Thursday, March 20, 2008

MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (Selznick International 1948) Warner Home Video

H.C. Potter’s Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) is a sort of post war take on The Money Pit - all about a couple of cramped New Yorkers desiring their little spot of an oasis in the country. It also proved to be Cary Grant’s most successful movie to date – at least in terms of box office. The screenplay by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank is based on a buoyant novel by Eric Hodgins.

Jim Blandings (Grant) is an ad executive with a huge headache. Not only is he stifled in his creativity to come up with an appealing slogan for Wam! – a whale of a ham – but he’s also constantly being reminded by his wife Muriel (Myrna Loy) and two young daughters, Joan (Sharyn Moffett) and Betsy (Connie Marshall) how confined their apartment has become. Indeed, former school mate cum the family’s financial advisor Bill Cole (Melvyn Douglas) agrees with Muriel and suggests that she and Jim look into finding a bigger place – perhaps away from the stresses of the inner city.

However, not even Bill can assess how far Jim will go when pushed out on a whim. Discovering a dilapidated farm house on a few acres of land in Connecticut, Jim impulsively buys the property – then realizes it will have to be torn down due to irreparable structural damage to make way for the new and costly construction of another house. Hiring the contractor Simms (Reginald Denny), Jim and Muriel plan an ambitious estate, only to have the reality of its cost smack them squarely on the chin.

The story clings together magnificently thanks to a series of truly amusing vignettes – the most riotous involving Italian construction worker, Mr. Zucco (Tito Vuolo) who informs the couple that his excavation crane has hit a large stone, necessitating the use of dynamite for its removal before the construction of their new home’s foundation can continue.

In the end, Mr. Blandings does indeed get his dream house, though not before several minor nightmares evolve into inspired romantic comedy. Grant and Loy make a most appealing married couple – slightly harried, though nevertheless in love with one another. Douglas is an amusing third wheel in this equation; subtly attracted to Muriel though entirely honorable in his intensions.

Warner Home Video’s DVD exhibits an overall appealing B&W transfer. The gray scale is not quite as refined as one might expect with the middle range of tonality generally absent from the register. A slightly more harsh contrast level and definite grain structure make for an image that is less refined than one might have hoped for. Age related artifacts are present and quite obvious at times. Even so, this is an acceptable visual presentation. The audio is mono and represented at an adequate listening level. Extras are limited to vintage featurettes and a theatrical trailer. Recommended!

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



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