Fox Home Entertainment presents
Desk Set (1957)
Bunny: Frightening. Gave me the feeling that maybe, just maybe, people were a little bit outmoded.
Sumner: Wouldn't surprise me if they stopped making 'em.- Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy
Stars: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Gig Young, Joan Blondell
Other Stars: Dina Merrill, Sue Randall, Neva Patterson, Harry Ellerbe, Nicholas Joy, Merry Anders
Director: Walter Lang
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild innuendo)
Run Time: 01h:43m:28s
Release Date: 2004-05-04
Genre: romantic comedy
DVD ReviewEver since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, loss of jobs to automation has always been a threat to the working class. With computerization this effect has only snowballed. This romantic comedy, based on the stage play The Desk Set by William Marchant, uses the Tracy-Hepburn chemistry to make comic points about such redundancy and the fears related to it.
Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn) is the head of the research department of the Federal Broadcasting Company. But things take a disturbing turn as efficiency expert Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy) starts nosing around the division. When they discover he has developed the electronic brain EMMERAC, which threatens to replace them all, the women of the reference bureau strike back. Matters are complicated by the romantic triangle between the two leads and up-and-coming executive Mike Cutler (Gig Young), longtime beau of Bunny.
There are two setpieces featuring Tracy and Hepburn that really stand out in this film: a rooftop lunch and the demonstration of EMMARAC. The first, as Sumner attempts to test Bunny's skills of observation and analysis, sparkles with their interactions. The testing of the computer pays off nicely all the tension that's been building throughout, with Hepburn gleefully declaiming Victorian poetry in mockery of the computer as Tracy does a great slow burn. These first-rate and highly entertaining pieces are let down a little by the unfortunately pat and incongruous ending.
The supporting cast does the leads proud. The three women in the research pool, Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill, and Sue Randall, give the impression of a unit that's been working comfortably together for a long time. EMMERAC's nervously edgy keeper, Miss Warriner, is rendered broadly but humorously by Neva Patterson. Gig Young's slightly smarmy cluelessness works very well. Director Walter Lang, fresh off The King and I, demonstrates a knack for composition in the Cinemascope frame, with both attractive and meaningful arrangements onscreen throughout the picture, not to mention good use of split-screens.
The resulting comedy is both amusing and affecting without overt sentimentality. Trivia buffs will enjoy the appreciation of people who carry tons of useless information around in their heads. But business executives probably should be cautioned that the film's 1950s attitude towards office romance would probably result in sexual harassment class action suits if tried today.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen Cinemascope frame looks very nice, though a trifle grainy. Color is vivid and black levels quite deep. Shadow detail is moderately good, but edge enhancement and ringing is present, slightly spoiling an otherwise filmlike experience.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Both stereo and 2.0 mono English tracks are provided. The stereo track mostly keeps the dialogue in the center, though there are some occasional moments of directionality to give a broad soundstage. The mono track sounds quite good as well. Both are fairly free of noise and hiss, though an occasional crackle makes its presence known. The Spanish mono track sounds like it was recorded underwater, with a murky quality that would be difficult to listen to. The grade applies to the English tracks only; the Spanish would merit a D-.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring All About Eve, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, An Affair to Remember, The Seven Year Itch
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Dina Merrill and historian John Lee
Layers Switch: 00h:57m:18s
- Stills gallery
Other materials include a Movietone News segment (58s) about a fashion show inspired by the film, and no doubt engineered by the studio. A gallery of over 20 behind-the-scenes stills is the only other pertinent extra besides the trailer.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsThe penultimate Tracy-Hepburn picture proves that they hadn't lost the magic. The transfer's nice, but the extras aren't quite up to the usual standards of this series.
Mark Zimmer 2004-05-02