Saturday, July 24, 2021

Marlene Dietrich in Desire (1936) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

Desire (1936) Kino Studio Classics 8/10/2021

Directed By: Frank Borzage 

Starring: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, John Halliday, William Frawley, Ernest Cossart

Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics 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. 

My Review for another Frank Borzage film The Mortal Storm HERE

My Review for another Marlene Dietrich movie The Woman One Longs For HERE

My Review for Love Me Tonight HERE

       A remake of the German film Happy Days in Aranjuez (1933), Desire (1936)  is an important film as it marked Dietrich coming off a very successful with her collaboration with von Sternberg (making six films together). It also comes at what is often considered the hay-day of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Madeleine de Beaupre (Marlene Dietrich) is a beautiful jewel thief who make off with some pearls worth over two million dollars. Meanwhile a over worked automotive engineer taking a vacation crosses paths with the femme-fatale with explosive results. 

     Desire was produced by the legendary Ernst Lubitsch who, as you might know was a titan in cinema and known for his very unique style. In fact, the term 'The Lubitsch touch' was coined to describe a very certain feeling his films produced. To give you an idea of how respected Ernst was, Billy Wilder was a big admirer. The movie over-flows wit and sophistication like fine champagne mixed with shades of Hitchcock (who Dietrich worked with on Stage Fright) and some subtle screwball comedy of the era. Surprisingly though the movie has some darker elements that flies in the face of more breezy fare. 

     On a technical level this movie really shines among the best of the '30s. Two time Oscar winner Frank Borzage (Bad Girl, 7th Heaven) does a fantastic job at not only directing but balancing what could be a tricky tone. Iconic screenwriters Edwin Justus Mayer (To Be or Not to Be), Waldemar Young (Love Me Tonight) and Samuel Hoffenstein (Laura, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde '31) crafts dialogue that sizzles and a narrative that is a lean and perfectly paced. There is also an under-current of the impending war between the US and Germany that gives this movie an interesting aura about it. 

Charles Lang (Some Like it Hot) gives the film further polish with his amazing photography and Travis Banton made jaw-dropping dresses. On a side note to give you an idea how amazing Banton was, the great Edith Head studied under him. 

    Add the beautiful and talented Marlene Dietrich and the handsome Gary Cooper and you have the makings of a movie that is powerful, engrossing and magic to watch. The amount of talent behind and in front of the camera is staggering. A Must-Watch! 

Picture: Desire boosts a new-2k scan and, in my opinion is a very nicely done restoration. The overall image has a uptick in clarity and brightness but, thankfully it's not overly processed or washed out. Black-and-white has a nicely balanced contrast which really is impressive. Grain is present of course but is smoothed out and not chunky. The movie is not without some flaws and there are some very minor artifacts but nothing that I feel like distracts from the product. 

Sound: Desire has a DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through incredibly well as does the score and sound design. No unwanted background hiss that can be a issue with some older films. 

Extras: Desire comes with new brand-new commentary tracks! 

The first is from author/historian David Del Valle and Nathaniel Bell. As always David provides a wealth of knowledge on the subject as well as firsthand information from those connected with the film. Bell also does a nice job and together they provide a highly enjoyable, informative and engaging commentary track. 

Film historian Samm Deighan also does a great job and offers a well researched track. Like David and Bell, Deighan brings something different to the track but also it is a wealth of information on different aspects of the production. Very engaging. 

Rounding out the features is a series of trailers. 

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