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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » I, Jane Doe (Blu-ray)
I, Jane Doe (Blu-ray)
Kino // Unrated // June 19, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted August 10, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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Another real head-scratcher release from Kino via Paramount, I, Jane Doe (1948) is a ludicrous courtroom melodrama, an atypically A-budget production from B-picture studio Republic. It's not terrible: this is damning the film with faint praise but my first reaction after it ended was, "Whattya know, I didn't fall asleep!"

The new HD master from a 4K scan of the original camera negative and a finegrain looks super, and while I'm certainly happy that it's out and available, one can't help but wonder why this title was chosen over several hundred others in the Republic catalog. It's not particularly good or distinctive, none of its stars have a measurable following today, and it's not a genre film with a ready-made, pre-sold audience, as already exists (however finite) for Republic's serials, B-Western, and even its tiny handful of sci-fi and horror films.

The story opens reasonably well, hinting at a noir-style tale that never materializes. At the apartment of notorious married playboy Stephen Curtis (John Carroll), a woman (Vera Ralston) in a trance-like state takes a revolver out of a gun cabinet and shoots him dead. As she entered the country using a forged passport and refuses to defend herself during the investigation and criminal trial, she's charged with first-degree murder under the name "Jane Doe."

Quickly convicted and condemned to die in the electric chair, at her sentencing Jane Doe collapses. At the hospital doctors discover that she's pregnant with the dead man's child. The execution is delayed long enough for "Jane" to deliver her baby, and by this time Curtis's widow, attorney Eve (Ruth Hussey) unexpectedly becomes determined to get her retried. For her baby's sake, Jane Doe reveals that she's a French national named Annette Dubois, who met Curtis during the war, when his plane crashed and she hid him from the Germans.

Just as the flashbacks are ready to roll, Annette's baby dies suddenly during an unspecific epidemic in the maternity ward, and the accused threatens to clam up again. Can Eve get her off? Why does she bother? Will any of prosecuting attorney Matson's (Gene Lockhart) objections be sustained?

The basic ludicrousness of an attorney defending in court the woman who murdered her husband, compounded with theatrics that would make Perry Mason wince, dooms I, Jane Doe from the start. However, the film has some components in its favor. Ruth Hussey (The Philadelphia Story, The Uninvited, etc.) is so damn sincere that while the actress can't make the goings-on remotely believable, her performance compels the audience to at least stay with it. (Much-maligned Vera Ralston, the Czech figure skater wife of studio head Herbert Yates, isn't bad herself, in a part that may have been written with someone like Ingrid Bergman in mind.)

The rest of the cast is serviceable or better, with Benay Venuta, deftly straddling a straight-comic relief part as Eve's lawyer colleague, standing out. Gene Lockhart, on the other hand, has one of the most thankless parts of his long career, as the understandably exasperated prosecutor; at least Hamilton Burger got to be cynically amusing now and then.

Most of the budget seems to have gone into the building of its unique courtroom set, a large, cavernous affair, complete with elaborate, broad ceiling, very unusual for a 1940s Hollywood film, so much so that at first this reviewer thought it was a matte painting.

Video & Audio

As noted above, I, Jane Doe positively scintillates on DVD, the image as good as a 1940s black-and-white movie gets, though personally I'd prefer to see such fine work applied to a Roy Rogers, a late ‘30s Republic serial or even The Lady and the Monster before something as mundane as this. The DTS-HD Master Audio (mono) is also reasonably strong on this Region "A" disc.

Extra Features

None.

Parting Thoughts

Watchable but not much more than that, this is a real find for Ruth Hussey fans; all others will want to Rent it.






Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian largely absent from reviewing these days while he restores a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.

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