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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Trouble with Angels (1966)

"The only difference between this place and a girls' reformatory is the tuition."
- Mary Clancy (Hayley Mills)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: November 16, 2003

Stars: Rosalind Russell, Hayley Mills
Other Stars: Binnie Barnes, Gypsy Rose Lee, Camilla Sparv, Mary Wickes, June Harding, Barbara Hunter
Director: Ida Lupino

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: PG for (teen smoking, brassiere shopping)
Run Time: 01h:50m:59s
Release Date: November 11, 2003
UPC: 043396016774
Genre: comedy

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

DVD Review

Anyone who has had experience with Catholic schools has tons of nun stories of one kind or another, mostly appalling. Such stories form the centerpiece of Jane Trahey's novel, which is the basis for this moderately amusing comedy about a girls' school.

The film tracks the story of two girls, Mary Clancy (Hayley Mills) and Rachel Devery (June Harding) as they make their way through three years of high school at the St. Francis Academy. Over this time period they repeatedly exasperate the Mother Superior (Rosalind Russell) with their antics, including smoking on the sly, mooning over Jack Lemmon (!), selling tours of the cloisters and generally causing mischief.

Mischief is really the operative word here, since it's a family picture and the girls really can't do anything too outrageous. As a result, the Mother Superior's fury seems a little misplaced or at least overreacting. The episodic nature of the story doesn't lend the film a very good flow as it lurches rapidly through the seasons of the three years. The result provides the finale with very little preparation, since it seems to come out of nowhere (though it's nonetheless thoroughly predictable).

Russell is terrific as the wry Mother Superior, giving her a warmth I don't recall ever seeing amongst the nuns, but I might have been unlucky. She's particularly fine when pondering the similarity of Mary Clancy to her own self when younger. Mills is stuck with a thoroughly unlikeable character, stooping to mouthing off when called upon to do service at a retirement home. Much of the humor in the picture comes from June Harding's affected clumsiness; though a shade on the forced side, it's brought off well enough that quite a lot is forgiven. For some reason, an aged Gypsy Rose Lee is brought in to serve as the "interpretive dance" instructor for the girls; no doubt the casting was intended to be humorous in and of itself, but the result is pretty nasty. Mary Wickes, required by Hollywood law to appear in all nun movies, does her usual funny bit as the physical education instructor, Sister Clarissa.

Although there are segments that are highly affecting, Mills is so unlikeable here that the whole ends up being fairly unsatisfactory. Nonetheless, despite the mischief this is a fairly inoffensive picture that is good for some humor, especially for the lapsed Catholics in the audience. Complete with unskippable FBI warnings, for extra penance.

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


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: A pan-and-scan transfer is the only video presented, which is bad news right off the bat, even though there isn't an obvious amount of important information chopped off the sides. When you add to it a source print that has plenty of dirt and speckling, as well a ton of aliasing and video noise, the result isn't very happy. As usual, Columbia slaps an egregious amount of edge enhancement onto the picture so that everyone (whether or not appropriately) has large haloes around them much of the time. On the positive side, color is pretty good, and texture is often very well represented: Mills' acne is often highly visible. Whether that's a good thing I'll leave to the viewer.

Image Transfer Grade: D


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono audio suffers from quite a bit of hiss and noise. The dynamic range is often painful, with very quiet dialogue interspersed amongst booming bass on Jerry Goldsmith's score, deafening bells and the piercing harshness of Sister Clarissa's whistle. If you have dynamic range compression on your system, this might be a good disc to engage it, since the extremes are overrepresented.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Madeline, Little Secrets, Daddy Day Care
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The sole extras are trailers for three films (none of which have anything to do with the feature), one of them in full frame, the picture Little Secrets in nonanamorphic widescreen and Daddy Day Care in anamorphic widescreen. Columbia has the temerity to label ads for its Annie and Matilda DVDs as trailers, so I'm docking a point for that misrepresentation.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Fun with nuns is the order of the day, despite a poor transfer and a paucity of extras.


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