Kino on Video presents
Directed by William Wyler / The Love Trap (1986, 1929)
"There probably never has been a director who had as little respect for the idea of film as art, or directing as an artist's undertaking, or God knows, not acting."- Charlton Heston
Stars: Laura La Plante, Neil Hamilton, Norman Trevor, Robert Ellis
Other Stars: William Wyler, Barbra Streisand, Gregory Peck, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Laurence Olivier, John Huston, Billy Wilder, Lillian Hellman, Charlton Heston, Terence Stamp, Samantha Eggar, Greer Garson, Jocelyn Lee, Clarissa Selwynne, Rita LaRoy
Director: Aviva Slesin, William Wyler
Manufacturer: Cine Magnetics
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 02h:07m:13s
Release Date: 2002-11-05
DVD ReviewWilliam Wyler was one of the most honored directors in the history of Hollywood, winning three Best Director Oscars®, and having been nominated for a dozen more. This disc takes a look at the career of the director of everything from two-reel western throwaways to the epic Ben-Hur.
This double feature disc starts off with an hour-long documentary that mostly consists of interviews and film clips. Wyler himself was interviewed three days before his 1981 death, and his own words carry the main weight of the narrative thread. However, plenty of the biggest stars of Hollywood chime in with their observations as well. One theme repeatedly hit upon is Wyler's difficulty in dealing with actors; he is repeatedly characterized as completely inarticulate regarding what he wanted. At the same time, the actors, including such luminaries as Laurence Olivier, credit him with teaching them a great deal about film acting. Apparently this was done just through the application of "Do it better," but it's somewhat frustrating that there are few insights into Wyler's technique.
Part of the difficulty here is that Wyler did not, as he acknowledges, have a signature style; he altered his style accordingly depending on the subject matter. The film clips are well chosen to reflect this kaleidoscopic aspect, from the faux-Gone with the Wind presentation of Jezebel to the dread-inducing English countryside of The Collector. While giving an appreciation for Wyler's many talents, the documentary is ultimately a bit unsatisfying for anyone looking for more than a Wyler lovefest.
Only a tiny handful of films from the genre of part-talkie, part-silent films from the late 1920s have surfaced to date on DVD. This disc happily features one of those oddities of the transition from silent to sound, which also marked the transition of Wyler from the two-reel Western churned out every three days to a real feature film. In The Love Trap, Laura La Plante, hot off The Cat and the Canary, stars as Evelyn Todd, a chorus girl who in one day gets fired, has her reputation besmirched by the womanizing Guy Emory (Robert Ellis) and is evicted from her apartment. Rescued and quickly married by Paul Harrington (Neil Hamilton), Evelyn runs afoul of his rich and snooty family. Particularly problematic is Paul's uncle, Judge Harrington (Norman Trevor), who recognizes her from Guy Emory's wild party. As he forces her to divorce Paul, Evelyn's only recourse is to spring a love trap of her own to make him see the light.
Although it's still a standard-issue good girl in a bad situation melodrama, it's instilled with good nature, and the climactic situation is highly gratifying for the sentimental. La Plante herself is highly charming and carries the principal role well. Norman Trevor does a fine job as the stuffed shirt hung out to dry, though love interest Hamilton is colorless and uninteresting; one suspects that there's little to love about Paul other than his money, just as the Judge suspects. But clocking in at just over one hour, it moves quickly and briskly, without ever becoming tedious.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The full-frame picture is quite good overall. The interview segments in the documentary have a rather digital look to them, but this appears to be an issue with the source material; the film clips look gorgeous overall. Most of them are full frame, though Ben-Hur is presented in its extreme widescreen aspect. The Love Trap starts with windowboxed titles, then goes to a full-frame presentation. Though there are small scratches throughout, there's decent details and a lovely range of greys. It's quite attractive despite the wear.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The audio is a respectable 2.0 mono track. The interview segments of the documentary have a decent sound, but obviously there's little reference-type material here. The film clips transfer admirably well. The Love Trap comes with a period synchronized music and effects track for the first four reels (about 45 minutes), and then the balance is dialogue (without music). There's plenty of noise, hiss and crackle, but for 1929 sound this really isn't too bad.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
17 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Good Fairy, These Three, Come and Get It, Dead End, Jezebel, Wuthering Heights, The Letter, The Little Foxes, Memphis Belle, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Heiress, Friendly Persuasion, The Big Country, Ben-Hur, The Children's Hour, The Collector
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Extras Review: This disc is a treasure for lovers of trailers. Seventeen trailers for sixteen films covering 30 years are presented here. Friendly Persuasion merits two trailers, one a widescreen color version that shows clips from the film, and the other a full-frame B/W chat with Gary Cooper. None of them are anamorphic, but all of the later films are presented in widescreen format. Wuthering Heights and The Children's Hour are warbly and dupey looking, but the remainder of the trailers look quite fine indeed. A 'play all' function is thoughtfully provided. In addition, there is a complete filmography for Wyler, and links to these trailers from the relevant entries on the filmography.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsA documentary on the great director with a wealth of clips, but a bit lacking in insight, paired with one of his first efforts. An intriguing package, with a ton of material for trailer fans.
Mark Zimmer 2002-10-27