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If you are a Rita Hayworth fan, there is no question that you will want to add GILDA ($30) to your DVD collection. For those not so familiar with GILDA, I will describe this classic Rita Hayworth vehicle. GILDA is a complex post W.W.II film noir set in Argentina, in which we meet a down on his luck American gambler named Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford). Although gambling is illegal in Argentina, Johnny locates a casino thanks to Ballin Mundson (George MacReady), a man who saved Johnny from being killed by a robber. As it turns out, Ballin runs the aforementioned illegal gaming establishment, in which Johnny attempts to make his own luck.

Recognizing Johnny's abilities, Ballin hires him to run the casino and eventually makes him a partner in the business. The two men become close friends and partnership proves to be very successful and highly profitable. However, complications arise when Ballin returns from a business trip with a new wife named Gilda (Rita Hayworth). As it turns out, Gilda is a woman from Johnny's past, and despite their mutual hatred, this is something they both try to hide from Ballin. The situation becomes even more volatile when Ballin insists that Johnny becomes Gilda's personal watchdog. Of course, Gilda takes advantage of the situation by doing everything in her power to antagonize Johnny, which includes flaunting all of her marital indiscretions. This bizarre love/hate triangle takes an unexpected when Johnny is given an opportunity to enact a plan that insures that Gilda remains completely faithful to Ballin. GILDA also features an intriguing subplot about Ballin's involvement with a group of former Nazis, but the interpersonal tensions between the three central characters remains the heart of the movie. Rita Hayworth is incredible as Gilda and this movie clearly demonstrates why she was a Hollywood Love Goddess and Columbia Pictures biggest box office draw during the 1940s. The cast of GILDA also includes Joseph Calleia, Steven Geray Joe Sawyer, Gerald Mohr, Robert Scott, Ludwig Donath and Donald Douglas.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has done a rather nice job with their black and white DVD presentation of GILDA. Utilizing a restored film element from the UCLA Film and Television Archive, Columbia has produced the best looking home edition of GILDA that I have ever seen. GILDA is presented in it proper 1.33:1 aspect ratio and the transfer provides a sharp well-defined image. There are a large number of tiny blemishes on the restored element, which will remind one that GILDA is well past her 50th anniversary, but the most glaring flaws found in previous home video versions of the film are absent from the DVD. Rudolph Maté's luminous black and white cinematography looks great, especially any time Rita Hayworth appears on the screen. Blacks have a rich, velvety quality and the picture boasts a smooth, but distinct rendering of the various shades of gray. Whites are cleanly reproduced and never show any signs of becoming blown out. There are no signs of digital compression artifacts on this DVD.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack has all the frequency limitations one would expect from a film over a half a century old. However, there are no problems with either distortion or hiss. Dialogue is always intelligible and it is worth applying a bit of amplification to the track for the musical numbers. Although dubbed by someone else, "Rita's" rendition of Put The Blame On Mame is one of those sequences in the cinema that have achieved a mythic status. French Spanish and Portuguese language soundtracks have also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai subtitles.

The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplements. The featurette Rita Hayworth: The Columbia Lady runs less than ten minutes, but provides a nice retrospective on Rita's career at Columbia Pictures. The included clips in the featurette make one hope that we will be seeing more Rita on DVD. Personally, I wouldn't mind having Rita's two musicals with Fred Astaire YOU'LL NEVER GET RICH and YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER on DVD, as well as a few others. DVD supplements also include vintage advertising, a theatrical trailer, bonus trailers and talent files.

As I stated above, Rita Hayworth fans will definitely want to add GILDA to their DVD collections. Film buffs and burgeoning film buffs should also check out this nice looking DVD.





DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 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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