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    DVD Video - Reviews [Pygmalion]

    ORIGINAL FULL DVD REVIEW



    Pygmalion

    Release Date:
    8/15/00

    Studio: Criterion/Voyager
    Year: 1938
    Run Time: 90 minutes
    Rating: Not Rated
    Starring: Wendy Hiller, Leslie Howard, Wilifrid Lawson
    Directed by: Leslie Howard, Anthony Asquith
      Movie Summary: [Comedy]

        Cranky Professor Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard) takes a bet that he can turn Cockney guttersnipe Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) into a "proper lady" in a mere six months in this delightful comedy of bad manners based on the play by George Bernard Shaw.

    DVD Details
          
    • Full Frame, Color, Mono
          
    • Subtitled for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
    See Full Disc Details...

    Reviewer: Sean Kelly [Staff]

     Review:                         

            C riterion has made a name for themselves by their reputed quality of production. Classic films that any other studio would turn their backs to, Criterion would seem to snap up in a heartbeat, always able to recognize a shining star amongst the clamor of Hollywood. I have come to rely on Criterion to continually bring forth incredible, classic titles that I might otherwise never have known about. And that is precisely what the studio has done yet again with their release of Pygmalion.

    Imagine yourself to be a Greek sculptor in times long since past. You’ve sought your whole life for the passionate visage in your mind: a woman of surpassing beauty and grace. In time you come to create a statue bearing a perfect likeness of your dreams, all in white ivory, an unblinking gaze. Your heart soars at the sight of your creation, a personification of your very imagination, breathtakingly perfect, down to the last subtle curve. But your heart fills with longing, an impossible, insatiable desire for the breath of life to be bestowed upon the manifestation of your fancy. And just when you think you can neither wish nor pray harder for a miracle, the Gods oblige; Aphrodite grants the gift of life to your counterpart.

    The classic Greek fable of Pygmalion served as an inspiration for playwright George Bernard Shaw’s stage production of a tale of idiosyncratic human behavior. Shaw’s fable is loosely spun around the general idea represented by the ancient Greek myth, but when his version of Pygmalion’s work is realized, she begins to bark and bite! Leslie Howard directs and stars in the 1938 film rendition of Shaw’s stage play opposite Wendy Hiller, both extremely talented, young actors in their day. Pygmalion was the first, but not the only re-enactment of Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play by the same name. In 1963 there was a Cinderella-esque musical under the name of My Fair Lady, also based on the very same play. But The 1938 Pygmalion seen on this DVD has a distinct advantage: the screenplay was written by Shaw himself a full twenty-five years after the play originally debuted. As it turns out, Shaw had concerns that the darker years to follow World War I might adversely affect other writers’ perceptions of the play. His hands directly in the mix helped to ensure accurate translation and character portrayal on film as he originally intended.

    I keep repeating to myself that, “it’s alright that Criterion’s Pygmalion DVD contains no extra features - it’s a pure classic!” And really, it is. Even so, it would not have hurt to dig just a little to have at least created a compilation of production and background information, cast & crew, information about George Bernard Shaw, possibly some content related to life in the teens and early filmmaking practices. And with as incredibly comprehensive as Criterion normally is, frankly I’m surprised that no such effort went into this DVD production. Nonetheless I have to hand it to the powers that be at Criterion’s mastering facilities because somebody there has produced an incredibly clear soundtrack for the disc in Dolby Digital 1.0. That may not sound like much of a feat, but I challenge you to find a better audio recording from 1938 and make out every bit of dialogue without breaking a sweat. The title also boasts about containing a “gorgeous new transfer, with digitally restored image”, but it strikes me that the video quality was left somewhat wanting. Now granted I have no idea what the original film quality was like, so what I see before me may very well be a magical transformation from brittle, soot-ridden, rodent-eaten film. But no matter what the case may have been, the resultant image, while clear and sharp, contains more than a fair amount of vintage film dirt, debris, hair, small animals, lines and other such effects that you might expect to see being fed through a matching projector in 1938. If indeed the authors put much time at all into restoring this video, it seems to me that it would not have been an unreasonable step ahead to further refine the image to correct for lighting variances and digitally edit out film aberrations.

    Even so, the almost “natural” quality to the film lends itself to a mood-setter of sorts. You could even look at it as character building. Pygmalion is a delightful film of sparking romance in a clash between the classes, and even though Criterion’s DVD is not packed with the usual sensory overload of features, you’ll probably be hard-pressed to find a better replacement for a classic film such as this.


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    Individual Ratings
    Video Audio Content Movie
    6 8 2 10
    Overall
      7  
       
    Ratings Based on Scale of 1 - 10 (10 being Best)

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