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Mr. Deeds Goes To Town – 80th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Mr-Deeds-Goes-To-TownIt’s insane to come to the realization that Frank Capra’s timeless classic, Mr Deeds Goes Town is celebrating its 80th year of existence.  A couple of years ago, I reviewed the Blu-ray for another Capra legend, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  That film and this one share a lot in common with one another.  They also have very similar Blu-ray releases.  It seems around this time of year, Sony drops one Frank Capra film that’s locked away in their vault in a nice 4K remastered digipack set like this.  Last year saw the release of You Can’t Take It With You, which means we’ve also had three years of releases of terrific Jean Arthur films as well.  You’ll be able to find this one on October 4th, which actually means you can pick it up at any time.

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Film 

When small-town innocent Longfellow Deeds heads to New York to collect a $20 million inheritance, he ends up a target of ridicule thanks to Babe Bennett, a cynical reporter whose demeaning stories have made him the joke of the city. So when he discovers his sweet and unassuming new girlfriend is actually the hardboiled Bennett in disguise, a disillusioned Deeds decides to give his fortune away, an act of charity his crooked lawyer will stop at nothing to prevent.

The downside of turning 80 years old for Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (At least in the eyes of this film lover), is that most modern movie going audiences and generations are probably more familiar with the 2002 remake of the Capra original.  Said remake was from none other than Adam Sandler, which of course will immediately draw the ire of haters.  I’ve seen that rendition, and while their version of this film’s charm is turned into a lot of stupidity, I will say I enjoyed Winona Ryder in it, Sandler actually fits the bill for that role surprisingly and it had a Dave Matthews Band song on the soundtrack.  But, yeah, people can fling all they want at that one.

We’re here to talk about the real deal though.  Capra made two very similar films dealing with almost identical characters, situations and purposes.  The thing is, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington was originally supposed to be Mr. Deeds Goes To Washington.  An actual sequel to this film.  However, both films do work on their own, and are very different in their own right.  I’d say that Mr. Deeds is more of an outright screwball comedy, with Mr. Smith being more of a political film and character study.  I do like Gary Cooper here, but Jimmy Stewart sort of one up him with Smith.

Jean Arthur appears in both films (A Capra regular) and she’s pretty much in the same role and plays the part with a similar panache.  However, its Jean Arthur, and that’s kinda what she brings to the table, and its VERY welcome.  Its akin to later performers like a John Cusack or a Julia Roberts.  You bring them in because you want them to bring that strength they have in their performances.  She’s a very strong willed character, but one that is given some good moral conflict and depth.  She’s also just freaking adorable (In both films), and its hard to to brought in by her charm and fall for her.

Another role I’ll mention I really enjoy in the film is Lionel Stander as Cornelius Cobb.  This guy is a constant source of comic relief in the film.  Now, I’m not sure if its all intended or that the film has just wound up aging this way and actors of his type don’t really exist anymore.  In any other film from this time frame, he’d be some lunkhead mob heavy.  Here, he’s probably Deeds best friend and sort of adviser.  He’s got this harsh sounding voice that make things sound funnier than they possible were intended.  One big highlight for me is early in the film when he first gets to town to find Longfellow Deeds and reads allowed the poetic billboard.  I actually laughed out loud during that part as I’d forgotten about it.

Frank Capra populist film brings together his sort of tried and true formula.  A regular Joe finds himself amidst an elite group of people, where he doesn’t fit in one bit.  His unorthodox ways wind up overcoming them, and they sort of remember who they were to begin with and learn from this random, kind hearted person who stays true to themself through the proceedings.  The film features a town hall/courtroom sequence to bring all of this to a head and its one of those situations that even though you’ve seen the film a bunch and know the outcome, you’re still on the edge of your seat, worried that someone may have reedited the film to change the ending.  Its a sign of the expertise and master craftsmanship that Capra brings to the table and why a load of his films have managed to have staying power after all these years.

Mr. Deeds Goes To Town is 80 and its still fresh, engaging and as wonderful a film today as it was way back in 1936.  The cast here is very strong and help elevate the already terrific material.  Yeah, the film fills you with warmth and goodness, but you’re not bothered and that’s the sign of a winner.  Nobody did this stuff better than Frank Capra. Hell, its what he’s pretty much known for as he inspired a generation of filmmakers and continues to inspire them today.  Mr. Deeds Goes To Town is one of the finest examples of that, and a film that should be on every “X-amount of films you should see before you die” list.  Oh, and yeah, you should check out that one where a guy named Smith travels to the nation’s capital, too.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Mr. Deeds Goes To Town has been fully restored in 4K for this Blu-ray transfer.  It looks outstanding.  The only real troublesome areas are ones they can’t do anything about, which is when scenes cross into one another or some establishing shots. You’ll notice they sharpen and clean up real fast once everything is set.  The image is pretty sharp even though there is some intentional softness at times due to the way it was lit.  There are some shocking and impressive details to be had in the picture too, as you during the original meetup of Gary Cooper & Jean Arthur its storming and you can see rain dripping off of and running down a metal fence.  Other great details include seeing clothing patterns, textures and fabrics strings/fuzzes with good ease.  If you’ve seen the transfer for Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, this is right up that alley.  And that’s to say, its terrific.

Depth:  Some really solid depth work for an 80 year old film dropping onto Blu-ray.  Spacing is pretty good.  Indoor environments do a commendable job with separation and keeping foreground and background details discernable when focus allows.  Movements are cinematic and very smooth in nature.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and carry an important role throughout.  No crushing witnessed during this viewing to notate first off.  Details are still kept intact on pretty much everything.  Nighttime scenes do lightly eat up some details, but the shading work and use of lighting work quite well.  Like I said, you could still make out rain and where its landing and slipping on clearly during a nighttime storm sequence.  That’s not something to sniff at.

Color Reproduction:  N/A

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones take on a white/gray shade and make a consistent effort throughout the film.  Details are decent in medium and close up shots.  You can get some shine off of people as well as dimples, wrinkles, stubble and the like.  Also discernible are moles, freckles and some shine bouncing off of the character’s skin. Its pretty impressive what you’re able to see on this 80 year old feature.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a light layer of grain on an other really clean and fresh looking image.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Mono DTS-HD MA, French Mono Dolby Digital, German Mono Dolby Digital, Portuguese Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latino) Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian), Swedish, Turkish

Dynamics:  Mr. Deeds Goes To Town gets a pretty nifty lossless mono track to impress upon you with this Blu-ray.  It crafts the original theatrical performance and is quite cleaned up and features very minimal source analog distortions like a hiss.  There are some really good deep moments, like when Deeds plays his tuba.  Given the film’s age, this track sounds quite great.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clear.  Its very rich sounding and does carry a little analaog hiss.  Part of the charm though.  Impressive how good they’ve made this film sound.  Diction is captured quite well and volume levels work accordingly for a character’s distance.

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Extras 

Mr Deeds Goes To Town – 80th Anniversary Edition comes with an UltraViolet digital copy.  The films digipack features a booklet that has an essay by Jeremy Arnold, some production and poster photos, cast and director key filmographies.  It also has a piece on the 4K restoration for this edition.

Audio Commentary

  • By Frank Capra Jr.

Frank Capra Jr. Remembers…Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (SD, 11:11) – An archival interview from a previous release.  The late son of Frank Capra is our guide to the history and insights on making the film.  There’s a good deal about casting (as well as tid bits on the actors themselves) for this film.

Vintage Advertising Gallery – 8 lobby cards for the film.

Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936) Trailer Theatrical Re-Release (SD, 1:28)

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Summary 

Mr. Deeds Goes To Town is just full of so much charm and personality, it’s hard not to fall for it.  Also charming is this nice little Blu-ray release its received.  Picture and audio are great, as the film was remastered in 4K for this release and features an awesome little mono track recreating what I’m sure was the theatrical mix.  It also has a decent slew of extras for this release as well.  I wish Sony wasn’t so slow with the output of these Capra sets, because I’d snatch them up like crazy if we could even just do one Blu-ray a quarter rather than one a year.  Oh well.  This is a top dog release, and film fans should be making a no-brainer decision and adding it to their collection.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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