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Title: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary

Movie: :5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :3stars:

HTS Overall Score:86

There are very few directors that can carry the distinction of being one of the greatest directors alive. The man has created so many timeless classics throughout film history that I can barely name them all. Hits such as “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “It Happened One Night”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “You Can’t Take it With You”, “Arsenic and Old Lace” (a title I’m VERY much wishing would hit Blu-ray soon), “State of the Union”, “Riding High”, “Here Comes the Groom” and many many more. Many of those titles are recognizable even if you’ve never SEEN the film in question. He was immensely powerful in his ideals and loved to make movies that gave people hope and a desire for a better future. Many of his earlier works dealt with people coming into riches, or people standing up for their rights in a world that was drowning in the great depression. Some of them may seem like fantasy to people living jaded by the way our courts and our government has turned out, but back these films were a beacon of hope to people who desperately needed that hope. “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is the latest in Sony’s “Capra Collection” digibooks, and once again they’ve done a fantastic job at bringing back this Gary Cooper classic to our hands with an incredibly well done Blu-ray.

When a young poet from Mandrake Falls, Vermont, is given the sum of $20,000,000 overnight from a dead relative, he is forced into the high life and a world that is completely foreign to him. Longfellow Deeds (a VERY young Gary Cooper) is given that opportunity one day and comes face to face with the reality that not everyone is as simple and home grown as he is. Going to New York to take care of his uncle’s estate he gets to experience the big city in ways that he could only dream of before. Charming, simple, and naive, Mr. Deeds deals with everyone like he would back home. Straight forward and to the point. This throws everyone around him into a tizzy as they are all used to the cutthroat practices of big city living and the manipulation and conniving that goes along with that. Trusting no one around him, Longfellow stumbles into a beautiful young woman in distress whom he entrusts to show him around town. Unbeknownst to him, this young woman is none other than Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur), a New York City columnist who is getting close to him so that she can get the scoop for the young millionaire.

Sadly Babe Bennett is not the only one who is trying to take advantage of him. Scads of New York socialites are more than desirous of pulling a fast one on the naïve young man and will do anything to get a few hundred thousand out of the man here, or a handout there in hopes of putting one over on him. Not to mention his own lawyers are up to their ears in their own money problems and are doing their very best to wrest power of attorney from him so they can use his fortune to fix their losses that they’ve incurred. When Mr. Deeds decides that he doesn’t want to deal with such a burden and decides to give his fortune away, then all hell breaks loose as every shark in the city puts him on trial as incompetent in an effort to rob the man of the good he wants to do.

“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is what would be considered fantasy in this day and age (and to a certain extent was back then as well). It’s a tale that paints a picture of a good and noble man coming into great opportunity and not be corrupted by it. I know, right? It does sound like fantasy (and while there are people that it happens to, it is an abnormality in the greater whole of society). Gary Cooper plays the role fantastically, inserting a level of innocence and kind naivety to the young Mr. Deeds (not to be confused with the Adam Sandler movie, “Mr. Deeds”, although that film took its idea from Capra’s work). Although naivety is not the right words. Mr. Deeds is socially inept in high society, but he has a down home intuition and sense of right and wrong that is anything BUT naïve. He has a grasp on human nature and the cruelty that man can do, it’s just that his old fashioned sense of honor appears out of place in “modern” society.

While not a slapstick comedy, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is very much a comedy that is much more subtle and verbally witty than something we might see today. Lighthearted gags are done with a perfectly straight face, and much of the humor comes off from watching people make fools of themselves, basking in their own superiority rather than responding to a laugh track. Cooper weaves in and out of the film with that slightly “slow” expression on his face, but his words and mannerisms belie something much more intelligent and savvy underneath. Jean Arthur is magnificent as the stunning gorgeous Babe Bennett, and their relationship is very much what we would call “Hollywood romance”, but it is perfectly enjoyable and loveable nonetheless.

No matter how many times I see this one, I can't get over the fact how poignant it is in today's society. With the economy the way it is (the closest we have been to a great depression SINCE the Great Depression) the intensity and heartbreak that he comes into contact with in regards to the "little people" seem even more real than they did when I was a kid in the 80s. Capra was known for being a visionary, but I wonder if it's more of a "what goes around comes around" type of thing, as we're just now seeing history repeat itself, making his early films hit closer to home than they have before.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video :4.5stars:
Wow! That’s all I can say. Well, maybe not ALL, but you get the picture. “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” has never looked this good and the restoration work done on the old print looks fabulous. The black and white cinematography by Joseph Walker is absolutely impeccable, with amazing detail and all of the old scratches and print issues that the old DVD used to show when I watched it. Grain levels are superb, and while it is a super grainy old film, you can see everything with razor sharp clarity that boggles the mind. Look at Jean Arthur’s suede coat when they’re out to dinner and you can notice individual stich marks and shifting of threads throughout the texture, and the design on her hat is actually noticeable at a good 12 feet away! Blacks are a paramount for a film like this and while there is no color to speak of, the different shades and layers in the black spectrum are amazingly sharp and vivid. Contrast is well balanced and I can see no signs of any artifacting at all. Even amidst all that grain it never looks digital or altered in the slightest.

Audio :4stars:
The DTS-HD MA Mono track on board is almost as impeccable as the video is, but there are some slight limitations of the recording instruments back in the day as well as due to the nature of being a single channel mono track. Dialog is amazingly crisp and clear, and sounds LEAGUES better than the old lossy Dolby Digital track from back in the day. Presence in the front two speakers is imaged properly and I have absolutely no qualms with the mix at all. The only limitations that bring it down ever so slightly is the natural lack of surround capabilities that we’re used to and the fact that some of the dialog sounds a bit harsh and boxy. I attribute that to the recording hisses and limitations of the day as none of it sounds like something that would be accomplished as an encoding flaw. That being said, this really is a nice sounding track and goes to show how fantastic an old movie can sound if given a little TLC.

Extras: :3stars:

• Audio Commentary by Frank Capra Jr.
• "Frank Capra Jr. Remembers... Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" Featurette
• Vintage Advertising Gallery
• Original Theatrical Teaser
• Collectible Digibook Packaging with an All-New Essay by Film Historian Jeremy Arnold

Overall: :4.5stars:

“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is one of Capra’s finest, and the 80th anniversary set form Sony is a knockout. At the moment it appears to be an Amazon exclusive item, but it is well worth the price of admission with fantastic extras and a great looking digibook packaging stuffed with little tidbits of information in the booklet portion of the package. Audio and video are fantastic for their age (video above all else) and for those of you who have never seen this timeless classic, I strongly urge you to do so. VERY highly recommended.

Additional Information:

Starring: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur
Directed by: Frank Capra
Written by: Clarence Budington Kelland, Robert Riskin
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA Mono, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish (Latin), Spanish DD Mono
Studio: Sony
Rated: NR
Runtime: 115 Minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 4th, 2016

Buy Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Must Own

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