HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) / PENNY SERENADE (1941) is a double-feature of two Cary Grant classics, released by Marengo Films:
HIS GIRL FRIDAY is Howard Hawks' classic screwball comedy, and one of Cary Grant's best films. It's a remake of the play "The Front Page" with Grant as editor of a Chicago newspaper and Rosalind Russell as his star reporter and ex-wife. When Russell announces that she is going to quit the newspaper business and marry Ralph Bellamy, Grant attempts to get her to write one last story -- and win her back. The script for this film is amazingly witty, with dialog being spewed out faster than you can take it all in. This is a great movie.
PENNY SERENADE is a passable tearjerker, told through flashbacks, showing the marriage of Grant and Irene Dunne from its happy beginnings to its eventual disintegration because of various tragedies. This is fairly standard soap-opera material, but the film is well-made and keeps your attention.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY is a wonderful film that most people will love and everyone should see at least once. PENNY SERENADE is not in the same league as the other film, but is still worth watching and serves as a good companion piece. Watching these two films together really shows off Cary Grant's range as an actor. Because these two films are in the public domain, there are many different releases of them on DVD. Is this specific double-feature worth adding to your collection? Read on...
HIS GIRL FRIDAY uses a surprisingly clean print and has very acceptable picture quality. Because this is not a major studio DVD, you should not expect a flawless transfer, but it is a very pleasing, film-like presentation. By way of comparison, this release is better than the Madacy release (which actually wasn't too bad, by Madacy standards) and is virtually identical to the Delta/Laserlight release. However, Columbia/Tri-Star has released their own DVD of this classic, and that is the best version available. (Albiet, with a $25 price tag.)
The print used for PENNY SERENADE is in much rougher shape than HIS GIRL FRIDAY. While not unwatchable, it definitely has its share of damage to the print -- flecks, scratches, and dirt are evident throughout. While not unwatchable, the flaws on the DVD are distracting. This is similar to the Madacy and Delta releases of this title; none of them are in particularly good shape.
Both of these films are properly presented in the full-frame aspect ratio. Overall, HIS GIRL FRIDAY has a very good transfer and PENNY SERENADE is in rough shape, but not unwatchable. You won't be amazed by the quality, but you won't be disgusted either -- unlike most "budget" releases of public domain material.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY is presented in surprisingly clear mono tracks -- not perfect, but very clear and easy to understand. Like the video transfer, PENNY SERENADE fares a bit worse. The audio is full of pops, distortion, and a slight hiss.
There are no extras on this title. (But, unfortunately, there is a 1-2 minute commercial for Marengo Films at the start of the DVD that I was unable to skip past using my remote.)
So, should you get this DVD? That's a real tough question to answer, especially with the variety of releases out there. These films are both very good (especially HIS GIRL FRIDAY) and well worth your time. Since you get 2 movies on 1 DVD, the Marengo makes for an economical rental if you are viewing the films for the first time. If you are going to buy the films, price and quality become the factors to consider. Buying the two Delta DVDs will give you a very similar viewing experience (with a few extras, too), and costs less than buying the single Marengo title.
However, if you are only interested in HIS GIRL FRIDAY and are looking for the absolute best quality DVD, you'll want to get the "Columbia Classics" release, which has been cleaned up a bit and looks and sounds wonderful.
But, as a rental or inexpensive introduction to these two Cary Grant classics, the Marengo DVD is a bargain. This is definitely recommended to all film buffs.