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To Be or Not to Be (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (1942)

Jack Benny , Carole Lombard , Ernst Lubitsch  |  NR |  Blu-ray
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Robert Stack
  • Directors: Ernst Lubitsch
  • Format: Blu-ray, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: August 27, 2013
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,871 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "To Be or Not to Be (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]" on IMDb

Special Features

  • New, restored 2K digital film transfer, with uncompressed monaural
  • New audio commentary featuring film historian David Kalat
  • Lubitsch le patron, a 2010 French documentary
  • Two episodes of The Screen Guild Theater, a radio anthology series
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O'Brien
  • More!

  • Editorial Reviews

    As nervy as it is hilarious, this screwball masterpiece from Ernst Lubitsch (Trouble in Paradise) stars Jack Benny (The Jack Benny Program) and, in her final screen appearance, Carole Lombard (My Man Godfrey) as husband-and-wife thespians in Nazi-occupied Warsaw who become caught up in a dangerous spy plot. TO BE OR NOT TO BE is a Hollywood film of the boldest black humor, which went into production soon after the U.S. entered World War II. Lubitsch manages to brilliantly balance political satire, romance, slapstick, and urgent wartime suspense in a comic high-wire act that has never been equaled.

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars That Is The Question...This Is The Answer June 16, 2013
    Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
    Jack Benny is the greatest and most groundbreaking comedian certain readers have most likely never heard of. for instance, take his act for vaudeville. at the time (the 1910s and 1920s), a comedy performance was generally considered to be pratfalls, pies in the face, that sort of thing. at some point Jack got the idea to simply speak to the audience, and thus did he effectively invented stand-up comedy.
    similarly, on radio in the '30s and '40s, Benny more than anyone else laid the groundwork for what would be known as the sitcom, and his series has been rewarded with a title of Greatest Old-Time Radio Comedy that still stands to this day.
    radio (and, to a lesser extent, television) was Jack's true forte. his work in movies was nowhere hear as fullfulling. of the nearly 30 films he starred in, he would personally recommend only three, and was completely satisfied with only one of those.
    as you might imagine from the title, Benny plays an actor. this neatly dovetails with one of his radio running-gags: a paragon of pomposity, Benny's radio counterpart considered himself a better actor than he in fact was, and he'd always get sulky when Acadamy Awards time rolled around.
    the mastperiece of director Ernst Lubitch, this 1942 release tells the story of a Polish theatrical troupe who fight back when the Nazis invade in 1939. not that they defeat the Nazis, mind you. even if it could be rendered believeable that mere actors had manage to topple Der Furer himself, he'd of just turned up in the newspaper again the next morning. (this would've been particularly surreal given that the film was set three years in the past.) so they content themselves with foiling a plot to destroy the Polish Resistance, then getting the hell out of Nazi territory.
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    13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Carole Lombard's Final (and Best) Movie August 16, 2013
    Carole Lombard, Jack Benny and director Ernst Lubitsch were comic geniuses, and all three were at the top of their form when they made TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942), arguably one of the funniest movies of all time. The film has now been restored in a new 2K digital transfer from The Criterion Collection.

    This black farce cast Benny, who never gave a more hilarious performance [Imagine him playing Hamlet and you'll get the idea.], and Lombard as a theatrical couple living in occupied Poland. With the help of a young Polish flier (Robert Stack) and their acting company, the pair is able to neutralize a Nazi spy, and then narrowly escape to England.

    A simple plot, true, but it's how these performers go about accomplishing their task that has kept audiences laughing these many years...even when most movies about the Nazis were no longer funny.

    This, incidentally, was Lombard's final movie.

    Extras in this 2-disc set include audio commentary by film historian David Kalat, PINKUS' SHOW PALACE, a 1916 German silent short, directed by and starring Lubitsch, a 2010 French documentary on the director's career, plus two episodes of the radio anthology, "The Screen Guild Theatre": VARIETY with Jack Benny, Claudette Colbert and Lubitsch, and an adaptation of TO BE OR NOT TO BE with William Powell, Diana Lewis and Sig Ruman. The package also contains a Criterion booklet with an essay by critic Geoffrey O'Brien and a 1942 New York Times op-ed by Lubitsch.

    © Michael B. Druxman
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    6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious and Suspenseful August 29, 2013
    By Grrrr
    Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
    A film that is both comedic and suspenseful is no easy trick to pull off. Two that come to mind are FOUL PLAY and SILVER STREAK. Now we finally have this wonderful Criterion release of the classic 1942 Ernst Lubitsch comedy , YES - comedy!, about the Nazis occupying Warsaw, Poland and a small troupe of Polish actors who help to sabotage their invaders. This story isn't played for total laughs, and there are plenty of suspenseful moments, which makes this film so incredibly great. Interesting to note, that when this film was released in 1942, in the thick of the war, it was generally panned and criticized. Even Jack Benny's father walked out on the initial screening-mortified that his son would appear in a Nazi uniform. (Benny later changed his father's mind, And the man ended up loving it and seeing it 46 times!) The passing of time would end up finding this film generally loved and considered a comedy classic.
    Interesting notes: The film was Carole Lombard's last, and was released 2 months after she died in a plane crash.
    Sig Ruman, who plays Col. Ehrhardt, would go on to play the original "Sgt. Schultz" in Billy Wiler's STALAG 17.
    Look for an early role by Robert "Elliot Ness" Stack as the Polish pilot who has a crush on Carole Lombard's character.

    It's funny, because if you've ever watched the Jack Benny show, every now and then somebody will remark on a film he made - THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT - as "THE ONE" film he made, and never lived it down. I realize it was played for comedic effect, but he certainly had nothing to be ashamed of his Tour-de- force role in this excellent film!
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    13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Lubitsch Betters Brooks June 19, 2013
    By Karlius
    Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
    This original Fritz Lubitsch satire on Hitlerism no doubt inspired many followers including Mel Brooks, but Brooks' treatment of this same material lacks the Lubitsch touch, indeed. Probably Jack Benny's best film work--in which he doesn't play himself--is perfectly complementary to the incomparable Carole Lombard (in what I believe was her last film). One of Lubitsch's " touch" moves is his use of ensemble players and his ability to integrate a Benny or Lombard into the troupe (exception may be the wooden Robert Stack who in his early movies always seems to be auditioning to be Eliot Ness, but he serves as a perfect foil here). Anyone who has seen Brooks' ham-handed take will benefit greatly from this deft version.

    Brooks does much better in his original satiric attack on Hitlerism in "The Producers" (film and stage versions) than he does in his remake of this film, which depends on someone else's comic vision.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    5.0 out of 5 stars A crispy restoration of a wonderful classic
    I used to own an earlier DVD version of this wonderful Ernst Lubitsch film and watched it over and over. Read more
    Published 2 days ago by Aunt Blabby
    5.0 out of 5 stars Strike when the iron's hot.
    I caught a great price for a classic film DVD with its entertaining extras.

    This is a must-see for any fan of the Golden Age of movies.
    Published 1 month ago by Nick
    5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection from Criterion
    "To Be or Not to Be" has been available for many years on DVD and it was always a film which called for a commentary. Criterion have done the job perfectly. Read more
    Published 2 months ago by Douglas M
    5.0 out of 5 stars Most unknown of classic films . . .
    This was a brilliant dramady on a troupe of actors taking on the Third Reich. Sounds frightening but it's actually funny and shows a surprisingly good combination of comic and... Read more
    Published 2 months ago by Linda S.
    5.0 out of 5 stars Is this movie a tragical farce or a farcical tragedy??

    What if I told you that a movie exists that:

    (1) pits Jack Benny against the Nazis
    (2) is a farce set in occupied Warsaw, Poland
    (3) has jokes... Read more
    Published 3 months ago by Stephen Pletko
    5.0 out of 5 stars Inglourious Ernst (Criterion bluray spoilerless review)
    Every once in a while you learn about a movie that you never knew existed, that you can't believe you never knew existed. "To Be Or Not To Be" is one of those movies. Read more
    Published 3 months ago by A customer
    5.0 out of 5 stars amazingly funny
    if your POLISH its a must,if you want to laugh its a must .this is where MEL BROOKS got his idea to do a remake.
    Published 3 months ago by zorro
    5.0 out of 5 stars Bold and brilliant anti-Fascist farce -- excellent Criterion...
    Everything came together in this superbly nuanced 1942 Ernst Lubitsch comedy filmed in '41 and set in 1939 Warsaw (Poland), except for the timing of its initial release. Read more
    Published 4 months ago by TheNoomz83
    5.0 out of 5 stars SCHULTZ !!!
    To Be or Not To Be (from the Criterion Collection) is an outstanding black comedy that works on every level; I have rarely watched a film with this much humor and action combined. Read more
    Published 4 months ago by Matthew G. Sherwin
    5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic movie!!!
    So happy to have this on BR!
    And the Criterion Collection adds such wonderful extras!
    This is one film of which every movie collector should have two copies: one to... Read more
    Published 5 months ago by L. Nehring
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