Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Shop Around the Corner (1940) Warner Archives Blu Ray Review

 The Shop Around the Corner (1940) Warner Archives 12/22/2020

Directed By: Ernst Lubitsch 

Starring: James Stewart, Margert Sullivan, Frank Morgan, William Tracy

 

Disclaimer: Warner Archives has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

     Most casual film fans will most likely not remember this film but rather the updated retelling You've Got Mail (1998). This charming 1940 film based on the play by Miklos Laszlo, The Shop Around the Corner tells of a store clerk named Alfred (James Stewart) who is secretly writing with a woman and later finds out it's a co-worker who treats him poorly. In terms of must-watch holiday movies The Shop Around the Corner is always at the top of my list right up there with Home Alone and It's A Wonderful Life.  Though the set-piece of Christmas is touched upon only in the final act, I still consider it a seasonal watch and a great one at that.  Director Ernst Lubitsch was legendary for his high-brow humor and style. So much so that the term 'the Lubitsch touch' was coined to describe a certain feel or sophistication. Here Lubitsch transfixes it's audience with equal parts wit and heart. At the center of this movie is a rom-com and in typical 'screwball-comedy', much of the humor derives from misunderstandings or one party knowing something the other does not.  Not only does Lubitsch's pin-point direction help elevate the genre but, screenwriter Samson Raphaelson's (Suspicion) adds the charm and core emotional hook. Thankfully, Raphaelson script allows room for some really great character arc's and moments that walk this razor sharp line between heartwarming but never goes into the realm of cheesy. This attention to detail makes it easy for the audience to connect with such richly developed characters. 

      James Stewart and Margert Sullivan really sparkle in their respective roles. Stewart is so effortless in his charisma and, proves why he was such a legend of his generation. Sullivan, equally as talented, really gets to flex her range and, like Stewart also has a natural ease in front of the camera. Both actors have a nice chemistry and play off of each other in way that is a joy to watch. This pairing was clearly not lost on the audience as, they both would be teamed up in another movie released that year  The Mortal Storm. Raphaelson also conjures some nicely realized supporting characters. For example, the wise talking Pepe (William Tracy) is probably my favorite character in any '40's film and, Tracy actually manages to steal every scene he's in. And, the young Rudy (Charles Smith) a character that barely gets any actual screen time, gets such a beautiful moment in the finale. Seriously, it's really a marvel that this level of care was taken.  Frank Morgan, Joseph Schildkraut, Felix Bressart and Sara Haden make up a terrific supporting cast. Just like the characters, the films world also has this very lived in and organic feel rather than the ultra-lavish Hollywoodized outings popular from this era. It grounds the movie in a way it needs to be and just lets the story unfold and shine on it's own merits. Helping give the film it's stellar look is thanks to William H. Daniels stunning photography. Daniels would go onto win an Oscar for 1948's The Naked City. This is certainly a movie that builds to such a satisfying finale that still manages to move me even after so many watches. To give you an idea of just how good Ernest Lubitsch was in his day, the one and only Billy Wilder considered him to be among the best directors working at the time. The Shop Around the Corner is a classic among classics and, if you have never seen it now's the perfect time to. 

Picture: Much like Holiday Affair I've only seen The Shop Around the Corner on television. This new 2k scan is really a revelation. I noticed right away that scratches and artifacts have been scrubbed clean giving it a fresh look. The second thing I noticed that details like clothing texture, sets and locales are absolutely stunning. 

Sound: Shop has a nice DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nice and clear. No background hiss or audio drop outs to be had. 

Extras: A New Romance of Celluloid: The Miracle of Sound (10min) This vintage featurette explores sound and talkie's at MGM. This is pretty exciting and showcases from rare behind the scenes footage. 

Screen Guild Players (9/29/40)  (Runtime 29min)

Lux Radio Theater (6/23/41) (Runtime 59min)

The Original Trailer (4mins) The trailer is actually pretty neat as Frank Morgan introducing the movie and cast. He even towards the end introduces the director himself Ernst Lubitsch smoking a cigar. A real delight. This semi-fourth wall break in trailers is a really cool and I wish modern filmmakers would adopt this method. 


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