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MISTER ROBERTS

MISTER ROBERTS ($25) is one of those classic titles that eluded collectors on Laserdisc for years. However, the film has finally made its way to disc, or should I say DVD, in all its wide screen splendor. MISTER ROBERTS marked Henry Fonda's return to the screen after a six-year hiatus. During his absence from the screen, Fonda stared in the critically acclaimed Broadway version of MISTER ROBERTS, which garnered the actor rave reviews and a Tony Award to boot. The film version of MISTER ROBERTS was a one of a kind production featuring direction by John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy, with an uncredited assist from Joshua Logan. Casting of the film was equally outstanding. In addition to the talents of Henry Fonda, the cast of MISTER ROBERTS also featured the work of Hollywood screen legends James Cagney and William Powell. Additionally, future screen legend Jack Lemmon took home a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Ensign Frank Pulver.

For those unfamiliar with the classic film, MISTER ROBERTS is the story of Lieutenant Douglas Roberts, a competent naval officer who serves aboard USS Reluctant, a supply ship, during World War II. Mister Roberts is well liked and respected by the crew of the Reluctant, unlike the ship's tyrannical Captain (James Cagney). Much of the crew's admiration for Roberts stems from the way he remains a constant source of irritation to the Captain. Still, the respect of the men isn't enough for Mister Roberts, who longs for a chance to serve aboard a combat vessel and do his part for the war effort. Fonda was never better than in his portrayal of Douglas Roberts, even after playing the role so long on Broadway his performance is fresh and engaging. James Cagney is simply unforgettable as the cranky Captain who uses his position of power to get even with life for the indignities he suffered in his youth. William Powell brings a quiet dignity and refined humor to the role of Doc, the ship’s world-weary medical officer. However, it is Jack Lemon who steals much of the film as the lazy, daydreaming, womanizing officer in charge of the laundry and moral. The cast of MISTER ROBERTS also includes Betsy Palmer, Ward Bond and Nick Adams.

Warner Home Video has done a wonderful job bringing MISTER ROBERTS to DVD, although the film’s age and production history introduce a few inconsistencies in the transfer. Still, MISTER ROBERTS is offered in the Letterboxed format, which is great news for fans who have had to suffer through years of watching the film butchered by the pan and scan process. The Letterboxed transfer restores the film’s 2.35:1 CinemaScope framing, plus the DVD includes the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions. For the most part MISTER ROBERTS is a good-looking DVD with a reasonably sharp, detailed image. Because MISTER ROBERTS was produced in the short-lived (and problematic) WarnerColor process the movie is less perfect looking than a film produced on modern film stocks. I don’t want to give the impression that the colors are bad, it’s obvious that a great deal of time and care went into the transfer to correct the faults of WarnerColor and to give MISTER ROBERTS a cohesive look. In fact, the artisan who transferred MISTER ROBERTS to video should be given a medal for a superb job. Colors appear more natural on this incarnation of the film than they ever did in the past. Saturation is usually quite good, although there are moments where the intensity of the colors renders them slightly fuzzy. Digital compression artifacts are hardly worth mentioning because of solid DVD authoring.

MISTER ROBERTS has been remastered into Dolby Digital 5.1 with fairly pleasing results. This track sounds nothing like a modern film recording, lacking the timbre and depth one would find in a new soundtrack. However, the track creates that wide stereo sound of the 1950’s theatrical presentation. Additionally, Franz Waxman’s is highlighted in the mix. A French language soundtrack has also provided, along with English and French subtitles.

The interactive menus contain full motion video and music and offer access to the DVD supplements, as well as the standard scene and language selection features. Other than the sporadic audio commentary provided by Jack Lemon, the DVD’s supplements have been placed on the second side of the DVD. The nice array of supplements include an excerpt of an "Ed Sullivan Toast Of The Town" tribute episode featuring the movie's stars. There is an excerpt from the documentary "Fonda On Fonda," profiling Henry Fonda's involvement in the play and the film, plus production notes and 9 theatrical trailers.

MISTER ROBERTS is an out and out film classic that belongs in just about every collection. Recommended.

 
MISTER ROBERTS 



ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 

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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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