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Of Human Bondage (1934)

Bette Davis , Leslie Howard , John Cromwell  |  NR |  DVD
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, Frances Dee, Kay Johnson, Reginald Denny
  • Directors: John Cromwell
  • Writers: Ann Coleman, Lester Cohen, W. Somerset Maugham
  • Producers: Pandro S. Berman
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Alpha Video
  • DVD Release Date: January 22, 2002
  • Run Time: 83 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005RERS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,051 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Of Human Bondage" on IMDb

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

Bette Davis, Leslie Howard. A well-known doctor's affair with an ill-mannered waitress gets him into trouble. Davis made her first big splash in Hollywood in this terrific production of the W. Somerset Maugham novel. 1934/b&w/83 min/NR/fullscreen.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, poor DVD transfer November 3, 2003
By A Customer
Format:DVD
Yes, this movie is "dated" in a stylistic sense, but so what. Davis and Howard are both so good it doesn't matter. And there is nothing dated about being hopelessly "in bondage" to something or someone - that realization is ultimately what makes the movie so depressing to watch. We can "identify" with Phillip's horrendous treatment at the hands of Mildred because he is obsessed beyond his ability to respond rationally.
The film's most famous line...."You cad!, you dirty swine! I never cared for you not once! I was always makin' a fool of ya! Ya bored me stiff, I hated ya! It made me SICK when I had to let ya kiss me. I only did it because ya begged me, ya hounded me and drove me crazy! And after ya kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth! WIPE MY MOUTH!"..... is so emotionally charged and devastating one can not help but relate to it at a gut level. The viewer is completely drawn in to Phillip's psyche and his unbearable pain. Davis is simply brilliant in this movie, and she utters this line as convincingly as any in her illustrious career.
A five-star movie which I have to rate 4 because of the poor DVD transfer. No better than my VHS copy. Perhaps not much can be done to improve a movie this old but it appears that no effort was made to do so.
Otherwise a classic in every sense.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The fascinating film that made Bette Davis a star February 26, 2003
Format:DVD
Of Human Bondage, based on the novel by Somerset Maugham, is a powerful but melancholy film that I find strangely mesmerizing. Leslie Howard stars as Philip Carey, an introverted, artistic man who comes to London to study medicine after abandoning his dreams of becoming an artist in Paris. Carey was born with a club foot, and we watch rather mortified as one of his instructors makes him show his foot to the class, revealing the embarrassment that he normally keeps contained on the outside. One day in a nearby café, Carey sees waitress Mildred Rogers (played fabulously by Bette Davis), a rather ill-natured, brazenly taciturn waitress. Her attitude is rather rude and certainly strange and cold, but Carey is immediately fascinated by her. After inexplicably falling in love with Mildred, he succeeds in winning a few dates with her, putting up with her mind games, deception, and seeming lack of humanity. She is frustratingly noncommittal in everything he asks her, replying "I don't mind" to virtually all of his questions and allowing him almost no emotional contact with her at all. He finally resolves to ask her to marry him, but she shocks him by declaring her impending nuptials to another man. Carey's depression grows, and his grades in medical school suffer horribly. In time, he finds a young woman who is a bit matronly but genuinely cares for him. Then Mildred shows up again, pregnant and alone. He takes care of her with money he doesn't really have only to see her leave again with another man. This trend continues throughout the story. Whenever Carey finds happiness within his grasp, Mildred shows up unannounced, and he finds himself powerless to save himself from her debilitating influence on him.
Carey and Mildred are complicated creatures.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
If you take into account when this film was made and that the film medium was still developing its language, you'll likely enjoy "Of Human Bondage". It's well acted and- with its wide array of "let's see what we can do" directorial tricks and flourishes- entertainingly told.

Leslie Howard gives a low-key, effective performance, but it's Bette Davis who really shines. Ms. Davis realized correctly that it should be somewhat confusing to the other characters- and to us- why Leslie Howard's Philip character is so taken with her character, so she grounds her character with a kind of plainness and commonality. But she also realizes that there should be SOMETHING that we as viewers can touch on, so we can at least somewhat understand what is going on inside Philip. So Ms. Davis peppers the plainness of her character with occasional glints of edge, ice, passion, etc., things that a man would notice and be moved by, both in a positive and negative manner. These little glints of uniqueness nicely build to an emotional explosion at the end, so the quiet waitress and schemer doesn't all of a sudden become the bitter harpy who is so memorable at the end. It's a really effective performance, taking into account the future progression of the character right from the beginning.

Now the bad news. This particular DVD of the Bette Davis/Leslie Howard "Of Human Bondage" (the DVD company is called "Westlake") delivers a truly sub-par copy of this historic movie. It's watchable, but- with its faded print and scratchy soundtrack- barely so. There are also several close-ups of written letters in the film, and good luck trying to read them off the faded image.

So that's it in a nutshell. Great movie, lousy DVD. If there's any justice, a better DVD of this movie exists somewhere out there, or at least is on the way.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding film, disappointing blu-ray August 12, 2013
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
Some complain of Bette Davis' over-acting. This style was more like melodramatic 'stage-acting' and was quite prevalent in films in the early to mid-30's. As the sound era matured, so did the performances. But for it's time Bette Davis' performance was outstanding. Which is why, though Jack Warner kept her name off the ballot for the Best Actress Oscar for 1934, so many members of the Academy were so outraged by her omission, for that year only, they were allowed a write-in nominee. Coincidentally, the following year Bette Davis did win the Oscar for "Dangerous" a good, but less worthy performance. She even admitted that herself. It was a consolation prize for "Bondage". Now, about the Blu-ray disc. Although it is a great improvement over previously released dvds, is this the best they could do? About one fourth of the film has major scratches and dirt spots throughout. Very disappointing. But the picture contrast quality is quite good. The images are clear, not 'foggy' or blurry. The sound is wonderful. I've never seen this film before without annoying hissing or garbled speaking. That's been all cleaned up. If it weren't for the awful scratches occasionally this would've easily gotten 5 stars.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love this movie
Published 10 days ago by Dog lover 23
5.0 out of 5 stars I think I like all of Bette Davis Movies
I think I like all of Bette Davis Movies. I don't have a lot of them yet. This was a good one.
Published 14 days ago by Brenner
4.0 out of 5 stars Bette at her bad girl best.
This is classic Leslie Howard, and Bette Davis at their best. The movie may not be for all but it's a good movie for those who like it.
Published 1 month ago by Stillapistol
2.0 out of 5 stars Re-mastering falls short
I was looking forward to this production because it was hailed as a recently re-mastered piece. But video, especially, falls way short of anything done by UCLA/Criterion... Read more
Published 4 months ago by James T. Wheeler
5.0 out of 5 stars Better Than Any of The Others
Please buy this version. Leslie Howard played pathos. Bette Davis played the perfect "female dog" (no bad words). They are both real. Bette Davis ate the screen.
Published 6 months ago by Martha
5.0 out of 5 stars Really GREAT!!!
What a Wonderful movie... So Happy I own this DVD.. Bette is SOOOOOOOO Good/Great

She Mesmerizes you thru the Whole movie . Read more
Published 6 months ago by dorothy
1.0 out of 5 stars Sadly unpleasant and unconvincing Film
Bette Davis is usually great, but in this film, gives what to
me was an unconvincing portrayal of a selfish and truly
sad spectacle of a person. Read more
Published 7 months ago by P Joseph Murray
5.0 out of 5 stars Even though streaming quality is 'meh', the movie is still 5 stars.
This classic movie is a 'must-see' for today's movie viewers (whether they're into old, old movies or not). Read more
Published 7 months ago by L.J. O'Neal
5.0 out of 5 stars Great acting - well written
A classic - human needs, desires and manipulations. Moves quickly - maybe ahead of its time. Unexpected plot and changes in characters.
Published 8 months ago by jaleo
5.0 out of 5 stars Of Human Bondage
William Somerset Maughan (1874-1965) was a famous British playwright and novelist, and it is said that he was the highest paid writer in the 1930s. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Carlos E. Velasquez
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Quality of DVD
Maybe the folks at Criterion will do it justice. You can watch the entire movie on YouTube, where the picture quality is actually quite good, compared to the DVD. I bought the DVD before checking reviews, and didn't realize the quality was so bad. It's unwatchable.
May 7, 2012 by Pam Gearhart |  See all 2 posts
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