Let's be honest--what movie-loving individual would dare to rank this collection of Capra classics at less than 5 stars? It's inconceivable, especially with the noteworthy titles included in this handsome set. As an early Christmas present to myself, I had to pick up this collection--I've been good this year. I have, thus, been revisiting some of these all time greats. Capra was an idealist, to be sure, and such wide-eyed optimism as a world view might be foreign to modern day audiences--but there is no denying the universal appeal inherent in the films of Frank Capra. Long considered one our finest directors, Capra won three directing Oscars and all of those films are included here!
"It Happened One Night" is the quintessential screwball romantic comedy. In 1934, it captured all 4 major Oscars--Film, Actor, Actress, and Director--and in history, that has only been done by two other films ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "The Silence of the Lambs"). Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert shine in this great road-trip picture that seems remarkably progressive for its day. This formula is often copied, but rarely equaled--this is probably the least dated film in the set. "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington," of course, is the classic tale of political endurance and ethics triumphing over corruption. Still a powerful indictment and rousing drama, this is Jimmy Stewart in his most iconic performance. "You Can't Take It With You" is another Best Picture and Director winner. Starring Stewart, again, and Jean Arthur--this is a funny, but slight tale of a family of eccentrics teaching valuable life lessons to an uptight financier. A great film for lovers of screwball wackiness, it might have lesser appeal to younger audiences as "quirky" is such an overdone modern movie device. "Mr. Deeds Goes To Town" wraps up Capra's Best Director Oscars. This classic stars Jean Arthur and Gary Cooper--who as Mr. Deeds wants to give away his inheritance to aid the nation's poor. Idealistic and sweet, this shares a similar theme with the lesser know "American Madness" which is the fifth film in this box set. An unlikely hero, Walter Huston as a bank president, uses his bank to fight against the Depression. "Deeds" has the more enduring appeal, though, as this was a role that became closely identified with Cooper. (Please disregard Adam Sandler's nightmare of the same title--it's not even appropriate to link it as a remake.)
As if the films were not reward enough, this set also comes with the feature length documentary "Frank Capra's American Dream" hosted by Ron Howard. Engaging and informative, many major directors (including Altman, Scorcese, Stone, etc.) weigh in with the impact Capra's work has had on them. And if you want more, there's a 96 page movie scrapbook as well.
Easily one of the greatest values for its price, I definitely recommend this set. It is essential viewing for anyone who loves film! The movies themselves will entertain and you'll learn a little bit about film history, too. KGHarris, 12/06.