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The Philadelphia Story Criterion Blu-ray Review

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“The Philadelphia Story” will appeal to fans of screwball comedies.

Based on a stage play, George Cukor’s 1940 film “The Philadelphia Story” revolves around a socialite (Tracy) who is on the verge of getting married again to a wealthy man named George. In order to get a certain level of revenge against Tracy, her ex-husband Dexter essentially blackmails Tracy and teams up with a photographer (Elizabeth) and a writer/author (Mike) to cover the wedding. Amidst all the hullabaloo, Tracy finds herself caught in a romantic triangle with George, Mike, and even her ex Dexter. What will happen on her wedding day? That would be telling.

When I first saw “The Philadelphia Story” years upon years ago, I didn’t truly understand why it is often cited as one of the cinematic greats. While the cast is first rate (I’ll get to that in a bit), I felt disconnected to the stagey screwball comedy about socialites, family, and a love triangle. Revisiting the film again with this Criterion Blu-ray release, I have to say my opinion of the film has not changed.

I suppose if you’re a fan of the screwball comedy genre, there’s a lot to admire about “The Philadelphia Story.” I can see why viewers get caught up in the character dynamics and the snappy dialogue (of which there is a lot of). For whatever reason, however, I’ve never been drawn to the talky comedy subgenre. Not only does it feel old fashioned (which isn’t a bad thing in general), but these type of romantic comedies are so overly familiar by now that they have lost the magic they may have once had. Yes, the “happy ending” here does feel satisfying and earned, but the road to that ending is more than a little meandering and thin in the story department. It’s not an eventful movie by any means which I think hurts the script in the long run.

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on it’s that “The Philadelphia Story” has a cast for the ages. It has often been said that ‘Story’ was Hepburn’s comeback vehicle and it’s not hard to see why. She’s delightful here. It should come as no surprise that 2 of the very best actors of all time (Cary Grant and James Stewart) are excellent here as well. There is such great on screen chemistry with the three leads. No one ever tries to one up the other. While not a household name, it needs to be said that Ruth Hussey (who plays Elizabeth) is equally superb here (she even earned a well deserved Academy Award nomination for her role).

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital restoration does not disappoint. This is a nice clean transfer. It is arguably the best the film has ever looked.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? A quality Mono track that is free of pops and crackles.

Extras: “The Philadelphia Story” trailer, a booklet featuring photos, credits, and an essay by writer/author Farran Smith Nehme, a demo of the restoration, a radio drama of “The Philadelphia Story,” separate appearances of George Cukor and Katharine Hepburn on “The Dick Cavett Show,” a 19 minute documentary about Hepburn’s career titled “A Katharine Hepburn Production,” a featurette on the character of Tracy Lord and what inspired her titled “In Search Of Tracy Lord,” and an informative commentary by film historian Jeanine Basinger that really breaks the film down.

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November 14, 2017 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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