Jackie Gleason stars in this little-seen film from 1970 as Stanley, a cranky husband and father who finds himself close to death at a hospital in France. When his son Tom (Rick Lenz) hears of this back home, he hops on a plane to be with him and narrates a series of flashbacks that comprise the bulk of the movie, basically explaining what led up to this. We learn of Tom's upbringing with his blue-collar father being a staunch atheist while his mother Elsie (Maureen O'Hara) is devoutly religious leaving Tom (the younger version played by Clinton Robinson) confused in the middle of it all. The parents seem decent enough but it's a mystery how they got and stayed together with such differences between them. About halfway through the flashbacks, Stanley inexplicably takes over narration and fills in a few details the younger Tom wouldn't have known about, such as an affair with an eccentric artist played by Shelley Winters. We learn that through all of this, Tom eventually becomes a respected professor and marries one of his students (Rosemary Forsyth) although the first sight of her onscreen also makes the audience question whether their relationship will last in the long term (she threatens to leave him if he goes through with the flight to France.)
How Do I Love Thee? wasn't received very well upon release and had it been made more recently I might not have gotten past its faults so easily, but as a product of the beginning of the 1970s it works well enough. The content doesn't push too many boundaries but the all-important women's lib movement is certainly a main focus, especially with Winters' character being a free spirit who distributes pamphlets about birth control in hopes of curbing the population growth. Gleason still had a few years of work left in him (it's been said he was drunk during filming of this) and appears alternately compassionate and belligerent at times here. Overall tone is kept light-hearted even when the subject matter turns a bit dark towards problems in love and marriage. A standout comedic sequence comes near the end, where Gleason tries to politely leave a funeral procession only to have most of it follow him throughout the town.
The full-frame 1.78 ratio transfer is mostly clean, aside from a few ‘splotches' noticeable in the first reel that were a common problem on film prints but rarely show up on home presentations. Sharpness and detail are still very nice, although the color scheme and overall visual style of this movie is rather bland, typical of many films of this era.
The mono audio is nothing special, also mostly clean but with a bit of ‘print-thru' audible where loud dialogue can be faintly heard in the background a few seconds before it actually occurs. The Blu-Ray encodes this in 2-channel DTS Master Audio which stays properly centered.Extras:
No extras related to the movie are included, but trailers (all in 16x9 standard-def) are included for The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, Clambake with Elvis Presley, Avanti! with Jack Lemmon, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother and Where's Poppa?
How Do I Love Thee? is yet another movie that has improved with age, its faults easier to forgive in hindsight than they were upon release. Fans of the main cast should appreciate this Blu-Ray release, which is likely the best it has ever looked and likely ever will.