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BALL OF FIRE ($25) is a screwball comedy that benefits from the touch of a number of Hollywood legends. With direction from Howard Hawks, screenplay by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, plus stars like Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, BALL OF FIRE stands as a one-of-a-kind Hollywood classic. BALL OF FIRE is almost like a reinvention of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, except that instead of dwarfs, we are presented with a group of scholars living in isolation from the real world, and the girl that invades their home is anything but purity itself. In BALL OF FIRE, Gary Cooper portrays Professor Bertram Potts, an English scholar who has spent a considerable amount of time covering slang for an encyclopedia.

However, the nine years he has spent in isolation writing the encyclopedia has left his work completely out of date. To update his work, Professor Potts recruits a number of volunteers to assist him in chronicling the modern slag terminology. Barbara Stanwyck plays Sugarpuss O'Shea, a nightclub singer who decides volunteer for the project so that she can hide from the authorities that want to question her about her association with a notorious mobster. The appearance of the sexy Sugarpuss O'Shea has an immediate effect on all the professors. Work grinds to a halt on the encyclopedia as Sugarpuss brings the long dormant hormones of the elderly professors to a slow simmer, while the young Professor Potts goes to full boil. The cast of BALL OF FIRE also features Oskar Homolka, Henry Travers, S.Z. Sakall, Tully Marshall, Leonid Kinskey, Richard Haydn, Aubrey Mather, Allen Jenkins, Dana Andrews and Dan Duryea.

BALL OF FIRE is another Samuel Goldwyn classic that has come to DVD via HBO Home Video. The black and white transfer is truly beautiful looking; an absolute credit to the work of Gregg Toland, one of the undisputed masters of black and white cinematography. Black are deep and true, while all of the shades of gray are faithfully reproduced all the way up to white. Contrast is solid and the level of detail is superb throughout the film. Digital compression artifacts were almost undetectable.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is clean sounding, although the Chase Surround Stereo re-mix adds a bit of atmosphere to the track. The musical number performed by Gene Krupa and His Orchestra, as well as Alfred Newman’s musical score also benefit from the Chase Surround Stereo re-mix. French, Spanish, German and Italian soundtracks have also been provided on the DVD. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish. The interactive menus have a simple design and provide access to the standard scene and language selection features, plus cast biographies/filmographies.

If you are looking to add something classic to your DVD collection, you can’t go wrong with BALL OF FIRE. Recommended.



DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 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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