Wednesday, April 25, 2007

HEIDI (2oth Century Fox 1937) Fox Home Video

Allan Dwan’s Heidi (1937) is one of Shirley Temple’s most fondly remembered films. A poignant tale of enduring love against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the film stars Temple as the orphaned, impoverished waif sent to live with her stern, though kindly grandfather, Adolph Kramer (Jean Hersholt) in the Austrian Alps. At first, the gruff old man does not take to his new charge, even forcing Heidi to sleep in the barn with the animals.

However, this is Shirley Temple we’re speaking of – an impossibly lovable child who quietly wins over Adolph’s heart. Unfortunately for Heidi and grandpa, Heidi’s aunt kidnaps her from their idyllic mountain paradise and shortly thereafter sells her to a wealthy family whose daughter Elsa (Pauline Moore) is an invalid. Undaunted and determined to make the most of a bad situation, Heidi befriends the foppish house butler, Andrews (Arthur Treacher). She also breaks down Elsa’s bitterness and eventually making her walk again, much to the amazement of her own father, Seseman (Sidney Blackmere).

Director Dwan performs a near perfect balancing act with this sentimental classic, never allowing the treacle to drown its narrative potency. To be certain, Temple is impossibly cute – but Dwan tempers her sweetness with a stellar cast of vintage ham actors, each performing as a perfect counterbalance to Shirley’s formidable optimism. In the end, we seek the simplified happiness that only grandpa can offer our heroine and are readily delighted when Dwan and Temple give in to our expectations, reuniting the two in blissfully obtuse true Hollywood fashion moments before the final fade out.

Fox Home Video’s bastardization of the Shirley Temple legacy continues with this disc. The film is presented in both its original B&W (thank God) and (e-gods!) a grossly inadequate colorized rendition. The B&W image is quite solid and impressively mastered with a very clean and fairly smooth visual characteristic that only occasionally shows obvious signs of age. Contrast levels are nicely realized. Fine details are evident throughout. Occasionally, edge enhancement crops up, but age related artifacts are well concealed.

As a matter of record, the colorized version is painful. Colors are broadly applied; flat, thick pasty and wholly unnatural hues. No film purist would be caught watching a Temple classic this way. The audio has been remixed to 2 channel stereo (the original mono is also included). Both are quite similar. There are NO extras!

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



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