Classic romantic comedy, even 80 years on.
The first film to ever win all five major Academy Awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay), Capra’s 1934 classic stands the test of time.When spoilt rich kid Ellie escapes the clutches of her wealthy and disapproving father to reunite with her ‘beloved’ – a fortune-hunting pilot who her father (quite rightly) believes is only interested in her for her money – she thinks that she genuinely has the wherewithal to make it cross-country from Florida to New York on a coach, all by herself. Sat next to a drunken and cocky ex-newspaper reporter, Peter, who she initially takes a disliking to, she soon finds herself requiring his help to get to her destination – even going to far as to pose as a married couple in order to evade her father’s detectives and get across country without a penny to spare.Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert share undeniably excellent chemistry as the unlikely duo forced together, with Gable’s natural charm, star presence, and ease with a Sorkin-level razor-sharp script elevating this to a surprisingly rich and nuanced role, and Colbert – even all those decades ago – striking out as a well-defined, forthright and opinionated woman capable of more than keeping up with Gable’s wit. Capra’s take on the romantic comedy – or screwball comedy, depending how you look at it – remains a breezy but sophisticated ride; one of the best of its time, and still a memorable classic all these years later.
Picture QualityPrepped from a new digital transfer from a 4K scan off the original negative, there’s no doubt that, for an 80-plus year old movie, It Happened One Night looks excellent. The black and white picture retains a thoroughly filmic look – sure its heavily steeped in grain, and that grain level can be quite variable, but the image is still totally organic; a natural, pleasing vintage look commensurate to the to the age of the piece.
It Happened One Night hits Region B-locked UK Blu-ray in exactly the same shape it was for the US counterpart, with another stellar job by Criterion.
Beyond this detail is surprisingly good – sure there’s some softness but what would you expect? In the digital age, it’s hard to look upon something like this without seeing softness apparent in every single shot. Still, it’s equally hard to see this as anything other than the best that the film has ever looked – devoid of damage, scratches or any other problems you’d expect from an 80-year old piece.
Sound QualityWith work done by both Sony and Criterion, the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original nitrate optical soundtrack and 35mm nitrate print and cleaned up with, as Criterion states, all “clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle manually removed”. Although ‘removed’ is probably an optimistic standpoint, again, given the film’s vintage, it’s hard to see how anybody could do a better job at cleaning this up than Criterion have.
The aural accompaniment has similarly been cleaned up and remastered for this release.
Criterion have made an 80-year old film sound so much younger and more vibrant, with the English LPCM 1.0 track strong and largely clear, with no tinny high ends or clipped tones; no distortions or overly problematic fluctuations. The warm score carries the piece, whilst the all-important dialogue remains clear and coherent throughout, and the nominal effects noises are picked up well.
ExtrasAll of the US release’s extras remain identical here; a solid selection of pieces collected from the last few decades, from the 1999 piece Frank Capra Jr. Remembers, a 12 minute interview with the filmmaker’s son who talks about what he remembers about the production to the 2014 piece, a 39 minute Screwball Comedy? which was made exclusively for Criterion and has some film critics discussing the production, from script to scene; casting to reception.
All of the US release’s extras remain identical here, and it’s a great selection.
Frank Capra’s American Dream is a whopping feature-length 96-minute Documentary on Capra’s life, which takes an overview into his films and his legacy, with interviews from some famous directors, headlined by Scorsese, and actors like Michael Keaton and Peter Falk. AFI Life Achievement Awards: A Tribute to Frank Capra spends a further hour looking at the filmmaker’s achievements, hosted by Jimmy Stewart, and we even get Frank Capra’s very first film as a wonderful little extra, the 95-year-old Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House based on a Kipling poem. Only 13 minutes long, it’s a gem of an extra to round off the disc, with a Trailer thrown in for good measure.
Completing Criterion’s opening salvo, It Happened One Night makes its glorious Blu-ray bow.
You can buy It Happened One Night on Criterion Blu-ray here
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