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It Happened One Night: Criterion Collection (1934) - Blu-ray Review

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It Happened One Night: Criterion Collection

“She’s afraid of the big bad wolf.  Tra la la la laaaaaa.”

It Happened One Night remains a phenomenal romantic comedy.  After all these years, this pre-code American film - which was made when being a reporter was idolized and the screwball comedy was only just hitting its stride - still hits all the perfect notes as Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable meet aboard a Greyhound bus and soon fall for each other.

But the falling part isn’t that easy. 

Considering how suspenseful this comedy becomes in its final moments, it is fair to say that this romantic road trip from Miami to New York has more than a few surprises along the way . . . a shirtless Gable being among them and an overnight hotel room scene which remains, well, a REEL CLASSIC moment.

"It Happened One Night remains a phenomenal romantic comedy.  After all these years, this pre-code American film still hits all the perfect notes"


Co-produced and directed by the one and only Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Arsenic and Old Lace, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), It Happened One Night opens with a bustle and a bang as Ellie Andrews (Colbert), the spoiled heiress of her daddy’s fortune, argues about her marriage to King Westley (James Thomas) with her father, Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly).  Andrews  thinks that this “King” figure only wants their money (he’s right) and she, defiant and mad about her father’s attempt to annul her marriage, literally jumps ship and winds up taking a bus to New York to reunite with her lover. 

But it is on that crowded bus to NYC that she meets the drunk and recently fired Peter Warne (Gable) who has reporting the news in his blood.  His eye catches her early and the sparks fly as he subverts attempts to rob her of her luggage . . . or at least he attempts to.  The problem is that Warne recognizes who she is and makes her swear to an exclusive interview if he helps her reunite with her husband. It Happened One Night: Criterion Collection

From the broken down bus to hitchhiking and beyond, these two strangers have a series of misadventures that sees them quickly falling in love.  Opposites attract, you know.  And - with a slight offering of screwball comedy elements - It Happened One Night serves up plenty of laughs as the chemistry between the two leads is automatic and never hard to swallow.  

This lighthearted affair from Capra swept the Academy Awards during the Oscar season and for good reason.  The performances are both intriguing and intoxicating, and the script - as screenwriter Robert Riskin was constantly doing rewrites (even during the filming) - both charming and hilarious.

However, the film did not sway everyone and a large number of print critics panned the film, along with Colbert who, unfortunately, was not thrilled about most things concerning the filming of the movie.  She had multiple on-set meltdowns over the script and so on, but the end result was the same: a classic film was made and, as the years have passed, it continues to echo into the hall of films we should preserve and never forget.

It Happened One Night is now on blu-ray thanks to the Criterion Collection’s 4K transfer which was newly minted from Sony’s wet-gate master.

5/5 stars

It Happened One Night: Criterion Collection

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- November 18, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Opposites attract with magnetic force in this romantic road-trip delight from Frank Capra, about a spoiled runaway socialite (Claudette Colbert) and a roguish man-of-the-people reporter (Clark Gable) who is determined to get the scoop on her scandalous disappearance. The first film to accomplish the very rare feat of sweeping all five major Oscar categories (best picture, best actor, best actress, best director, and best screenplay), It Happened One Night is among the most gracefully constructed and edited films of the early sound era, packed with clever situations and gags that have entered the Hollywood comedy pantheon and featuring two actors at the top of their game, sparking with a chemistry that has never been bettered.

Video:

The New 4K digital restoration, presented with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, is deliciously detailed - especially at night during the overnight hotel room scene - and makes for layered images and constant clarity throughout the running time.  Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. Black levels - of which there are a lot thanks to all the tuxedos and suits - are powerful and thick.  The black-and-white photography here sizzles. The blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer.  Criterion has done a fine job with the new transfer, cleaning up all traces of dirt and debris in the negative.

Audio:

There is an uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray which is just fine when it comes to handling the dialogue and choice sound effects.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • none

Special Features:

Criterion loads the supplemental category with a new conversation about the screwball comedy, an interview with Capra Jr, a feature length documentary about Capra, Capra’s first film (with a new digital transfer), a tribute to the director, and a trailer.

  • Screwball Comedy?, a new conversation between critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate
  • Interview with Frank Capra Jr. from 1999
  • Frank Capra’s American Dream, a 1997 feature-length documentary about the director’s life and career
  • New digital transfer of Capra’s first film, the 1921 silent short Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House, with a new score composed and performed by Donald Sosin
  • American Film Institute tribute to Capra from 1982
  • Trailer

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

5/5 stars

It Happened One Night: Criterion Collection

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
105 mins
Director
: Frank Capra
Writer:
Robert Riskin
Cast:
Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly
Genre
: Comedy | Romance
Tagline:
Together for the first time!
Memorable Movie Quote: "I'm the whippoorwill that cries in the night. I'm the soft morning breeze that caresses your lovely face."
Theatrical Distributor:
Columbia Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
Febraury 22, 1934
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
November 18, 2014.
Synopsis: Opposites attract with magnetic force in this romantic road-trip delight from Frank Capra, about a spoiled runaway socialite (Claudette Colbert) and a roguish man-of-the-people reporter (Clark Gable) who is determined to get the scoop on her scandalous disappearance.

It Happened One Night: Criterion Collection

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