Independent music label Shanachie has branched out from their usual domain of releasing an eclectic variety of music CDs and entered the DVD market. Originally limiting themselves to concert and music related DVDs, the outfit has recently started putting out movies on DVD. One recent release is Car of Dreams, a 1935 British comedy. The DVD packaging states that it is part of the "British Cinema Collection" a series that I hope they continue.
Car of Dreams is a charming attempt by the British movie industry to make an American=style musical comedy. With cases of mistaken identity, misunderstandings, and people spontaneously breaking into song, it has all the trappings of a Hollywood production but doesn't quite capture the spirit. Even so, the movie has a certain amount of charm and innocence, and is a well worth the time it takes to view.
Vera Hart (Grete Mosheim) is a young working class lady who still lives at home with her parents. She has a strange hobby: Vera enjoys dressing up and going to upscale stores to price all the expensive merchandise. At teh begining of the movie she gets a job at a musical instrument factory that is owned by Robert Miller (a very young John Mills.) Poor Robert has trobles. He can't find a girl that will like him for himself. Everyone that he meets knows that he is fabulously rich and are only interested in his money. One day Robert is in a car dealership buying a new vehicle when Vera mistakes him for a salesman. Robert shows her the car she is intersted in, and becomes charmed by the young lady. When she refuses to buy the car, he sends his chauffer to follow her. The next day, the dealership delivers the car to her door free of charge. (A beautiful Royce Phantom III if I'm not mistaken.)
But the gift doesn't work as well as he was hoping. Robert finds out that no one in her family knows how to drive, so he poses as an out of work chauffer. Robert then pretends to be hiring the car out, and splitting the profits with Vera's family, all so he can occasionally spend some time with her.
Things seem to be going well until Robert finds out that Vera only makes 35 shillings a week (20 shillings = one British pound) and tells her boss to raise her up to 5 pounds a week. The other women in the secretarial pool assume that Vera received the raise because she's been sleeping with the boss, so Vera marches up to his house to clear her name. But Robert doesn't want Vera to know he's rich, so he gets a friend to impersonate him, a friend that quickly falls for Vera himself. This sets up the action for the last act where everyone meets at a fancy hotel and misunderstandings and confusion are abundant.
Though it has everything it needs to be considered a musical comedy, the movie doesn't have that Hollywood feel. Part of the reason is the small budget. There really wasn't much money spent on this movie, and the big production number at the end consisted of two people skating around a rink to music. Another reason is that there were very few jokes. The situations were amusing, but there were not any actual funny lines in the show, something that Hollywood musicals usually had in abundance.
One thing that I found very amusing, and that no one in the movie seemed to notice, was that Vera has a strong German accent, but her parents mysteriously spoke with British accents. How's that?
Even with its faults, Car of Dreams is an amusing movie. You won't be rolling in the aisle with laughter, but it has an amusing charm that makes it worth watching.
The two channel mono soundtrack sound appropriate for an early sound picture. While the audio was very thin and not dynamic it was fairly clear. There were some background hiss, but it was not very noticeable through most of the movie. There was a little distortion in some scenes, and pops were only occasionally present. The dialog was clear though I did have some trouble understanding the accent at times. There are no subtitles.
The full frame image is not outstanding, but it is not horrible either. The picture is very soft, with the lines slightly fuzzy. There is not as much contrast as I would have liked, but since the movie was filmed in 1935, that is to be expected. There is a good amount of detail, though a little of it is lost in the darker scenes. Some light emulsion damage is present in some of the scenes, but it is very slight. The image does have many small specks of dirt and some scratches, but they are not distracting. While it is clear that the image hasn't been restored, the image quality is good for a film this old, and very easy on the eyes.
There are no extras included with this DVD.
Car of Dreams is a minor movie, but still a fun film to watch.
The musical numbers are mercifully short, and it was interesting to see
John Mills at a young age. While the transfer won't win any awards,
it was decent. It was unfortunate that there were no bonus materials;
a text biography on the main actors would have been a welcome addition.
Hopefully Shanachie will release more obscure English films in the near