Saturday, 6 December 2014

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Best Romantic Comedy - EVER - now available on a Stellar Criterion Collection Blu-Ray

SCREENWRITER - Robert Riskin
DIRECTOR - Frank Capra
gets glorious

Criterion Collection
super-deluxe Blu-Ray

It Happened One Night (1934)
Dir. Frank Capra
Scr. Robert Riskin
Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert,
Walter Connolly, Jameson Thomas, Roscoe Karns, Alan Hale, Arthur Hoyt,
Blanche Friderici, Charles C. Wilson, Ward Bond, Irving Bacon, George Breakston

Review By Greg Klymkiw
"What she needs is a guy that'd take a sock at her once a day, whether it's coming to her or not."
So says hard boiled reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable) to multi-millionaire Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly), biliously referring to the magnate's spoiled heiress daughter Ellie (Claudette Colbert). Ah, how did it come to this? Then again, this is quite near the end of Frank Capra's romantic comedy It Happened One Night and Big Daddy doesn't flinch one bit over Peter's woman-walloping assertion. You see, near the start of the picture, Father Dearest responds to one of his grown-daughter's petulant temper tantrums by slugging her squarely in the kisser. A fat lot of good that did, though, since Ellie deftly dashes onto the deck of Daddy's yacht and plunges into the water, swimming away quite ably in her tight gown to join King Westley (Jameson Thomas), the dandy playboy she's eloped with and to whom Pappy Big Bucks is desperately trying to buy off with an annulment.

Comedy & Romance at its FINEST
But it ain't gonna happen. Ellie's bound and determined to be reunited with her man and nothing's going to stop her. Nothing, that is, unless she falls in love with someone else.

Enter Peter Warne (Gable) the booze-swilling, tough-talking, two-fisted star reporter who's just been fired from his job for guzzling more hootch than making deadlines. Our star-crossed couple soon find themselves together on a milk-run bus from Miami, bound for the city that never sleeps, that glorious dirty town, New York.

They detest each other. At first. They are, however, more than willing to use each other. Ellie needs a smart cookie to get her back to consummate marriage to Westley before Dad scuttles it and Peter, knowing Ellie's elopement and mad dash is big news, needs a lollapalooza of a story to get his job back. Their cross-country road trip, fraught with all manner of peril, offers up the biggest of all - they're falling in love.

Seriously folks, could anything be more perfect in its simplicity? Well, uh, no. However, let it be said that Frank Capra, one of the most untouchably great directors of all time, here displays every conceivable iota of his gifts with the ferocity of a whirling dervish on a never-ending supply of crack cocaine. The equally legendary screenwriter Robert Riskin (who wrote eight - count 'em - eight films for Capra) creates two of the most indelible, loveable characters in any romantic comedy - like, EVER! - and generates dialogue and conflict that's seldom been matched and never been beaten. Capra's trusty cinematographer Joseph Walker (who cut his teeth on Canadian Nell Shipman's Arctic-shot Back to God's Country and eventually lensed twenty - yeah, count 'em - twenty films for Capra) delivers some of the most astonishing compositions, camera moves and lighting ever committed to celluloid. Eugene Havlick, no slouch in the editing chair (having cut two of Howard Hawks greatest pictures, His Girl Friday and Twentieth Century and, yup, count 'em, seven pictures for Capra), sliced and diced the footage with an impeccable sense of both comic and dramatic timing.

The bottom line is that for all the picture's inherent simplicity, Capra and his collaborators brilliantly imbued the picture with levels of sophistication and artistry few romantic comedies have ever (nay, will ever) achieve. The movie is as rooted in the comedy of Shakespeare, as it is in the fresh and contemporary well it draws from and hence, is both universal and never dated, especially in its astonishing portrait of class differences (and how they can come together), the clear divide between man and woman (plus where their paths do cross) and the lovely, sumptuous forays into the beauty of nature under the stars of night where romance yields itself up.

It Happened One Night is perfect. Not a frame is wasted, not a gesture is superfluous, not a single word uttered by any character any less than sheer poetry and visually, few films have come close (and even fewer have matched) the delicate shadings, the magical pools of shimmering light and the utterly dazzling chiaroscuros that are as tantalizing to the heart, to the very core of human emotion, as they are to the naked eye, one which is gently forced to remain wide open to dine greedily upon the love, humour and sheer romance of this genuine masterpiece. One that lives forever.

THE FILM CORNER RATING for the Film and the Criterion Blu-Ray production: ***** 5-Stars

It Happened One Night is, beyond even a shadow of a doubt, one of the most compelling arguments against anything less than home consumption of cinema on the Blu-Ray format and, perhaps most importantly, how the very medium of home entertainment continues to be raised to the highest levels of artistry - yes, ARTISTRY - by the Criterion Collection. Not only is the brand new 4K digital restoration with uncompressed monaural sound lightyears ahead of anything generated for this masterpiece, but the utter care and dedication of the entire Criterion CREATIVE team in terms of the overall package is one they will need to use as their own internal bar to match, if not exceed. I can still remember watching the historic American Institute Lifetime Achievement Award TV special honouring Frank Capra (and hosted, no less, by Jimmy Stewart) when it was first aired. It's stayed with me for over 30 years. To see it again on this home entertainment edition of the film was sheer magic. The somewhat conventional 1997 feature length documentary Frank Capra’s American Dream is still, by the sheer force of its interviews and clip selections, as fine a cinematic biographical portrait of Capra as we're likely to see - at least for now. Watching Capra's first-ever film, the radiant and moving 1921 San Francisco-produced silent short Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House, so astonishing in its new digital transfer (with a gorgeous, evocative new score composed and performed by Donald Sosin), that I needed to see it again immediately after my first helping to prove to myself I wasn't dreaming. In addition to a lovely 1999 interview with Frank Capra Jr. and the de rigueur inclusion of a trailer and essay booklet (along with a gorgeous new cover design by Sarah Habibi and Jessica Hische), the piece de resistance is clearly the magnificent all-new conversation between critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate, both of whom engage each other and us in their love and near photographic recall of the picture. It's beautifully shot and cut. We get a sense of this lovely piece being an exquisite short film unto itself - a kind of My Dinner With Andre-like conversation with a narrative arc, if you will, of complete and utter adoration (and the sort of egg-head-isms about the film that are neither full of the usual bushwah inherent in such tête-à-têtes and proving to be as vital and wholly understandable to movie nuts, eggheads and real folk alike). This is a GREAT Blu-Ray. You need to own it. Believe me, you'll watch the movie and your favourite extra features over and over and, yet, over again. If you own the disgraceful Columbia Pictures DVD (so ludicrously overpriced when it first came out), just turn the disc into a coaster and use the keep case for some DVD-R of your home movies. Oh, and if you don't own a Blu-Ray player and High Def monitor - get them - NOW! It's the only way you'll be able to see It Happened One Night when you buy the Blu-Ray (which you must do - NOW!)

In USA and the rest of the WORLD - BUY It Happened One Night - HERE!

In Canada - BUY It Happened One Night HERE, eh!

In UK BUY It Happened One Night HERE