Continues to win hearts today with its themes of love being universally timeless
I don't want anybody's body. I want my body!Joe Pendleton is ‘in the pink’, a professional boxer on his way to becoming the champ; he also loves to play the saxophone – badly. On his way to New York the aeroplane he is piloting fails and it plummets to Earth whereupon he finds himself in Heaven due to an overzealous Heavenly Messenger who prematurely brought his spirit along. This Heavenly mix-up leaves Mr Jordan, the Messenger in charge, to sort out the issue and return Joe to his body, but when it is discovered it has already been cremated, Heaven has no choice but to find him another body to live out his natural life. To wit Joe is given the body of a corrupt millionaire stockbroker and tries to right his wrongs, especially concerning one Bette Logan, whom he has taken quite a fancy too. However, still wanting to box, but in the wrong body, when a chance at the title comes up again, Joe does whatever he can to secure his rightful place, including taking the body of the boxer in the ring – but will his spirit still find Betty even though his body has changed? Here Comes Mr Jordan is based on Harry Segall's stage play Heaven Can Wait and this title was used for the 1978 remake with Warren Beatty.Here Comes Mr Jordan is brought to the screen by celebrated director Alexander Hall and what is immediately apparent, even 75 years later, is the immense charm that the picture has. It's an easy watching romantic comedy (years before the term was coined) that keeps the comedy light, the tragedy heartfelt and romance on the level, to leave a film that is a fully rounded whole. Heading up the cast is Robert Montgomery as Joe, who is happy-go-lucky in all aspects of his life; whilst his love interest is Evelyn Keyes whose looks, demeanour and presence are enough to win over anyone. But the real star of the show is Claude Rains as the titular Mr Jordan, the Heavenly Messenger charged with sorting out the mess. He is no nonsense, pragmatic but effortlessly charming manner leads the film and his all knowing smile says more than any words. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards winning two (for Original Story and Screenplay) and it continues to win hearts today its themes of love being universally timeless.
Picture QualityThe disc presents a full screen 1.33:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region locked to B.
The UK Criterion disc hits the shops just a week after its US debut and is an identical disc, save the Region coding. Criterion has given the transfer their customary care and attention and whilst this may not prove to be one of the better vintage pictures, it nevertheless showcases the best image a new 2K transfer can be.
Detail is pretty good; there is some decent skin texture on close ups, while clothing has discernible weaves in places. Location shots (of which there are few) such as the opening boxing match show good edges in the distance, while interiors show nice texture to wall coverings, desks etc. The clouds in Heaven are suitably wispy, while the model shots are fine.
Criterion has given the transfer their customary care and attention
Brightness and contrast are set to give a respectable grey scale, there is a robust black level (check out the closing scenes when the lights go out) which adds a nice sense of depth to the image. Stock footage tends to have a slightly pushed level which darkens the image a tad too much.
Digitally there are no compression issues or edge enhancement. The original print does, however contain a few problems; print damage, tramlines (especially in Heaven), camera gate errors, hairs all rear their head. The frame is pretty stable though, even if the occasional brightness fluctuation gives a wee flutter (most prevalent in the opening credits). Grain is also quite prevalent in all scenes, however never intrusive and always giving an organic feel to the piece. All-in-all a pretty decent transfer considering the age.
Sound QualityJust the one track: English LPCM 2.0 mono. The clean-up afforded this track has removed all hiss, crackle and distortion (even at reference) which is great, even if the track itself, by necessity of the original source, has little to offer in terms of dynamics. Dialogue is clear and precise and sounds natural enough. Effects (foley) are layered well into the mix and do not stand out. The score, too, is well layered and has perhaps the most in terms of dynamism. Bass is (obviously) restricted and while the track is never shrill there is little towards the bottom end, meaning it sounds ‘old’ and ‘thin’. It is not a bad track, just a victim of its age.
Blu-ray ExtrasComedy and the Afterlife – Newly recorded for this release is a conversation between film critic Michael Sragow and filmmaker/distributor Michael Schlesinger as they discuss the film and its history and impact utilising film clips, photos, comparisons to the remake and cast and crew discussions.
Audio Interview – With actress Elizabeth Montgomery (of Bewitched fame) conducted by Ronald Haver (director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) as she discusses her father, actor Robert Montgomery, her own career and childhood in a frankly spoken, lengthy but interesting piece.
Lux Radio Theatre - Adaptation of Here Comes Mr. Jordan originally aired in 1942 and starring Cary Grant (originally offered the part of Joe Pendleton), Claude Rains, Evelyn Keyes and James Gleason reprising their roles.
Blu-ray VerdictHere Comes Mr Jordan is a two-time Oscar-winner from celebrated director Alexander Hall and tells the story of a small time boxer on his way to becoming the next champion; but when a mix up in Heaven sees his spirit removed from his body, he spends time as a corrupt millionaire stockbroker trying to right wrongs, all the while trying to win the heart of his crush and secure a fight to continue his boxing career. In what is a classic romantic comedy (before the name was coined) Mr Jordan has a timeless quality and an immense charm that is infectious and as relevant today as it was in 1941. Class directing, acting, editing and score make this a pleasurable and gratifying ride in an ‘all’s well that ends well’ style of film.
A timeless quality and an immense charm
Criterion’s UK Blu-ray release is the same disc as the US one (released just a week prior) with the same re-mastered 2K picture that is bright, detailed, with excellent grey scale and black level, even if the print damage and occasional fluctuation tend to distract a little; while the LPCM 2.0 mono sound is clear, precise, free from damage, though somewhat lacking in low end giving a ‘thin’ feel to the track. The extras are as informative and insightful as we have come to expect from Criterion.
You can buy Here Comes Mr. Jordan on Blu-ray here
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