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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Talk of the Town (1942)

"What is the law? It's a gun pointed at somebody's head. All depends upon which end of the gun you stand, whether the law is just or not”.
- Leopold Dilg (Cary Grant)

Review By: Jeff Rosado   
Published: May 29, 2003

Stars: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Colman
Other Stars: Edgar Buchanan, Glenda Farrell, Lloyd Bridges, Charles Dingle, Emma Dunn, Rex Ingram, Leonid Kinskey, Tom Tyler, Don Beddoe
Director: George Stevens

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:57m:04s
Release Date: February 25, 2003
UPC: 043396078093
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+B-B D

DVD Review

Every self-proclaimed movie expert has a weak link and in the case of this reviewer, it's a lack of exposure to the works of director George Stevens. Yes, I should hang my head in shame for not making time to enjoy the pleasures of Shane, A Place in the Sun and Penny Serenade. But hold off on the catcalls, for I have seen Woman of the Year and The Greatest Story Ever Told, two films that are amongst my all-time favorites. Still, I know I have quite a ways to go before I can get past my "incomplete" status in Stevens-ology 101.

Columbia Tristar's The Talk of the Town brings me a step closer toward my goal; a so-so 1942 film that garnered seven Academy Award® nominations. Cary Grant headlines this combination screwball comedy/light drama as Leopold Dilg, a factory worker wrongly accused of murder and arson. Sentenced to death, he feels he has nothing to lose by making a break for it (in an exciting opening sequence that packs more thrills than a dozen 1930s-era Warner Bros gangster flicks).

Seeking refuge in familiar surroundings, Dilg heads to the home of childhood sweetheart Nora Shelly (Jean Arthur) and the timing couldn't be worse. On summer break from her high school teaching duties, Nora is expecting a very important houseguest: Michael Lightcap, a stuffy, very intelligent law professor who's a shoo-in for a Supreme Court appointment. Unfortunately, he arrives a night early due to a scheduling mix-up. Not wanting to turn her former sweetie out in the cold, she offers Leopold the attic if he'll lay low and keep quiet.

Easier said than done for the politically outspoken former mill worker, whose tongue helped lead to his wrongful conviction. Things go smoothly for a while until cabin fever and hunger pains force Dilg downstairs in the light of day, where he crosses path with the professor. Quickly covering her tracks, Nora introduces Leopold as Joseph, her gardener. But even under the guise of his impromptu cover, Dilg can't help but engage in point/counterpoint debates with Lightfoot. Although stubbornly steadfast in their opinions, a sense of respect helps form an unlikely friendship to such a point that when the truth does come out, the professor puts aside fears of jeopardizing his government appointment in order to help.

Although filled with mostly good performances, The Talk of the Town suffers from not knowing what kind of film it wants to be; the tone constantly shifts from madcap comedy to serious drama with an unconvincing romantic triangle thrown in. Grant and Arthur give their usual great performances, but Coleman's overtly mannered style doesn't lend itself very well to comedy; I kept thinking how much better the film could have been with someone along the lines of William Powell in the role of the professor (now, there was an actor who could balance comedy and drama so smoothly; he would have nailed this part). More than capable of great work when with the right co-stars (Greer Garson in Random Harvest for example), an extreme lack of chemistry between Coleman and Arthur is a major detriment in this case.

Still, there's a lot to admire in the film: Good supporting performances including the likes of Edgar Buchannan, the always underrated Glenda Farrell and a very young, energetic Lloyd Bridges; Otto Meyer's slick editing; and of course, Stevens' tight direction, which would flourish in much better films in years to come.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Similar to recent late 1930s-1940s releases from the Columbia vaults, visuals are distractingly grainy and inconsistent; at times it looks like this print was assembled from others of varying quality (especially when the contrast levels go awry as some scenes look way too dark). That aside, Talk of the Town is in a little better shape than most of the studio's vintage offerings and not as difficult to look at.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Luckily, the audio fares much better than its visual counterpart. Phenomenal, sharp sound for a picture that just passed its 60th birthday. Good low and high ends with no shrillness that sometimes mars mono tracks of this era.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Japanese, Korean with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring His Girl Friday, I Dreamed Of Africa and Seems Like Old Times
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Only three trailers for similarly themed movies including a much superior Cary Grant film, the classic His Girl Friday.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

In culinary terms, The Talk of the Town is merely an appetizer for a main course that never arrives. For Cary Grant completists and Jean Arthur fans only.


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