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Sophisticated and silly, TWENTIETH CENTURY ($20) is another delightful screwball comedy of the 1930ís, although this particular offering is of the distinctly Hawksian variety. With director Howard Hawks at the helm, TWENTIETH CENTURY is pure cinematic gold- that any lifelong movie buff would be happy to mine. The plot of TWENTIETH CENTURY follows one Oscar Jaffe, a brilliant, egotistical, melodramatic and completely self-absorbed Broadway producer who is played to perfection by John Barrymore. Equally perfect is Carole Lombard as Mildred Plotka, a model with no acting experience that Jaffe remakes, molds and transforms into Lily Garland, who becomes the first lady of the stage in a scant three years under his tutelage.

With a jealous streak to match his over inflated ego, Jaffe manages to alienate Lily, and the two find themselves parting company. Lily manages to find success on the silver screen, while Jaffe produces a series of stage flops that bankrupt him. As you might expect, the actress and the producer find themselves unexpectedly reunited in a chance meeting on board the Twentieth Century Limited. What follows, is the producerís oftentimes-hilarious machinations to induce his wayward star to appear in his next production- and resurrect his own flagging career. The cast of TWENTIETH CENTURY also features Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Ralph Forbes, Charles Lane, Etienne Girardot, Dale Fuller and Edgar Kennedy.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made TWENTIETH CENTURY available on DVD in a black and white transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. Like many other motion pictures in the Columbia library from the same period, the condition of the film elements vary greatly across the entire length of the movie. Sections of TWENTIETH CENTURY look great, others show signs of wear, while others still seem somewhat dupey. For the most part, the image appears pretty crisp and sports nice definition. Blacks are accurate and the whites are clean. Contrast is generally good, but there are some shots where it does tend to get a bit blown out. Again, the film elements are in variable condition, there are more blemishes and minor scratches at what would appear to be the reel change points, as well as other visual anomalies that crop up. None of this is too severe, but the presentation is far from pristine. There is also some noticeable grain, which serves to remind one that they are watching a vintage film and not a video. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is about all one hope for from a movie that is now over seven decades old. Most of the age related background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the track with a decent sonic quality. Fidelity is quite limited, but at least the sound never becomes noticeably distorted at average listening levels. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. No other language tracks have been provided, although the DVD does include English and Japanese subtitles.

The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as bonus trailers for STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET, MY SISTER EILEEN and YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER.

If you are fond of screwball comedies from the 1930ís, or just a fan of Carole Lombard, John Barrymore or Howard Hawks, then TWENTIETH CENTURY is recommended viewing. As for DVD, the transfer does a very good job with the available elements, but the film does show some signs of age. However, long time movie buffs will be able to overlook the minor imperfections and take pleasure from the release of TWENTIETH CENTURY on DVD.



Twentieth Century (1934)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 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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