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Fox DVD of Gentleman's Agreement: Good Image, but Poor Sound and Mediocre Commentary
on November 5, 2014
The Fox DVD of Gentleman's Agreement, which at the time of this review is on at a bargain price, is a good package -- the 1947 Oscar Winner for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress, with a commentary and other special features. It is a shame that this edition is cursed with poor sound.
The dialogue of the characters is often so softly spoken that one misses important things unless one is constantly turning up the volume. Normally I set my volume at about 8; for this film I had to crank it up to about 27 most of the time. I don't think this is just my copy. I have the impression that the problem lies in the print of the film from which the DVD was derived. But I would welcome comments from others with the Fox DVD -- is their sound also so weak?
This problem hampers the enjoyment of the film, because some of the most important dialogue, delivered by Dorothy McGuire, cannot be easily heard, and one has to rewind and replay crucial bits at higher volume.
The commentary by Richard Schickel is the usual for him -- mediocre. He never sounds at all like a film expert, but simply like your next-door neighbour giving his opinion of the film, and he never seems to have rehearsed his commentary, but instead rambles. He also rarely supplies the tiny bits of factual data which make film commentaries so useful. You don't learn from him very often who that character actor playing the bit part is, for example. Still, on this particular commentary, he is more incisive than usual, amidst the rambling, and some of his criticism of the film is just. He should get a 7 out of 10 for his efforts. His words are supplemented by short comments by two of the film's stars, June Havoc and Celeste Holm, but their comments are unfortunately mostly rather general and unfocused.
There are a few still photos provided -- not particularly good ones -- but I can only see them on my computer. Fox DVDs have this bizarre insistence that you have to use the double arrow key on your DVD remote, rather than just normal right arrow key, and my double arrow key will not function on these DVDS. So to watch the stills I have to take the DVD out of the player and put it into my computer, where the mouse enables me to click from still to still. This could be a manufacturing defect in my DVD remote, I suppose, but I was wondering if anyone other than myself has experienced this with the stills on Fox DVDs.
Because of the poor sound and the mediocre commentary, this DVD ranks only about a 3.5 out of 5. With decent sound it would rank a 4. The movie itself is clearly a 4 out of 5, well-deserving of its awards. Peck's performance is good -- one of his best -- and even McGuire' performance, so often criticized, is good. The supporting players are all good as well.