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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Front Page [Blu-ray]

 

(Lewis Milestone, 1931)

 

 

Coming to Blu-ray in the UK by Criterion 6 days later in January 2017:

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: The Caddo Company

Video: Kino Classics / Criterion (part of His Girl Friday Blu-ray package)

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:40:45.748 / 1:41:08.437

Disc Size: 23,954,168,165 bytes / 48,450,832,331 bytes

Feature Size: 20,898,484,224 bytes / 29,664,503,808 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.89 Mbps / 34.95 Mbps

Chapters: 11 / 18

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: August 11th, 2015 / January 10th - 16th, 2017

 

Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Commentary:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

None

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• Commentary by Film Historian Bret Wood

• 1937 Radio Adaptation (58:45)

1946 Radio Adaptation (31:45)

On Film Preservation: The Library of Congress (7:16)

 

• New 4K digital restoration of The Front Page, made from a recently discovered print of director Lewis Milestone’s preferred version, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• New interview with film scholar David Bordwell about
His Girl Friday (25:05)
• Archival interviews with
His Girl Friday director Howard Hawks (10:27)
• Featurettes from 1999 and 2006 about Hawks, actor Rosalind Russell, and the making of
His Girl Friday
- On Assignment:
His Girl Friday (8:47)
- Howard Hawks: Reporter's Notebook (3:23)
- Funny Pages (3:28)
- Rosalind Russell: The Inside Scoop (3:14)
• Radio adaptation of
His Girl Friday from 1940 (59:29)
His Girl Friday trailers (Teaser - 1:23, Trailer - 2:50)
Second
Blu-ray

• New 4K digital restoration of The Front Page, made from a recently discovered print of director Lewis Milestone’s preferred version, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• New piece about the restoration of The Front Page (24:01)
• New piece about playwright and screenwriter Ben Hecht (25:43)
• Radio adaptations of the play The Front Page from 1937 (58:45) and 1946 (31:42)

• Plus: An insert featuring essays on His Girl Friday and The Front Page by film critics Farran Smith Nehme and Michael Sragow

 

Bitrates:

 

1) Kino Classics - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Description: This first of four film versions of the Ben Hecht/Charlrd MacArthur Broadway hit stars Adolphe Menjou as explosive Chicago newspaper-editor Walter Burns and Pat O'Brien as his star reporter Hildy Johnson. Hildy is on the verge of getting married and retiring from Burns' dirty little tabloid, but he agrees to cover one last story: the politically motivated execution of convicted cop killer Earl Williams (George E. Stone). Thanks to the stupidity of the police, Williams manages to escape, and Johnson hides the wounded fugitive in a rolltop desk in the prison pressroom. Burns enters the scene, senses a swell story (and also a means of keeping Johnson on his payroll), and conspires with Johnson to keep Williams out of sight until they can secure an exclusive interview. Burns will do anything to keep Johnson on the scene, including having the reporter's future mother-in-law kidnapped. Complicating matters are Johnson's fiancée Peggy (Mary Brian), Williams' girlfriend Molly Malloy (Mae Clarke), and the corrupt mayor (James Gordon) and sheriff (Clarence C. Wilson), who have railroaded Williams to the death house in order to win votes and are now trying to suppress the news that the governor has commuted Williams' sentence. The Front Page was remade by Howard Hawks in 1939 as His Girl Friday, with the symbiotic relationship between Burns and Johnson changed to a sexual one by transforming Hildy Johnson into a woman (played by Rosalind Russell) with Cary Grant as her old flame Walter. It was again remade by Billy Wilder in 1974 with Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Carol Burnett, and a young Susan Sarandon.

 

1) Kino Classics - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

 

The Film:

The first screen version of Hecht and MacArthur's fast-talking play set in a cynical newspaper world is, not surprisingly, rather less hilarious than Hawks' definitive His Girl Friday or Wilder's '70s vulgarisation. The main problem is that O'Brien, as Hildy Johnson, torn between his obsession for journalism's glamour and his desire to marry, never actually looks very interested in committing himself to either life; thus the dilemma at the heart of the drama barely seems to matter, and it's left to Menjou, suave, hard and mendacious, to bring the film alive during his regrettably brief appearances as Walter Burns, the editor lacking all human qualities except ambition. Milestone's direction, veering between stagey two-shots and extravagant but purposeless camera movements, doesn't help either. But it's still worth seeing, if only to hear the jokes which the Hays Code later put an end to.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

 

A vigorous, manic drama, this Lewis Milestone classic about newspapers and newsmen wonderfully preserves a host of Depression-era attitudes and a glorious headline era.

O'Brien, in his film debut, is the fast-talking Hildy Johnson, sensation-hunting star of the Chicago press. His shifty editor Walter Burns (Menjou) is trying to prevent his star reporter from quitting the business and moving to a New York advertising job with his wife-to-be Peggy (Brian). She hates everything about the sleazy tabloid world that has made Hildy famous, and she pressures him to finish his last day's work so they can flee to New York. In his farewell visit to the press room, however, Hildy gets caught up in the escape of an anarchist (Stone) scheduled for execution.

THE FRONT PAGE is an excellent production with a superior performance from novice O'Brien in a role better than many he later got to play. Menjou is marvelous too as a wily and sophisticated rascal, with a brilliant flair for dialogue. Howard Hughes let Milestone have his creative way with the film, and it shows in the film's no-holds-barred action and witty repartee.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Long available only in poor-quality, public domain copies, this new edition from Kino Classics is newly mastered in HD from 35mm elements preserved by the Library of Congress. The single-layered Kino Lorber Blu-ray of The Front Page is far in advance of the previous DVDs - clearer and sharper but the main attribute is the contrast - the 35mm print must have had some decent density. There are still marks and light surface scratches but not overwhelming (see last capture sample) and it didn't deter my enjoyment of the presentation. This Blu-ray gave the best viewing I've ever seen of this 1931 version of The Front Page.

 

NOTE: The Criterion "The Front Page" is a supplement on their His Girl Friday Blu-ray. It has it's own second Blu-ray but it is a different version of the film with different shots - "made from a recently discovered print of director Lewis Milestone’s preferred version". It starts with this screen:

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) Kino Classics - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Kino Classics - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Kino Classics - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

More Kino Classic Blu-ray Captures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of very few instances of excessive damage/marks

 

 

Audio :

Kino transfer the audio via a linear PCM 2.0 channel mono track at 1536 kbps. It is as weak as you might anticipate in accordance with the age of the production. Talkies were relatively new. We get Gus Edwards' banjo playing By the Light of the Silvery Moon but other than that there is no semblance of depth. It has been restored but still the dialogue is only audible. Subtitle might have been a good idea but none are offered and the disc is region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Kino put some effort into the supplements offering a commentary by film historian Bret Wood (who also did a commentary for Kino's Blu-ray of Welles' The Stranger.) There are many positives involved learning about the history and the filmmakers and performers. There are also two radio adaptations - an hour-long one from 1937 with Walter Winchell, presented by Cecil B. DeMille and a 1/2 hour effort from 1946 starring Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien. We also get a documentary piece on Film Preservation and the role of The Library of Congress. It runs 7-minutes with input from Gregory Lukow of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Front Page is a remarkable screwball satire comedy. It's a Pre-Code era gem that has some surprisingly risqué humor and bold dialogue. It was great to see it in 1080P and from such a strong source considering all the poor quality digital copies that have floated around. The film has spot on the esteemed National Film Registry. The Kino Classics Blu-ray
provides the best opportunity to see 1931's The Front Page in your home theater and there is further value with the commentary and other extras. Pre-code era fans and those who appreciate screwball comedies should definitely indulge. I was impressed with this package. 

Gary Tooze

August 2nd, 2015

 

Coming to Blu-ray in the UK by Criterion 6 days later in January 2017:

 

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Gary W. Tooze

 

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