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THE TALK OF THE TOWN ($30) is really a great old classic film, but it is something of an odd bird of a movie. The plot would seemingly be that of a serious drama, but the movie itself is played as a almost screwball comedy. Although the elements of plot and character would seem to be at odds, director George Stevens manages to make this odd formula homogenize beautifully. But then again, with Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and Ronald Colman in the lead roles, Stevens had such a marvelous cast to work with, that this delicate balancing act may not have been as difficult as it might seem.


THE TALK OF THE TOWN opens in a rather dramatic fashion, with a huge fire that leads to the arrest of Leopold Dilg (Grant) for arson and murder. Just as Dilg is about to go on trial for the crimes, he manages to escape from jail and winds up in the country home of Nora Shelley (Arthur), which she is leasing to distinguished law professor Michael Lightcap (Colman). As we quickly learn from Dilg’s attorney Sam Yates (Edgar Buchanan), Dilg is an innocent man who is being railroaded for these crimes because is something of an agitator, whose outspoken views have upset the town's corrupt political machine. Not wanting to send an innocent man back to jail, Nora allows Dilg to stay in her home as "the gardener." This allows Dilg to engage Lightcap’s help in preventing a miscarriage of justice. As I stated above, the plot sounds like a very serious drama, but the characters and situations are played for comic effect.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made THE TALK OF THE TOWN available on DVD in a rather nice looking full screen transfer that frames the movie in its proper 1.37:1 aspect ratio. For the most part, the black and white film element used to transfer THE TALK OF THE TOWN to DVD is in good shape, but there are some minor problems. There are some short passages that appear a little bit "dupey," indicating that some bits of the film has been replaced with footage, a generation or two further away from the original camera negative.


Additionally, a grain structure is noticeable throughout the course of the film, and in some places, it is rather heavy. Minor scratches and other blemishers are also present, reminding one that THE TALK OF THE TOWN is six decades old. At its best, the image is crisp and very nicely defined; at its worst it is a bit soft and a tad murky. Blacks appear accurate, as do the whites, which are generally clean. Contrast is a bit variable, due to the quality of individual shots. Usually, the contrast is smooth and the picture produces a nice grayscale. However, there are individual shots that seem a bit harsh, with reduced contrast. Digital compression artifacts never are a cause for concern.


The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is in good shape for a film of this vintage. Most of the background hiss and surface noise have been cleaned up through digital processing. Dialogue is always crisp and fully understandable, which is great since one wouldn’t want to miss any of the snappy repartee. Fidelity is decidedly limited, but no more than any other film of the period. Music and sound effects sound a bit canned, but not particularly bad. No other language tracks are provided on the DVD, but English, French, Japanese and Korean subtitles have been included. The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as bonus trailers for HIS GIRL FRIDAY, I DREAMED OF AFRICA and SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES.

THE TALK OF THE TOWN is a really terrific film classic from the golden age of Hollywood. While the film’s particular genre is difficult to pigeonhole, there is no doubt in my mind that THE TALK OF THE TOWN is thoroughly entertaining. Columbia has done a nice job with the DVD, even if there are some minor problems with the film elements. I am sure that movie buffs and Cary Grant/Jean Arthur/ Ronald Colman fans will be delighted to get there hands on a copy of THE TALK OF THE TOWN and make it part of their collections.



Talk of the Town (1942)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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