Uncertain Feeling (Roan Group)
Sound: C+ Extras: D Film: A-
Ernest Lubitsch is probably one of the greatest comedic
directors of all time, yet also remains one of the least known. His work is primarily overshadowed by the
work of Frank Capra, Preston Sturges, and Billy Wilder, but before them
Lubitsch was making some amazingly clever, witty, and all-out hilarious motion
pictures. My exposure to Lubitsch came
from one of his best films Trouble in
Paradise and since then I’ve been committed to seeing as many of his films
as I can, but also revisiting them over time and re-cherishing them again and
again. Another fine film that he
crafted, which was later remade as You’ve
Got Mail was 1940’s Shop Around the
Corner starring the great Jimmy Stewart.
Lubitsch also crafted another dark, yet amusing at times film called Heaven Can Wait, which despite it’s
title has no relation to the film of the same title starring Warren Beatty and
Uncertain Feeling has Lubitsch’s personal touch written all over it
and that simply means that the film is cunning, daring, and most of
all…poignant despite being on the verge of a screwball comedy. Although this film is not nearly as over the
edge as To Be or Not To Be (starring
Jack Benny), which is even better to watch as the years pass! Lubitsch was an ‘old school’ director by the
time he was directing these sound films because he began his career in 1914 and
was a solid filmmaker during the silent era.
This would no doubt secure his ability to capture physical comedy, but
unfortunately his heart attack in the late 1940’s would shorten his great
career a bit too early.
The storyline here is something that could have only been
dreamed up back in the early part of the 20th century, but survives
well. Jill Baker (Merle Oberon) is
happily married to her husband Larry (Melvyn Douglas), but decides to through
some coercion to see a psychoanalyst about severe case of hiccups. After some treatment she begins having
doubts about her husband and meets up in the waiting room with a pianist played
by Burgess Meredith. His character is
even more bizarre and confused and the rest of the film is devoted to seeing if
her marriage can survive the madness that ensues.
The Roan Group has issued That Uncertain Feeling to DVD with large text on the front of the
package simply stating that this is restored from the original 35mm
nitrate. That may certainly be the
case, but this film still needs some major work in order to bring it up to
modern standards. Luckily Lubitsch has
survived fairly well and both Heaven Can
Wait and Trouble in Paradise
have been incredibly well restored for DVD from Criterion. Warner even issued a well-respected restored
copy of To Be or Not To Be, and we
shall await some of his other films to be restored as well. While the Roan Group’s effort is certainly
commendable, there is absolutely no way that they can compete with the work
done by Criterion or even Warner with this older pressing. Sure, the other companies have more resources,
so naturally they are able to have a more complete restoration, but that is not
always the case oddly.
Problems with the 1.33 X 1 full frame image range from
softness, poor contrast and full grayscale, plus some dirt and debris plague
the entire transfer from time to time.
Yet even with these drawbacks and even some of the more severe ones, the
film still plays well and is still accessible.
While this might only be a few notches up from VHS quality, at least
having the film on DVD will be enough for more fans. The 1.0 Dolby Mono is weak as well and demonstrates the films age
with some snap, crackle, and pop going on which is enough to make the Rice
Krispy guys want to retire. Sadly,
there are no extras to speak of, but the film is worth seeing many times and
therefore owning this DVD is the best way at this point to revisit the film
again and again in the best quality to date.
I can only hope that more exposure occurs towards an amazing director
like this. If people are still willing
to watch annually movies like It’s a
Wonderful Life, there is absolutely no reason why more films from that era
(especially comedies) should be brought back into relevance.
- Nate Goss