Customer Reviews

188
4.2 out of 5 stars
Meet John Doe (70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition)
Format: DVDChange
Price:$9.99 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

75 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2010
That's right, Capra's masterpiece. More on that later.

Regarding the print, it isn't perfect in this 2010 VCI edition, but it's better than any previously released on DVD. There are still some skips, some lost frames and a few abrupt transitions, but the sound, as well as the darks, lights and mid tones, are more than acceptable--which is saying a lot, considering most public domain prints that have been paraded across the marketplace throughout the years have been decidedly UNacceptable.

1941 was a watershed year in American cinema. It was the year of the bold and groundbreaking "Citizen Kane," the breathtaking and heart wrenching "How Green Was My Valley," the grippingly patriotic "Sergeant York," the sobering, frightening fable, "The Devil and Daniel Webster," the pioneering noir classic by which all others are measured, "The Maltese Falcon," the brilliant and hilarious send-up of gangster films, "Ball of Fire," and the ultimate thinking man's comedy, "Sullivan's Travels." All are landmarks in the cinematic landscape, which hold up amazingly well today. But Frank Capra's fanfare for the common man, "Meet John Doe," also released that year, was arguably the greatest achievement in the careers of Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, character actor James Gleason, and Capra himself.

Gary Cooper was in three of the classics mentioned above, and few actors have ever had a better showing in any twelve-month stretch. Coop availed himself admirably enough as a real life hero forced to make a life changing decision in the Howard Hawks-directed "Sergeant York" to take home 1941's Academy Award for Best Actor. He displayed impressive comedic chops as a vulnerable and awkward academic with integrity in Hawks' "Ball of Fire" (which also co-starred Stanwyck). Either of these performances, let alone both, would be enough to elevate any actor to legendary status. Yet in "Doe" Cooper managed to transcend even himself in an acting tour de force that elicits laughter, tears, and the gamut of emotions in between.

One could use any number of scenes as examples, but a standout moment for me is when the people of a small town come forward to tell Doe what the burgeoning John Doe movement means to them and how it has changed their lives. Cooper displays, in his face, wordlessly, an eloquent range of nakedly moving emotions as he listens, at first reluctantly, to their stories--culminating in an utterly indescribable look of shame, modesty, guilt and love as an elderly woman kisses his hand.

Stanwyck is at her most effervescent as the street savvy but idealistic columnist Ann Mitchell, who creates, then falls hard for, Cooper's Doe. She's in there fighting not only for her man, but also for the ideals her late father taught her, which she infuses into the stirring, heartfelt speeches she writes for John. And we pull for her as she overcomes manipulation and machination by repugnant powers-that-be while fighting for what is right.

This is undoubtedly James Gleason's finest hour, as Stanwyck's boss, the seen-it-all, hard-bitten newspaper editor Henry Connell. His drunk scene in a diner with Cooper, in which he eloquently sums up the value of freedom and why it's worth defending, to the death if necessary, is enough to stir men's souls--which of course was the intention. He's speaking from a late 1940 perspective--with war raging in Europe and Asia and an unemployment rate of 14.5% at home, the twin threats of fascism and communism are very real--hearkening back to "lighthouses in a foggy world": Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. But looking back today through the spectrum of what has transpired in the seventy years since then, it's difficult not to get a little choked up by screenwriter Robert Riskin's stirring lines, and Gleason's masterful, off-the-cuff delivery of them.

More than a passing nod is due Edward Arnold, as the personification of opportunistic corporate-political evil, D. B. Norton, and to the incredibly versatile Walter Brennan (who also supported Cooper in "Sergeant York") as Doe's Jiminy Cricket-like conscience and sidekick, who is referred to only as "the Colonel."

The main character's correlation to Christ is undeniable, and Connell even makes a reference to Pontius Pilate following what can only be described as a crucifixion scene. Capra, who was Roman Catholic, imbues his hero with the Christ-like characteristics of a sacrificial lamb, offering him up for the greater good of Mankind. Ultimately, though, Doe's motives aren't quite on the level of "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends," as his intentions are somewhat vindictively (though perhaps justifiably) geared toward sticking it to the D. B. Nortons of the world. Ultimately, Ann convinces him that his sacrifice is unnecessary, that "the first John Doe" took care of it nearly 2,000 years ago, again drawing a Christ comparison, and on Christmas Eve no less.

Though most would choose "It's a Wonderful Life" as director Frank Capra's crowning work in a heartbeat, I can't help but lean toward the somewhat forgotten "John Doe." Capra was at the top of both his game and the movie world when he began shooting "Doe" in the summer of 1940, teamed with his best screenwriter, Robert Riskin. Though his achievements would eventually be eclipsed by those of the great John Ford, he was at the time the most decorated director in Hollywood, having won three Oscars in the previous five years. His hallmark optimism and populism is palpable in nearly every frame of "Doe," and while this film and "Wonderful Life" both celebrate the exceptional everyman, "Doe" resonates as a more personal work.

With rampant unemployment serving as the impetus for nearly everything that transpires in the film and a nationwide grassroots movement of the people as its centerpiece, plus ominous allusions to a new world order, "Meet John Doe" is open to a variety of sociopolitical interpretations from a 21st century perspective, which I'll leave to you. But more than a few of the warnings and lessons therein are certainly pertinent today. What we are left with in the final analysis is a wonderful, thought provoking, inspirational film, with all the best of what the Hollywood studio system had to offer at its peak, by one of its finest directors.

Ken Barnes, who has worn many hats in his long career, including producer-director, record producer and film historian, provides a knowledgeable running commentary, which is augmented with snippets of interview with Frank Capra himself.
77 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
This is a very "important" movie a very very good movie and a vital part of the careers of the great Gary Cooper and Frank Capra ...and up till now its only been available in horrible public domain versions that were washed out and just plain awful looking.

VCI has done a respectable job presenting this classic film in a two disc offering...the first disc holds the movie and it looks so much better than previous editions I'm not going to moan about it not being perfect. I have listened to part of the commentary and found it interesting to a point and the Frank Capra inserts very nice. The second disc contains "extras" that are second rate compared to major studio releases but are still enlightening and heck...the whole thing is so bloody affordable!

If you've been burned by bad versions in the past...I doubt its going to be released any better than this...and this is pretty good!

Just to be sure I'm reviewing the 2 DVD VCI set of Meet John Doe which was released Nov 30th 2010.
77 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2010
In case this gets merged with other "Meet John Doe" reviews, I am discussing Meet John Doe (70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition).

First, I'll discuss the film itself. I love Frank Capra movies. "It's a Wonderful Life" is my all-time favorite film. "Meet John Doe" is another Capra masterpiece. Gary Cooper is wonderful as "Long John" Willoughby, hired to act the part of John Doe, yet coming to believe in the movement he created. Edward Arnold as D.B. Norton continues his string of memorable Capra villains. The film is not neccessarily as uplifting as "It's a Wonderful Life," but it does have its moments. When the deception is revealed, his loyal followers turn on him. Things turn bleak for our hero and he, like George Bailey years later, finds himself contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve.

I have seen 3 or 4 different prints of this film over the last couple of years, via borrowed DVDs, download and on TV. This is, hands-down, the best looking print I've seen (I have not seen the Madacy version mentioned in other reviews). It's not quite on par with Paramount's "It's a Wonderful Life" restoration, but it is very good. The extras are a nice bonus. Ken Barnes' commentary is more detailed than several of the Frank Capra Jr. commentaries found on the Columbia Capra discs. The featurettes do not focus specifically on "Meet John Doe," but give nice overviews of the careers of Capra, Cooper, and Stanwyck. Also one of the few DVDs of this film to included subtitles, and you get english, german, french and spanish. I am also an old time radio fan, so I enjoyed the Lux Radio Theater presentations as well.

Maybe VCI, or someone, will improve on this release someday. As of right now (Dec 2010), I would say this is the best version of "Meet John Doe" you will find. It's more expensive that some versions, but for what you get I'd say it's worth the few extra bucks.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 24, 2003
In itself "Meet John Doe" Is a warm, witty, and heartwarming story of two people who find paths cross because of a ruthless politician. This particular format from "Alpha Video Distributors" is the worst ever!! The picture looks as if if was transferred from a very bad copy of a copy of a copy of a video, with all the bad, scratches, no sharpness, washed out picture & jittery sound. I guess you get what you pay for! It's enough to make me not want to watch this dvd as it hurts my eyes and ears.
33 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
This film appeared at a time when the United States continued to emerge from the Great Depression amidst fears of what soon became World War Two. Many people distrusted government and capitalism; some felt betrayed by them. Directed by Frank Capra, this film addresses the concerns of the so-called "common" man, a stereotype whom we now call "John Doe." How ironic that the film's hero and heroine, advocates of truth and justice, are frauds. After being fired by her newspaper during an extensive lay-off, Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck) includes in her final column a letter allegedly sent to by "John Doe" who is so upset about society's mistreatment of "the little people" that, in protest, he plans to jump from the top floor of city hall on Christmas Eve. The bogus letter creates so much interest that Mitchell is kept on to continue writing her column which now focuses entirely on John Doe. Fearful that the hoax will be revealed, the newspaper auditions several men and finally hires "Long John" Willoughby (Gary Cooper) to claim he is John Doe. Willoughby is a former baseball player with a dead arm who had been riding the rails with The Colonel (Walter Brennan). Once hired, Willoughby soon becomes totally caught up in the role he plays. His eloquence (expressing what Mitchell has given him to say) and apparent sincerity inspire what becomes the National John Doe Movement, with local chapters throughout the United States. What Willoughby doesn't know and Mitchell does not fully realize is that D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold), publisher of the newspaper, is funding the Movement (e.g. buying radio time for John Doe to promote his "Golden Rule" philosophy) to build a wide and deep base of popular support for his own (Norton's) Presidential campaign. Norton views with contempt precisely the same people who are attracted to John Doe, unknowingly serving as the political equivalent of a Trojan horse.
Despite all the positive values which Capra so passionately affirms, this is a dark film. Its celebration of The Golden Rule is muted by the fact that, although the principles and objectives of the Movement are admirable, John Doe is a fraud. Also, although Mitchell and others reaffirm their faith in John Doe during the final scene on Christmas Eve atop city hall, there is no reason to think that the Movement can continue. In an earlier scene, Norton's "troops" quickly shut down a Movement rally. I will never forget Doe struggling to be heard, speaking into a microphone after its plug (and his) had been pulled by Norton's quasi fascists. People such as Norton with almost unlimited resources allow such movements only if they pose no threat and/or can be exploited somehow to their own advantage.
Only actors with the skills and temperament of a Cooper and Stanwyck could possibly make the final scene credible, at least temporarily. Of course, we will never know what happened thereafter but Capra has made his point: The world would be a much better place if everyone practiced the Golden Rule. As the example of John Doe suggests, if it is worth dying for, then it is certainly worth living for.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 19, 2005
"I've been lonely and hungry for something practically all my life."
Long John Willoughby

This Frank Capra film, unlike others he had made, leaned more towards drama than humor. Though there is humor, and many charming moments involving Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, the tone of the Robert Riskin screenplay, based on a story by Richard Connell and Robert Presnell, has more serious implications than Capra's other films. For that reason, and perhaps because the prints of this film are not as good as the others, "Meet John Doe" sometimes gets unfairly dismissed when Capra's films are discussed. This was the meat in what many call "Capracorn."

Barbara Stanwyck is Ann Mitchell, a reporter soon to be unemployed when her paper is gobbled up by D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold). Desparate to keep the thirty dollar a week salary that keeps her two young sisters and her mom (Spring Byington) afloat, she begs editor Henry Connell (James Gleason) for her job back, but her plea falls on deaf ears. She exits with a column that's a real doozy, pretending she has received a letter from a "John Doe" who, because of the injustice in the world, the state of civilization, and the downtrodden, plans to kill himself at Christmas.

A groundswell of support for John Doe gets Ann her job back, but now she and boss Connell must find a "John Doe." In walks Long John Willoughby (Gary Cooper), a hungry baseball player with a bad wing. He and his pal, Colonel (Walter Brennan), are just hungry enough to play along. Colonel has reservations from the get-go, however, afraid that Long Johm will become a helot--a guy with a bank account.

Long John just wants to earn enough to get the arm he injured pitching a 19 inning game fixed by Bonesetter Brown, but his shy affection for Ann keeps him around long enough to make a radio speech, written from words in her father's diary. His speach spreads the John Doe movement all across the country. It is the crusty Colonel who sees the train wreck coming, however, and takes off.

Clubs start up everywhere, only the "little" people allowed to join. People start treating their neighbors with kindness, showing the spirit of Christmas on a day-to-day basis. D.B. Norton, however, has political aspirations, and sees a way to twist the movement to fit his ambitions. It is Henry Connell who clues in Long John on what is about to happen, letting the air out of his balloon and shattering his smitten image of Ann, with her chestnut hair and great legs.What follows, as the country discovers John Doe was a fake, will lead Long John to a rooftop overlooking the city on a snowy Christmas night.

Stanwyck is wonderful here, as Ann slowly comes to realize she has found a man like her father but may have helped to destroy him. Cooper is memorable as Long John Willoughby, a shy ball player who realizes he has come to stand for more than he ever could have on the pitching mound. Brennan is his usual great character, looking out for Long John as much as he can.

There are some warm and sentimental moments between Cooper's Long John and Stanwyck's Ann mixed in with the social drama, and some charm as well. Cooper's scene with Ann's mom, whose help he needs to ask her daughter to marry him, has a sweetness to it that is long gone from today's films. And the baseball scene in a hotel room, when they play pretend ball, is a classic.

This is a wonderful film about the little guy that sometimes gets analyzed too much. All Capra was trying to do, was remind people that the first John Doe came a long time ago, and people still weren't listening. This is a film that works best if you forget it is a Frank Capra picture, and just enjoy it on its own merits. It can then be placed proudly beside the director's other classics on your movie shelf.
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
"Meet John Doe" is clearly the most political of director Frank Capra's "Capracorn" films, even more than "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" or "State of the Union." Newspaper columnist Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck in a rare "good girl role") is fired and prints a phony letter in her final column about a man who is going to commit suicide on Christmas Eve to protest the misery and corruption afflicting the county. The letter is signed "John Doe." The letter causes a sensation and it becomes necessary for Ann to produce "John Doe." She basically holds auditions and settles on Long John Willoughby (Gary Cooper), a starving bush league pitcher whose arms has gone bad. Ann continues to write article in the name of John Doe, calling on everyone to love their neighbor and the like. This only increases the fan mail and the best scene of the film she writes "John Doe" a speech to read on the radio, inspired by the words of her father. As "John" himself gets caught up in the speech and its response, Ann is totally enraptured by the moment. This all might be a giant con game, but Ann is a true believer. Then the powerful publishing magnate, D. B. Norton (Edward Arnold), throws his support behind the John Doe clubs because he wants them to hold a convention where "John" will nominate him as a third party candidate for the presidency. Obviously Norton is some sort of American fascist, and when "John" refuses to play along, Norton publicly exposes him to the mob. All that is left to "John" is to fulfill the original promise of the first letter and commit suicide on Christmas Eve.
Cooper and Capra had enjoyed success before with "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," but this is the much better film. Cooper's performance in this 1940 film is certainly Oscar worthy, but his next film was "Sergeant York" and that was the film that won the actor his first Academy Award. Stanwyck's performance is just as good, proving she could do more than film noir bad girls. Like most of Capra's great works, including "It's A Wonderful Life," the mythic structure is clearly that of the crucifixion and resurrection (think about it). The symbolic "death" of John Doe is arguably the most painful in any of Capra's films and the character's "resurrection" is definitely the most believable. Capra originally had a darker ending than what was provided, but we all know that really would have gone against his grain. Again, the supporting cast for Capra's film is absolutely stellar, with Edward Arnold, Walter Brennan, James Gleason, Spring Byington, Gene Lockhart, and Steling Holloway all getting the most out of Robert Riskin's screenplay. "Meet John Doe" is definitely a classic Frank Capra film.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2005
...but buyers should be forwarned that the print from which this DVD is made was a poor one, and Alpha Video, the distributors of this classic Capra movie, made no attempt to clean it up.

Here we have an example of a key artwork about America's psychological and political framework during emergence from the economic depression of the 1930s, crying out for careful restration to the condition it so deserves.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2000
This 1941 Frank Capra classic appears to be public domain, for there have been several VHS and DVD editions released by different companies. The Laserlight DVD release is probably your best choice if you want to own a copy of this wonderful movie on video. Whereas some buyers seem to complain about the poor picture quality of, for instance, the Madacy release, I see no reason to complain about this one. The picture may not be so impeccably crisp and clear as one might expect from DVD, since it was evidently not transferred from a print in mint condition, but it is by no means scratched or blotted. At times it seems, indeed, to be very slightly grainy, specially in the first half of the movie, but by and large I'd say it is more than acceptable, unless you're an absolute perfectionist in that respect. The sound is also loud, clear and intelligible, although it of course contains the inevitable imperfections of any old analog recording.

As for the movie itself -- in case you don't know it yet -- though it has been often underrated by some critics, it certainly deserves to be ranked among Capra's masterpieces, along with "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town". Like those movies, "Meet John Doe" reveals Capra's unswerving faith in democracy and in the essential American virtues, and his conviction that your average everyman can beat the powers of money and corruption if he only believes in those basic values. This same kind of David-versus-Goliath story, in which ordinary people, united, triumph over the rich and powerful, had been indeed a constant in Capra's movies since as early as 1932's "American Madness" (which you shouldn't miss either, if you like this one).

As a bonus, the DVD includes a 30-min documentary on Gary Cooper's career, consisting basically of ten uncut original or re-release theatrical trailers of Cooper's films (including "High Noon", "Pride of the Yankees", "Sergeant York", "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Vera Cruz"). The narration is interesting and well-written, though it does not include any information Cooper fans don't already know.

Foreign customers will be glad to know that this is an "all-region" DVD, which means that it is playable in any of the six reagions, provided that you have a NTSC-compatible player and TV set.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2009
Although the description says it was remastered in 2008 it is simply
the worst b&w DVD out there. Lines everywhere and in every
direction, artifacts, you cannot distinguished where the face
ends and the background begins. Everyone blends into nothingness.
How can this company (A2Zcds.com) allow themselves to market
such garbage. Will never buy anything from them again.

Roy Szanik
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.