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While not the finest work of either Cary Grant or Sophia Loren, Iíve always found HOUSEBOAT ($25) to be a rather charming romantic comedy. HOUSEBOAT features a rather sitcom-like plot, which works fairly well because of the underlying chemistry between Grant and Loren, which had a real life emotional basis. In HOUSEBOAT, Grant portrays the recently widowed Tom Winters, who had let his government job estrange him from his wife and children. Hoping to make up for past mistakes, Tom takes custody of his three children and moves them into his Washington DC apartment.

Unfortunately, Tomís apartment is too small and he is ill prepared to care for the children on his own. The near impossibility of hiring a maid in Washington DC leads Tom to offer the position of maid/nanny to Cinzia Zaccardi (Loren), the beautiful young Italian woman, whom brings home Tomís son after the child runs away. Moving to a larger place in the country doesnít go exactly as planned, with father, children and new maid finding themselves living onboard a dilapidated houseboat on the Potomac. While the new living arrangements do bring Tom and his children closer together, it also has the added benefit of stirring up a romantic attraction between employer and maid. The cast of HOUSEBOAT also includes Martha Hyer, Harry Guardino, Eduardo Ciannelli, Murray Hamilton, Mimi Gibson, Paul Petersen and Charles Herbert.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made HOUSEBOAT available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Although HOUSEBOAT was shot in the VistaVision process, this movie isnít a prime example of how good the format that toted Motion Picture High Fidelity could look. There is a lot of rear screen projection work in the film that is of rather poor quality, as well as instances where the cinematography is heavily filtered, which renders the image just plain soft. However, much of the film looks quite nice, displaying a relatively sharp picture and a more than decent level of detail. Colors are generally quite vibrant and recreate the look of an IB Technicolor print quite nicely. Flesh tones have the kind of naturalness that can only be attributed to Max Factor, but are otherwise pleasing. All of the hues are rendered without chroma noise or smearing. Blacks appear quite respectable, but are not always perfect. Whites are clean and crisp and contrast is usually quite good. The cleanly authored DVD is free from noticeable digital compression artifacts.

HOUSEBOAT is presented with a Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Although fidelity is slightly better than what one normally gets from a film of this vintage, the top and bottom end of the track remains somewhat shortchanged. Still, Sophia Loren does a bit of singing in the movie, which actually sounds quite nice. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and is always completely understandable, except for the Italian language passages. The majority of the background hiss and surface noise seems to have been cleaned off the track, so everything sounds just fine with a bit of amplification. A French language track has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English subtitles. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer and a still gallery.

As a fan of Cary Grant, Sophia Loren and HOUSEBOAT, I am glad that the movie has made its debut on DVD. Paramount has done a nice enough job with the presentation, and I am sure that other movie buffs will be more than satisfied with the DVD.



Houseboat (1958)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2002 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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