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Paramount Studios presents
Houseboat (1958)

"It happens that I care. I don't want my children parcelled out like cabbages."
- Tom Winston (Cary Grant)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: December 16, 2002

Stars: Cary Grant, Sophia Loren
Other Stars: Martha Hyer, Harry Guardino, Eduardo Ciannelli, Murray Hamilton, Charles Herbert, Paul Petersen, Mimi Gibson
Director: Melville Shavelson

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:49m:33s
Release Date: November 05, 2002
UPC: 097360580648
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

This pleasant little 1958 romantic comedy from director Melville Shavelson (The Seven Little Foys) stars film icons Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, and if you can get past the thirty-year age difference between the leads, you might actually find this one fairly enjoyable. Films like this are never really meant to be thematically deep, and exist as thin excuses for film fans to revel in the screen presence of stars Grant and Loren.

Grant, who was undeniably cool in all of his films, plays Tom Winston, a globe-hopping government lawyer who has to take custody of his three young children after the death of his estranged wife. His kids range in age from seven to thirteen (and include The Donna Reed Show's Paul Petersen as the oldest son), and their relationship with their usually absent father has been anything but strong. Director Shavelson mines plenty of laughs early on, with the dashing Grant struggling to make amends with his outspoken kids as he finds himself a full-time father, and their back-and-forth bickering eventually sets the stage for the need of some type of live-in housekeeper.

Loren is Cinzia, the headstrong daughter of a renowned orchestra conductor who is touring the United States, and when her relationship with her overbearing father becomes too much, she heads out to see the world (or as she says: "I'm tired of the best people. I want to meet the worst people."). Cinzia crosses paths with Robert (Charles Herbert), the youngest of Tom Winston's three kids, who also has run away from the heavy-handed control of his father.

What follows is familiar fluff, whereby Loren's voluptuous Cinzia somehow becomes the live-in housekeeper, and of course handles the kids far better than Grant's Winston seems able to. The family takes up residence on a dilapidated houseboat, which seems to exist only to give the film its title, and a quirky setting that is never really developed as anything more than a visual oddity.

At times it is part Green Acres/part The Sound of Music (Loren belts out the goofy Bing Bang Bong song incessantly), but romantic sparks eventually fly, compounded by the presence of rich girl Caroline (beautiful Martha Hyer) as the third corner in a love triangle that allows Cinzia to get wonderfully catty. The film really shifts gears in the second half, and veers away from the kids vs dad storyline, and focuses more on the budding relationship between Winston and Cinzia.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is one of those releases where on one hand the image transfer looks pretty dang good, considering it is pushing 45 years old. Colors on this VistaVision 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen disc are still rather bright, though fleshtones (especially Loren's dark complexion) occasionally have an unnaturally over-saturated hue to them. Very little in the way of physical blemishes, aside from a few nicks here and there.

The downside of this transfer is the inconsistency in the image detail, which varies noticeably from mediocre to quite good. Backgrounds, primarily on process shots, tend to flicker and shimmer excessively; one scene in particular with Grant and Loren features a night sky that practically undulates.

In trying to balance the grade of the image review, I was more impressed by the condition of the print and the general color depth (relative to the age of the film) than I was annoyed by some of the inconsistencies.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: A clean, crisp Dolby Digital English mono track is provided, and has minimal hiss or crackle. The peppy George Duning score sounds equally full as well.

A French mono track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: While Paramount goosed up the release of Roman Holiday with a decent set of extras, their treatment of Houseboat is minimalistic in comparison. A pair of trailers that reveal nearly the entire film (one is actually a teaser featuring Charles Herbert, who plays lispy youngster Robert in the film) and a Photo Gallery of 28 black & white promotional stills is all there is.

The disc is cut into 15 chapters, and features optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

This is by-the-numbers 1950s romantic comedy fluff, led by the always cool Cary Grant. Make no mistake, Houseboat is well-made genre fluff, and even though we know that things will work out well by the end credit roll, Grant and Loren do the mismatched couple bit wonderfully.

Recommended if you are a fan of the innocent romantic comedy genre.


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