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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
"Now listen to me, both of you. Several years ago, I made peace with the world. Now, if the world isn't bright enough to make peace with itself, it'll have to settle things without me."
DVD ReviewLet's start with some perspective here. Imagine your favorite Cary Grant movie. Is it 1940s' His Girl Friday? He was already 36. One of his Hitchcock roles? In Suspicion, he was 37; Notorious, 42; To Catch a Thief, 51 and North by Northwest, 54. In one of my favorites, Stanley Donen's Charade, he was already 59.In 1964, Cary Grant was 60 years old, and he was still as handsomely appealing as he was in She Done Him Wrong, when he was only 29. And just as funny. Fate, as well as time, was good to this Hollywood icon: Just as the era of big time Hollywood glamour was designated "obsolete," Father Goose, his final leading role, is a perfect comedy vehicle for his last hurrah. Stebbings: Who is he, sir, is he someone I should know?Houghton: His name is Walter Eckland, an American. He knows these islands like the back of his hand.Stebbings: Well, now that America is in the war he's probably on his way back to enlist.Houghton: Eckland's not on his way anywhere, Stebbings, hasn't been for years.Walter Eckland is a curmudgeonly loner, the antithesis of Grant's screen persona in that he is scruffy, misanthropic, devoid of manners and form, living by his wits in the South Seas. The War in the Pacific is a bothersome intrusion on his lifestyle, but at least supplies him with all the fuel and provisions he can scavenge. On a dock at Salamaua, his boat is commandeered by the harbor master and he is involuntarily recruited as a lookout for the British, who go to great lengths to secure their outpost: they as much as shipwreck Eckland on the tiny island of Matalava. Through a series of events, the ornery recluse becomes the reluctant savior of a French consul's daughter (Caron) and her charge, a gaggle of seven "young ladies," all daughters of foreign diplomats. Catherine: Mr. Eckland, are you going to teach me how to catch a fish or aren't you?Eckland: I aren't.Although a classic setup, there is a reason we refer to them as such: they are classic; they work. A man and a woman meet, detest each other, fall in love. Eventually, they remember why they detested each other to begin with... oops, that last would be my classic setup, sorry. To continue: The setup is familiar but the setting is unique, which adds just enough fuel to navigate this story safely through the usual watered-down clichés. While the carefully witty dialogue still inspires laughter, it is, as always, Grant's impeccable timing and intrinsic physical humor that keeps this oh-so-60s comedy fresh. Just watch his hat when he introduces himself to his co-star and you'll know what I mean. Caron is much more interesting here than in most of her earlier roles, perhaps because she is allowed to portray a grown-up. Trevor Howard, long past his days as a leading man (he had them—see David Lean's Brief Encounter), is delightfully wry as Commander Houghton. The screenplay won an Academy Award® for the writers, something that would elude Grant until after he retired, when he was awarded an honorary Oscar® in 1970. While 1966s' Walk, Don't Run was actually his last film, it was only a supporting role. At 62, Cary Grant walked away from acting forever, after entertaining us in nearly 90 films in just 4 decades.Father Goose is dated in its winking disapproval of Eckland's boozing, but Catherine is written as a no-nonsense gal who takes her time before falling for the handsome rogue and then, only on her own terms. While not uproariously funny, I found it surprisingly entertaining for its age. It has its share of suspenseful scenes as well—there is, after all, a war in progress. Watch it at least once, and then, as the catchy theme song challenges, "If you don't happen to like me, pass me by..."
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Besides a couple of obvious reel markers early on, the 1.85:1, nonanamorphic image is much cleaner than I expected after viewing Indiscreet, also released with this Artisan collection. With several night scenes and much of the time spent inside a dark, slatted hut or in the shade-patterned sunlight of dense island foliage, every lighting challenge was surmounted in the source and the transfer translates it beautifully. After years of cropped and washed-out prints, the colors are back, the contrast balanced and black levels are good without obscuring shadow details.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: A 2.0 mono track is sufficient for this film. Dialogue is clear, even when Grant mutters under his breath. The limey theme song, Pass Me By, is as chipper as ever and, surprisingly, the scattered explosions come off pretty well, even if not up to current standards.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Extras Review: Father Goose is divided into 36 chapter stops, which seems about right, in a thematic menu system. The main screen uses the original poster design, a pleasant surprise. To its credit, Artisan has included both biographical information and filmographies for stars Grant, Caron and Howard; director Ralph Nelson; the film's award-winning triumvirate of writers, Peter Stone, Frank Tarloff and S.H. Barnett; and producer Robert Arthur III (Robert A. Feder).
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsRomantic comedies are not what they used to be, which is not always a good thing. While times have changed, so have the complexities of our relationships, as have our tastes for situational dialogue. Father Goose should still appeal to a wide audience, with its cleverly crafted script, and something we will never see again: The enormous talent of Cary Grant. I wish he hadn't retired so early; only Sean Connery has aged this well. Connoisseurs of comedy need Grant's last lead performance in their collection, and Artisan, like time, has treated it well.
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