|S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r|
The Front Page [Blu-ray]
(Lewis Milestone, 1931)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: The Caddo Company
Video: KinoClassics / Criterion (part of His Girl Friday Blu-ray package)
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
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
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
English (SDH), none
• 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 4K digital restoration of The Front Page, made
from a recently discovered print of director Lewis
Milestone’s preferred version, with uncompressed monaural
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.
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.
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.
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
More Kino Classic Blu-ray Captures
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.
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.
August 2nd, 2015
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.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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