Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I REMEMBER MAMA (RKO 1948) Warner Home Video

George Steven’s production of I Remember Mama (1948) is a valentine to the close knit family we all dream of; a high water mark in 1940’s melodrama. Set at the turn of the last century in San Francisco, the film stars the usually scatterbrained Irene Dunne; on this occasion miraculously tender yet determined as matriarch, Martha Hanson. Together with her husband, Lars (Philip Dorn) and extended family (buttressed by a stellar cast including Barbara Bel Geddes, Cedric Hardwicke, Ellen Corby, Rudy Vallee, Edgar Bergan and Florence Bates) the Norwegian clan weathers some hard knocks and poignant moments with grace and charm.

This film is one of those elegant little ‘jabs of pleasure’ that American cinema used to dole out en masse during its golden age, but now seem rendered in exceedingly short supply. Based on John Van Druten's hit play (derived from Kathryn Forbes's autobiographical memoir), the film is a veritable feast for the heart and mind; a richly textured and moving experience that should not be missed.

Unfortunately more could have been done to clean up this print before rushing it out to DVD. Warner’s transfer is marred by a considerable amount of age related artifacts. Though the gray scale is nicely balanced at times, the image often tends to exhibit an overly soft quality that is more blurry than evocative of mood or style. There is also a considerable amount of film grain. Otherwise, black and contrast levels on the whole tend to be weak and softly balanced. There are no digital anomalies.

The audio is mono and suffers at times from a muffled characteristic. Background hiss is detected in quiescent scenes. A brief introduction by the director’s son, George Steven’s Jr. is the only extra included. Bottom line; this film still gets my recommendation for a must have. It may not be presented in optimal condition but regardless, is sure to warm the heart long afterward. A must have!

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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