All That Money Can Buy – The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Originally known as The Devil and Daniel Webster, based on the original 1936 short story by Stephen Vincent Benét, All That Money Can Buy was previously released by the Criterion Collection in 2003 on DVD. This Blu-ray release, featuring a brand-new 4K restoration, looks to bring new life to the Oscar-winning 1941 supernatural feature. Its presentation of a Faustian-like bargain through the lens of 19th-century America has an interesting place in history, and I was pretty fascinated with how this whole thing played out. On top of that, this new home release has plenty of worthwhile extras to accompany the feature. It’s quite the deal (fortunately not with the Devil).


Set in 1840s New Hampshire, Jabez Stone (James Craig) is a poor farmer on an incredible bad luck streak. In frustration, he finds himself making a bargain with the devil (Walter Huston), who refers to himself as “Mr. Scratch.” Jabez will receive seven years of good fortune in exchange for his soul. Of course, these deals are never in the position of working out well for the hapless humans involved, and upon realizing the errors of his ways, Stone eventually seeks help from the legendary orator and politician Daniel Webster (Edward Arnold), who has also been tempted by Mr. Scratch, to help save him.

The neat thing with a film like this is recognizing it as a fantastical movie despite being set in the real world. Very few overt tricks on display visually define this as a story involving forces of evil, yet director William Dieterle (The Life of Emile Zola) still delivers a stylish feature. Mr. Scratch shows his abilities in interesting ways, and the entire third act is dependent on some pretty out-there ideas, and yet, the inspired visuals largely speak to the creative uses of shadow, some reverse film stock imagery, and the oppressive atmosphere in the midst of a man suddenly finding success.

All That Money Can Buy would go on to receive two Oscar nominations. One turned into a win for composer Bernard Herrmann (somehow his only win, and he even beat himself that year, as he was also nominated for Citizen Kane). The other was a Best Lead Actor nomination for Walter Huston, who truly creates a memorable character out of Mr. Scratch.

Having not seen this film before, nor having much in the way of cultural osmosis to know much about it, I found this portrayal of the devil engagingly creepy. The way he is depicted, whether it’s how shadows are constantly relied on to help emphasize his presence or what we can take from intense close-ups, there’s a lot to appreciate about how much menace is brought to a character who is never physically violent in any way.

All That Money Can Buy

Also compelling is the depiction of time and Stone’s evolution as a character. Seeing a man going from barely making ends meet to becoming everything he once would have hated is a familiar arc but challenging nonetheless in a film like this. Having people in his life, such as his wife Mary (Anne Shirley) and his devout, elderly mother (Jane Darwell), further adds to how we see changes affecting the established dynamic.

With all that in mind, the Daniel Webster of it all is naturally a big part of why All That Money Can Buy works as well as it does. Webster, a fascinating historical figure in his own right, owns the final act of this film, which features a unique handling of a courtroom setup, to say the least. Here, we find the film getting to its greater themes regarding an America that has slowly crawled out of the Great Depression but has not yet entered WWII.

Having that sort of context in mind allows All That Money Can Buy to hold onto more than just its stylish direction regarding why this film deserves to be celebrated all these years later. It feels more challenging than standard studio fare at that time, which speaks to why it was initially a box office flop (various edited re-releases and title changes also led to mixed success). With all that in mind, watching the original version of the film presented here, I was entirely on board with what this story had to offer, the greatness of these performances by Huston and Arnold, and the handling of its creepiness given the specific nature of the film. After all, the devil is in the details.


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Layers: BD-50

Details: “This 4K restoration was undertaken by the UCLA Film & Television Archive and The Film Foundation, in collaboration with Janus Films, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Library of Congress. The new digital master was created from the 35 mm nitrate original camera negative and a German 35 mm nitrate duplicate picture negative and scanned in 4K resolution.”

Clarity/Detail: Sight unseen, I still have no doubt this version of All That Money Can Buy is a massive upgrade from the original DVD release. While it’s not a UHD disc, having a 4K restoration means there’s a much better range of visual output, whether it’s the detail that can be found in the various locations, sets, and costumes or the clarity of scenes featuring heavy shadow play and other atmospheric elements.

Depth: There’s enough to be found in the basic framing taking place, with dimensionality to admire in the staging of scenes featuring Mr. Scratch in particular, as he does like to make an entrance.

Black Levels: The darker scenes taking place all shine, given the age of this film. Shadowwork and more are all handled well for this disc. There’s a good sense of contrast and no signs of crushing or noise.

Color Reproduction: N/A

Flesh Tones: The detail level seen in the characters is impressive.

Noise/Artifacts: The film looks nice and clean, with no issues in sight, preserving what makes sense.


All That Money Can Buy

Audio Format(s): English LPCM 1.0 Monaural

Subtitles: English SDH

Details: “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35 mm track print of the 1943 re-release version of the film and a German 25 mm nitrate track negative of the 1941 preview version.”

Dynamics: It’s a mono soundtrack, which will only provide so much to dig into. And yet, this is a solid track, allowing the dialogue and various sound effects the room needed to come to life. It’s a track that never hits any flat moments or deals with poor mixing. Plus, Herrmann’s score is worth calling out, as it delivers numerous memorable bits that add to the feature’s tonal choices.

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard loud and clear.


All That Money Can buy

Between the originally released extras and a couple of new features, this is a well-rounded package that highlights several aspects of the production while providing additional context concerning the story’s origins.

Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Bruce Eder and Steven C. Smith, biographer of composer Bernard Herrmann – Originally recorded for Criterion in 1991 and updated in 2003.
  • Version Comparison (HD, 4:38) – A comparison between the 1941 preview version of the film compared to its 1943 release.
  • “The Devil and Daniel Webster” (33:43) – A reading of the original short story by Stephen Vincent Benét, handled by Alec Baldwin. Originally produced in 2003.
  • Observations on Film Art (HD, 13:05) – Film scholar Jeff Smith discusses the film’s editing. Originally aired on the Criterion Channel in 2018.
  • The Columbia Workshop – Stephen Vincent Benét’s two out of three short stories focused on Daniel Webster, presented as radio dramatizations with music by Bernard Herrmann.
    • “The Devil and Daniel Webster” (1938) (29:51)
    • “Daniel Webster and the Sea Serpent” (1937) (29:47)
  • Restoration Demonstration (HD, 6:15) – A look at the restoration process, showing viewers the before and after of what this new version has to offer.
  • Trailer (HD, 2:15)
  • PLUS – An essay by author Tom Piazza and a 1941 article by Benét



All That Money Can buy

All That Money Can Buy is a treat. It features a literal devilish performance by Walter Huston, which makes this all worth it alone. On top of that, I appreciate the sense of style on display quite a bit, which is amplified by this 4K restoration. With numerous extras to help round it all out, this is a strong Blu-ray release for a film that could use more attention. Quite the bargain.

Order Your Copy Here:

All That Money Can buy


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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