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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 489 Minutes
• Sequel: Men of Boys Town
• Vintage featurette: The City of Little men
• Good News of 1939 radio show excerpt with Tracy and Rooney
• Girls and Boys Town promotional featurette
• Jackie Cooper’s Christmas Party
• Judy Garland Sings Silent Night
• Classic Oscar-nominated cartoon: Peace on Earth
• Vintage Oscar-winning short: Star in the Night
• Theatrical trailers
I have been waiting to see if this box set is going to be part of Christmas burning event on Fox news and so far it is safe. This set is about the only thing not covered recently by those who feel it is their calling to replace Happy Holidays, holiday party, holiday tree, holiday shopping and so forth with Merry Christmas. What a crazy thing to be putting all that energy and money into because if these three movies show us anything, they show us that it is how one conducts themselves everyday that matters most.
Now let me get off my pedestal and get to work.
The Flick – Boys Town (1938)
Boys Town is a story about two people, Father Flanagan (Spencer Tracy) and Whitey Marsh (Mickey Rooney,) who’s lives cross paths at a most unusual way. Father Flanagan has just started a shelter for children who were neglected, abandoned and handicapped and through this shelter, children of all backgrounds were treated with respect and were provided an education and taught skills that would prepare them for life after Boys Town. Father Flanagan is having trouble keeping Boys Town open due to financial problems and mounting pressure from society not too keen on the idea of a facility that actually helps underprivileged children. Besides overseeing Boys Town, Father Flanagan also takes time to visit prisons and counsel inmates. One of the inmates, Joe Marsh (Edward Norris) mentions his younger brother, Whitey, who lives on the streets and is the leader of his own gang. Joe wants Father Flanagan to help Whitey so he won’t end up spending life behind bars.
Blatent Dangerfield one liner rip-off alert. Apologies in advance: I noticed my gums were shrinking. I was brushing my teeth with Preparation H.
Whitey Marsh is a teenager who is on the road to self-destruction until Father Flanagan brings him to Boys Town. Being the street tough, wisecracking troublemaker, life at Boys Town is difficult for Whitey. While following Whitey’s story in the background Father Flanagan is finding it even more difficult to keep Boys Town open and has to face the possibility of foreclosure. Even though he puts on a brave face and follows through with various activities, the children begin to sense something is bothering him.
After a humiliating defeat in school elections Whitey packs his belongings and plans on leaving until a near fatal accident involving one of the boys forces him to stay. Whitey soon learns about Boys Town’s fate and decides to look up his brother to try and get some money for Father Flanagan. Things turn for the worse as Whitey is now facing prison for being the main suspect in a bank robbery. This incident pulls all the children together and along with Father Flanagan they attempt to save Whitey and Boys Town.
Mickey getting a taste of what his career would be like after the 1940’s.
Although Tracy and Rooney give outstanding performances I found Boys Town to be rather dated of how kids are depicted in movies where they are abused, neglected and poor. Never once was I convinced that the children were impoverished and the only indication these boys were poor was when they show a couple of new ones coming in who are dirty.
The place looked more like a camp and to be fair to the filmmakers, I do not believe they were aiming for complete accuracy in the depiction of the boys more than getting across an inspirational true story of Father Flanagan. I wanted to see more realism in the children and unfortunately this film did not provide that. In the case of Whitey I felt that Rooney overplayed the tough kid part too much and in many of the scenes, especially at the beginning, it was as though he was doing a bad impersonation of Bogart. Towards the middle of the movie is when Rooney’s character starts to take on a new identity that was more believable and refreshing. Another downside to Boys Town was Whitey being the only tough kid and if they would have added more that were like him things could have gotten more interesting.
Boys Town is decent and worth watching for Tracy’s performance.
6.4 out of 10
Fullscreen and due to the age of the movie I was expecting considerable grain and distortion. Thankfully this was not the case and in fact the quality is impressive. No major problems to report here.
8.4 out of 10
Standard Dolby presentation which means this is the bare bones of audio. The music is limited and does not interfere when it is played. Dialogue and transitions from indoor/outdoor scenes are smooth.
8.4 out of 10
Sequel: Men of Boys Town (1941) Talk about a let’s capitalize off of the success of the first movie. There is no reason this movie should have been made, as it adds nothing which was previously covered in Boys Town. This one reunites Tracy and Rooney and tells how Father Flanagan needs more money for expansion and how Whitey is adopted. There is also a sick kid who needs cheering up but there is no mistaking that this was Rooney’s movie.
Featurette: The City of Little Men A nice promo reel showing how Boys Town came about and it features the real Father Flanagan.
Good News of 1939 radio show excerpt with Tracy and Rooney I like these radio promo spots and this one is a nice representation of that period.
Girls and Boys Town promotional featurette Just like The City of Little Men, this feature spotlights what Girls and Boys Town is about.
8.1 out of 10
theatrical poster is used and one thing is for sure, the budget back
then for this sort of promotion was slim. It is a basic poster with two
head shots of Tracy and Rooney taking up the bottom half.
7.2 out of 10
Overall: 7.7 out of 10
The Flick – A Christmas Carol (1938)
There have been over 20 adaptations of Charles Dickens classic story A Christmas Carol and two versions that movie lover’s rate as the best. The first one was titled Scrooge (1951) which starred Alastair Sim (Ebenezer Scrooge) and the 1938 version that starred Reginald Owen (the one I am reviewing.) For me Scrooge is the better of the two with the 1938 version a distant second.
A Christmas Carol is the story of bitter and miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge (Reginald Owen) who is cruel to everyone, especially his employees. One of Ebenezer’s employees, Bob Cratchit (Gene Lockhart,) works long hours for very little pay and although he works in such dire conditions Bob does not allow this to ruin his holiday spirit.
Scrooge is as mean as they come and it seems the holiday season brings out the worst in him (if that was possible) To quote Scrooge, every person who spewed Merry Christmas from his lips should be boiled. Scrooge manages to top himself by telling some fundraisers that poor people should be put in prisons or die to help decrease the useless population. I have to give it to Reginald for not wasting any time in making Scrooge a nasty character.
"I say ole’ chap, those pants qualify you for a guest spot on Queer as Folk: The reunion."
In order for A Christmas Carol to be effective in telling the story of a man who has a change of heart, it is vital that the segment featuring the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future are effective. Particularly the ghost of Christmas past, as this is where we see a happier and more giving Scrooge. There are also moments where we see what made him become the cold and indifferent man he is in the present.
One of the other stories involves Tim who is Bob Crachett’s youngest son and is handicapped. The ghost of Christmas future shows Scrooge what fate has in store for Tim unless he can get proper medical treatment. The story about Tim is what will determine if Scrooge has had a change of heart and thus redeeming himself.
This version of A Christmas Carol is an exceptional rendition that still holds up well today.
Nothing to see here. Just one of my previous companions stopping by for a visit.
8.4 out of 10
There is some grain throughout which actually makes the movie that more enjoyable. The nice part is there was no distortion that is usually in older movies that do not get much work done to them. Overall a solid presentation.
8.8 out of 10
Standard mono format with some noticeable fading of dialogue, particularly in scenes with crowds. None of this took me out of the movie and considering it is 67 years old you’ll get no complaints from me.
8.8 out of 10
Jackie Cooper’s Christmas Party Cute featurette showing Warner Brothers child actors and other children being served dinner by famous people including Clark Gable and Bette Davis.
Judy Garland sings "Silent Night" I am a huge Garland fan but this tested my nerves. Way too sappy and phony for my taste and was sorry to see Judy had to do this sort of stuff because she looked extremely uncomfortable but boy could she sing.
Cartoon: Peace on Earth A great cartoon featuring a squirrel who tells his grandchildren the story of how man destroyed each other in a war. He tells this story on Christmas eve and shows how the animals help rebuild the planet.
Trailer Decent presentation but if you read my reviews, I am not too fond of these things.
Wonderful use of the theatrical poster showing Scrooge coming through a door holding lots of presents with snow in the background. The best cover in this set.
8.8 out of 10
Overall: 8.8 out of 10
The Flick – Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
The story of Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) who writes a column for the newspaper titled Smart Housekeeping. In this column readers can get recipes, household and parenting tips plus she shows off a picture of some of the meals she has made. If that were not enough Elizabeth tells readers about her children and she lives in a country home. Her column is a huge success for the newspaper yet Elizabeth is hiding a secret if uncovered would ruin her career and the newspapers reputation. See Elizabeth does not know how to cook, lives in New York City and does not have kids! All this time the only one who knew at the newspaper was the editor who has been successful thus far keeping it from the owner, Alexander Yardly (Sidney Greenstreet.)
"We’ve been out here for a week and I see no use for that leg. Can I have it to snack on?"
Elizabeth’s career is about to be turned upside-down when the owner decides to invite himself over to her home for Christmas dinner. As a publicity stunt he is bringing a wounded war hero along which finds Elizabeth frantically searching for a place to host this dinner and ultimately get mixed up in romance.
Although the cast is solid, especially Stanwyck who I have never seen more relaxed in a movie, I found Christmas in Connecticut to be the weakest movie in this set. Although there are some laughs and the film has a good-natured feel to it, I was left towards the middle act bored and not that interested in the development of the characters.
"No sweetie, this is not a mistletoe, it’s just a place to store all that money I am going to inherit from you soon."
6.0 out of 10
Fullscreen and the print is nearly flawless. No signs of wear with the entire image (even the edges) clear. In a couple of scenes I noticed some lines but they appeared more in the bottom part which did not interfere with the overall viewing experience.
8.2 out of 10
Standard mono sound that offers nothing special yet works for this film. The dialogue comes through clear and the score blends in smoothly.
8.2 out of 10
Vintage Oscar-winning short: Star in the Night Terrific feature that tells the story of three men on a wagon hauling purchased items who see a bright light in the horizon and decide to find out where it leads. The light was recently put up by a man who runs a small hotel and just happens to not believe there is good to be found in man anymore. The hotel guests are put off by the owner’s rudeness and when a couple comes for a room, the owner puts them in a shed. Yes, this is a play on the story of Jesus’ birth and it is nicely done.
Theatrical trailer Decent but nothing to brag about.
As with the other covers in this set, it is the original theatrical poster. Glad to see these being used for the covers as it fits in well with the theme of movies made back then.
7.9 out of 10
Overall: 7.2 out of 10