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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // January 1, 1999
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Chris Hughes | posted February 19, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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Features: Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1. Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono). Subtitles: English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Thai. Commentary by Frank Capra, Jr. Theatrical trailer(s) for Other Capra Films. Retrospective Featurette: Frank Capra, Jr. Remembers ... Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Vintage Advertising.

The Movie:
From 1934 to 1941 legendary director Frank Capra produced a string of films that became instant classics. These films, including 'It Happened One Night', 'Lost Horizon', 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' and 'Meet John Doe' solidified Capra's reputation as a powerhouse director and remain well loved to this day. 'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town' (made right after 'It Happened One Night') is a prime example Capra at the top of his form and is considered by many to be his best film.

The story unfolds when small town bumpkin Longfellow Deeds (played in fine style by Gary Cooper) discovers that he's inherited twenty million dollars from a distant relative, instantly making him one of the countries richest men. Deeds is taken to New York to begin the administration of his new found riches and swiftly comes under siege from the press, hangers-on, gold digging relatives and a steady stream of scam artists. The one bright point in Deed's disrupted life is his newfound love Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur in a role she seems to have been born to play.) But is this damsel is distress really what she seems?

'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town' is satisfying on every imaginable level. The camera work and cinematography are finely crafted with stylish compositions and rich settings. The dialogue is snappy, witty and intelligent without loosing a genuine feel and crisp editing pulls the story forward visually at just the right pace.

The Picture:
The Library of Congress restored 'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town' and though they did a good job this is far from reference quality material. The print suffers from a good deal of flicker due to random faded frames, there are a number of rough splices and much of the film is pitted and stained. The transfer itself is free of any digital artifacts but looks a little too soft throughout. In addition to the softened edges, black level is a touch too deep meaning a loss in shadow detail and the whole film is overly dark with fairly limited contrast. That being said, the images on this disc are cleaner and clearer than any version you're likely to see on the screen or on VHS.

The Sound:
The audio track is in the original mono format and sounds surprisingly good. The dynamic range is fairly broad (Deed's Tuba really packs a punch), dialogue is free of distortion and there's only the faintest hint of pop and hiss.

The Extras:
The Columbia Classics series is a little inconsistent in terms of extras and it's probably wise that the studio didn't label this a special edition. There are some interesting items on the disc though. An image gallery contains about a dozen theatrical posters and other printed publicity materials, the talent file pages show filmographies for Capra, Cooper and Arthur and three trailers are included for other Capra films (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It Happened One Night and Lost Horizon). I have no idea why, but Columbia chose to leave the trailer for Deeds itself off of this disc. A short (less than ten minutes) featurette 'Frank Capra, Jr. Remembers … Mr. Deeds Goes to Town' contains lots of interesting information but is too short to go into any real detail. Finally there's a disappointing audio commentary by Frank Capra Jr. The (occasionally) screen specific commentary starts off good with Capra Jr. offering interesting anecdotes and information on his father's work style but he seems to run out of things to say about thirty minutes into the film. His comments grow further and further apart until about half way into the movie when he tails off altogether, which made me wonder why Columbia included this track to begin with. They probably should have incorporated his comments into the featurette.

Conclusion:
'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town' is an American classic that holds up today as well as it did sixty-five years ago. It's certainly one of the cornerstones of any classic film fan's library but this DVD leaves much to be desired. Even given the meager ancillary content I would have made 'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town' a 'Collector's Series' title but the inferior transfer forces me to downgrade to 'Highly Recommended.' My advice is to buy this disc and enjoy the film but keep your fingers crossed for a true special edition release sometime in the future.
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