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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Heidi
Heidi
Fox // G // August 30, 2005
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted September 12, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Shirley Temple was a huge star in the 30's, bringing droves of people into theaters to see her films and almost single-handedly saving Fox from bankruptcy.  One of Temple's highest grossing films, and arguably her best loved movie, is the 1937 Heidi, where the lovable moppet plays a young orphan who worms her way into nearly everyone's heart.

Heidi (Shirley Temple) is an orphan who is thrust upon her grandfather (Jean Hersholt) without warning.  Living in the Swiss Alps, the grandfather is a rough, gruff old man who has been ostracized by the village and lives alone.  He doesn't want to have anything to do with a seven year old girl, but really has no choice in the matter.

Heidi is such a bubbly and cheerful girl, that she soon melts the old man's heart.  He starts going into town and renews old acquaintances.  Heidi and her grandfather are enjoying their life together until her eighth birthday when her Aunt Dete (Mady Christians) steals the young girl. Dete brings her to Frankfort, and sells her to a cruel governess, Fräulein Rottenmeier (Mary Nash).  Heidi is to be a companion for Klara (Marcia Mae Jones), the invalid daughter to a rich merchant who is always away on business.  All the while though, Heidi's grandfather is looking for her, walking the hundred miles from him cabin to Frankfort.

Nearly seventy years after it was filmed, Heidi is still an enjoyable picture, and the best filmed version of htis children's classic.  Unfortunately the story itself is a little dated, with the villains of the piece being totally evil to such a degree that today's audiences might find it a little hard to swallow.  When Dete demands money from Fräulein Rottenmeier before she will take Heidi home, and then refuses to take her telling Rottenmeier to "sell her to the gypsies for all I care" you have to roll your eyes.  It sounds like something Snidely Whiplash would do.  The absurd number of near misses when Heidi's grandfather is looking for her at the end also makes it hard to suspend your disbelief.

Having said that, I have to admit that while I was watching this movie, I was transported back to when I was about 10 and saw the film for the first time.  I cheered for Heidi's grandfather and scorned the villainous Dete and Rottenmeier.  I had a great time watching the film again.  It was a lot of fun.

Director Alan Dwan, stalwart director responsible for such films as Robin Hood (1922), and Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), does a good job with this Temple vehicle.  The story was filmed mainly on sets on the Fox lot, but he manages to manages to use the few exterior shots seem like they are more frequent than they really are.

Being a Temple film, they had to include the obligatory song and dance number, and the one in this picture seemed a little force and didn't really fit in with the story.  It's a rather short section at the beginning of the movie, and is easy to ignore though.

As for the cast, they all did a great job.  The two antagonists were suitably evil, and Jean Hersholt was wonderful as the grandfather.  I was surprise to discover that Arthur Treacher, later of fish and chips fame, stole the show as the butler, Andrews.  His dry humor and light jabs at Fräulein Rottenmeier were some of the best moments in the film.

The DVD:


This DVD contains both the original black and white version of the film and a color version on a single sided disc.  I find it hard to believe that studios are still spending the money to colorize movies, wasn't it decided that this was a rotten idea nearly two decades ago?  In any case you can chose to have artificial colors overlaid on top of the film, if you so desire.

Audio:

Unfortunately, the two channel mono audio track is below average.  There is a bit of hiss in the background, which it to be expected, but there is also a fair amount of distortion throughout the entire movie.  It doesn't ruin the movie, but it does get a little annoying in parts.

Video:

This DVD includes the original black and white movie, as well as a colorized version.  I screened the B&W version, and spot checked the colorized film.
 
I don't have the first release of this movie on DVD for a direct comparison, but by all accounts of the first version, this one is much better.  (See Holly Ordway's review of the first release here.)  The full frame image is pretty good overall.  The image is soft and the lines aren't as tight as they could be.  The level of detail is fine, though fine details do get lost in black areas.  The print was above agerage for a film of this age, with only a few spots and scratches.

Digitally, the DVD looks good.  The edge enhancement that ruined the earlier release is happily absent. There are a couple of instances of minor

The color version looks really horrid.  The colors are artificially bright, and skin tones don't look natural.  Shirley Temple's skin is a bright peach color and looks really silly.  The leaves on the trees and plants in the fields are all the exact same shade of green.  Avoid this version.

Extras:

There sole extra is a copy of the theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts:

Overall a very good film, that may not play well to modern audiences.  The plot is a little too sweet in places and the villains are too over the top in others, but I still enjoyed it.  The print that was used looked pretty good, though the audio track was disappointing.  I really wish that they had spent the money that it took to colorize the film and cleaned up the soundtrack instead.  Fans of Shirley Temple will want to get this film for sure.  Recommended, though just barely.
 

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