Wednesday, March 21, 2007

CHINA SEAS (MGM 1935) Warner Home Video

Tay Garnett’s China Seas (1935) is atypical Clark Gable film fodder; half adventure/half romance and with MGM’s most bankable male star firing all pistons in raw animal magnetism. Gable is Alan Gaskell, captain of a passenger ship en route to Hong Kong.

Aboard is Gaskell’s old playmate, Dolly ‘China Doll’ Portland (Jean Harlow), new flame, cultured Sybil Barclay (Rosalind Russell), spurious trade smuggler, Jamesy McArdle (Wallace Beery), disgraced 3rd Officer, Tom Davis (Lewis Stone) and good time drunkard, Charlie McCaleb (Robert Benchley) – who provides the film with its lighter bits of humorous nonsense.

At first, the passage for all is relatively smooth. Gaskell breaks off with Dolly, takes up with Sybil and makes plans to retire from being a sea captain. But Dolly is not about to surrender the only man she’s ever loved to Sybil quite so easily. Then, the storm breaks. Passengers are sent overboard during typhoon conditions and Dolly realizes that Jamesy has plotted to have the ship overthrown by marauding Chinese pirates.

China Seas is very much a formulaic picture for the studio, cut in the same vein as MGM’s other all-star spectacles; Grand Hotel (1932) and Dinner at Eight (1933). It teems with old-fashion sentiment and rather improbably charted circumstances that never seem maudlin, even if they are deliberately contrived.

Warner Home Video delivers a very good looking DVD. The B&W image sports an impeccably rendered gray scale with fine details evident throughout. Blacks are deep and solid. White are almost pristine. Occasionally, film grain is heavier than one might expect. Age related artifacts are present but do not distract. Overall, this is a pleasing visual presentation, rounded out by a nicely balanced mono audio. Extras are reduced to three vintage short subjects and the film’s theatrical trailer.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being best)



No comments: