NTSC



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