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The Letter

Bette Davis , Herbert Marshall , William Wyler    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 39.88
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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Moody, Taut and Sultry: Bette Davis Scores Big March 5 2005
By Nix Pix
Format:DVD
Once you've seen the opening moments of William Wyler's superb "The Letter" you aren't apt to forget what great Hollywood film making is all about for a very, VERY long time. Bette Davis stars in this potent, diabolically delicious melodrama as Leslie Crosbie; the unscrupulous wife of a Malaysian rubber plantation owner. After packing six slugs into a man exiting her boudoir...not her husband...Leslie embarks on a deeply disturbing odyssey to vindicate her murder. Hmmm....vengeful Eurasian, Mrs. Hammond (Gale Sondergaard)will have something to say about that. To this morbid end of tragic curiosity, Leslie is ably aided by the naiveté of her husband, Robert(Herbert Marshall). But then there's the letter; a bit of forgotten business that threatens to unravel all of Leslie's well laid plans and lay bare her genuine passion for the man that she's killed.
The play by Somerset Maugham on which the film is based must have seemed like old hat to Davis. For there can be no other reason why she's so cleverly fiendish and stylishly sinister as Leslie. But then all is not to be realized in sweet escapism when a letter surfaces that could blow the whole truth wide open and send Leslie to prison for life. Superbly crafted with the fine animal instincts of a jungle cat at every turn, "The Letter" was nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture but won not a single statuette. Wyler's impeccable direction, and Davis's mesmerizing and unsympathetic performance are what transform this standard melodrama into movie art!
Unfortunately all is not well with the transfer from Warner Brothers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars DELICIOUSLY DANGEROUS AND OVER THE TOP! Jan. 21 2005
By Nix Pix
Format:DVD
Once you've seen the opening moments of William Wyler's superb "The Letter" you aren't apt to forget what great Hollywood film making is all about for a very, VERY long time. Bette Davis stars in this potent, diabolically delicious melodrama as Leslie Crosbie; the unscrupulous wife of a Malaysian rubber plantation owner. After packing six slugs into a man exiting her boudoir...not her husband...Leslie embarks on a deeply disturbing odyssey to vindicate her murder. To this end, Leslie is ably aided by the naiveté of her husband, Robert (Herbert Marshall) and by her popular following of fair weather friends, helmed by Mrs. Hammond (Gale Sondergaard).
The play by Somerset Maugham on which the film is based must have seemed like old hat to Davis. For there can be no other reason why she's so cleverly fiendish and stylishly sinister as Leslie. But then all is not to be realized in sweet escapism when a letter surfaces that could blow the whole truth wide open and send Leslie to prison for life. Superbly crafted with the fine animal instincts of a jungle cat at every turn, "The Letter" was nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture but won not a single statuette. Wyler's impeccable direction, and Davis's mesmerizing and unsympathetic performance are what transform this standard melodrama into movie art!
Unfortunately all is not well with the transfer from Warner Brothers. Seemingly contrasting a bit on the overly dark side, fine details are generally lost in the deep and foreboding blackness. Yes, most of the picture was designed to have a very dark image, but contrast and tonality in the gray scale here are what seem to be lacking over all throughout this black and white image. Also, the image is not very stable. Long shots tend to be a bit blurry and out of focus.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Bette Davis vehicle Jan. 18 2003
Format:VHS Tape
In some ways, "The Letter" has dated in the sixty plus years since it was released. The idea of the benefiting third world or non-Western countries by colonizing them has been replaced by the idea of globalizing them. Women are no longer viewed as being ultimately dependent on men. The old movie code that required all criminals to pay for their crimes is long gone. But while natural changes in social attitudes may make "The Letter" look somewhat quaint, it remains a classic. Much of the dramatic power remains intact, and it's extremely well directed, edited, photographed and directed. [Bette Davis made 3 films with director William Wyler and 11 with cinematographer Tony Guadio. All three were nominated for Oscars for this film.]
Unlike most movie thrillers of its day, "The Letter" does not start quietly, then build to some shocking event. A few moments are spent establishing the fact that we are on a rubber plantation in Singapore. It is night. We see the full moon. The camera pans to native workers asleep in their hammocks. It moves on to the exterior of a house. Suddenly, a shot rings out. A man stumbles out onto the veranda and tumbles to the ground. He is followed by an obviously enraged woman, Leslie Crosbie [Davis], who pumps five more shots into him. The rest of the movie tells the story of how the killing came to be, how justice can be manipulated, and how people are often not what they appear to be.
Here, Bette Davis gives one of her best performances. She was such a great actress that I suspect some of the reasons many people came to dislike her were that they could not separate the performer from some of the characters she played. She gives Leslie Crosbie a depth and range of emotions that does not exist in the screenplay.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Bette at her best...
Published 2 months ago by Guy L. Storms
4.0 out of 5 stars A great deal
It is a real crime story. Only at the end of this story you experience what happened in this special night. It is hard to feel how this nice beautiful woman can be a murderer. Read more
Published on June 24 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Classical detective story
"The Letter" is easy to read, interesting, but not very creative. You can see such a story in every detectiv movie! Read more
Published on June 24 2003 by NKSA
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good
The letter
I have read the book, and I think it's very good. The story is great. "The Letter" I must say, is one book of English, that I like to read. Read more
Published on May 16 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A real crime story
The letter
At the beginning, it was a bit difficult to understand, but at the end, I could understand the whole story. Read more
Published on May 16 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Take a look at this letter from Bette Davis
The Letter represents one of the great collaborations on screen between William Wyler and Bette Davis. Read more
Published on April 29 2002 by Daniel G. Madigan
4.0 out of 5 stars DAVIS DELIVERS...
This is a terrific film in which the opening scene focuses on a Malayan plantation on a hot, sultry night. Read more
Published on Nov. 6 2001 by Lawyeraau
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge a book by its cover...
or a lady by her appearance. Bette Davis appears to be a proper English matron who had to shoot a man dead in self-defense against his unwanted advances. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2001 by Linda McDonnell
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting Away with Murder
Who else could get away with murder and still get the approval of the audience but Bette Davis? Based on Somerset Maugham's story, THE LETTER relates the murder of a... Read more
Published on July 29 2001 by gobirds2
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting Away with Murder
Who else could get away with murder and still get the approval of the audience but Bette Davis? Based on Somerset Maugham's story, THE LETTER relates the murder of a... Read more
Published on July 26 2001 by gobirds2
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