HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Desk Set
HTS Overall Score:77
As you may have guessed from many of my reviews, I’m a HUGE fan of classic cinema. The Hepburns (both of them), Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, you name it, I follow them religiously. When I heard that Fox studios was putting out 8 classic films on the 3rd of December I knew I had to get my mits on them, so be warned, this is one review out of an 8 review binge that will be coming out in the next week or so. Spencer Tracy and Katherine are kind of an odd couple, both on screen and off. She’s a graceful woman who just exudes class and style, while Spencer is a gritty, rough and tough looking Irishman with an iron jaw. It seems like water and oil at first glance, but they do say that opposites attract. Spencer and Katherine seemed to hit it off well, spanning a 26 year relationship that netted them 9 movies together the two had a sort of strange chemistry that is almost impossible to put ones finger on. Here we have them back for a romantic comedy that’s high in witty banter and light on the romance. The film is light and airy, with plenty of sweet and comedic moments, but the believability factor is a bit on the low side.
Bunny Watson (Katherine Hepburn) is one of 4 researchers in the reference department of a giant unnamed broadcasting company has a sudden jolt in her daily routine when an “efficiency expert” by the name of Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy) comes into her department and starts nosing around. Bunny knows something is up, but can’t really extract anything from the enigmatic Sumner. Being the brilliant researcher that she is, Bunny finds enough information to realize that Mr. Sumner is the inventor of one of the first computers on the market, in particular one called EMERAC. Deducing that their jobs are on the line in some way she has an immediate distrust of the man. Sumner is a bit of a strange bird himself and sets about measuring the office and asking strange questions to all the staff. As the weeks go on the staff beings to warm up the enigmatic man and fear that was present at his introduction begins to fade.
Sumner soon begins to take notice of Bunny and realizes that the two are more alike than previously imagined. The problem with this interest is that Bunny is in a quasi-relationship with Mike Cutler, her boss, and by relationship I mean Bunny waits around for Mike, while he pussyfoots around and uses Bunny when he needs her. To make matters worse it’s revealed that the company is going through a giant merger and that EMERAC is going to be installed into the reference department which immediately sends fears of machine making human work obsolete rippling throughout the department. Back in those days when computers were first invented the common fear among people was that once machines became smart enough they wouldn’t need humans to work, and that was either a fear of obsoletion, or the crazy dream of being able to have mostly leisure time as your machine worked for you. Once the computer is installed the staff learns two things. One, EMERAC is very good at its job, and, Two, there is only ONE thing that keeps it from being perfect……the human element.
“Desk Set” is a cute movie in many ways and the classic wit of the 1950’s cinema is flying at top speed. Bunny is a fantastic blend of a brilliant researcher as well as just oozing class and grace (something Katherine Hepburn was impeccable at doing). Spencer Tracy was the exact opposite, the rough, gruff, seemingly uncaring engineer who had his head up in the clouds. The movie puttered along at a great pace, but there seemed to be something missing. As much as there was plenty of off screen Romance between the couple, the on screen romance was just a little unbelievable. The chemistry just wasn’t really there, I couldn’t feel that spark that really draws you into a romantic comedy and BELIEVE that two such opposites can attract. The slightly odd relationship between Hepburn and Spencer worked very well when they were making witty comments at each other, but the romance angle came out of the blue and seemed a bit contrived. That’s not to say the movie was bad by any means, it’s got some great sparkle to it and the theory of man vs. machine has been one that’s been theorized and stayed extremely relevant over the ages, even in today’s society where we’ve had experience with machines instead of just fearing the new and unknown. Overall it’s a sweet and enjoyable lark that just lacks that romantic chemistry between the two leads that would have pushed it into the really good territory.
Unrated By the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=13901[/img]Presented in 2.36:1 cinemascope, “Desk Set” looks incredible, with a print that looks like it didn’t need much, if any, restoration work. Colors are bright and clean, with some excellent pop to them. Fine detail is quite excellent, giving us plenty to look at, with only some minor soft spots, which are more than likely due to the optical effects of the day (especially the split screen moments). Contrasts are good and facial tones are excellent, albeit given a slightly pink tone to them. Since of course this was back in the golden age of cinema there is a nice clear layer of grain overlaying the entire picture. Overall an excellent picture that looks stunning in 1080p.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=13902[/img]The audio is presented in its original 1.0 mono source, so it’s not going to be utilizing the surrounds or LFE channel any. This is sufficient enough for a dialogue driven comedy such as this one. There is plenty of dialogue with just minimal ambient noises throughout the film so the front center speaker is really your main workout here. Voices are crystal clear and nothing seems muffled or damaged as some older mono sound tracks can be. There’s a little bit of mild ambience, especially with the EMERAC machine, but nothing too wild. Overall a very satisfactory track that does quite well considering it was never designed to be a wide sweeping audio track.
• Fox Movietone News: Designers Inspired for New Creations by Film "Desk Set"
• Theatrical Trailer
• Commentary by Dina Merrill and John Lee
Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, usually a unique chemistry on screen, but for some reason “Desk Set” is a bit lackluster in the believability department. Both actors still can carry a movie with style and ease, and the witty banter between the two is what elevates the movie to the status is carries today. Great set pieces, and a relatable story about man vs. machine, the movie is still a cute little romp and one I’d turn away. The fantastic video is just a testament to how good these old can actually look and always has me excited for the next cinematic classic to hit Blu-ray.
Starring: Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy
Directed by: Walter Lang
Written by: Phoebe and Henry Efron
Aspect Ratio: 2.36:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 1.0, Spanish DD 1.0
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Runtime: 103 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: Dec 3rd, 2013
Buy Desk Set Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Check It Out
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