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

4.7 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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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.

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!

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Robert Stack
    • Directors: Ernst Lubitsch
    • Format: Multiple Formats, 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: 1.37:1
    • Number of discs: 1
    • Rated:
      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 (50 customer reviews)
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,434 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "To Be or Not to Be (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    Format: DVD
    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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    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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    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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    Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
    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.

    A film produced by a Jewish director (Ernst Lubitsch) making fun of Nazi's in 1941 was a risk on a variety of levels, and although it met with much critical (and political) condemnation it stayed in the minds of all the right people, with Mel Brooks more comedic remake and later frequent tips of the hat by Quentin Tarantino/The Weinstein Company in Inglourious Basterds (Blu-ray + DVD). Being Jewish and making a pseudo comedy about Hitler carries a certain degree of satisfaction, but for Lubitsch it was personal. Indeed, Lubitsch's face had been used in an early Nazi propaganda film and Hitler used him as an example of supposed corrupt influences within Europe that needed to be stamped out.

    Although we would probably call it a black comedy today, Lubitsch himself described TBONTB as a "tragical farce or a farcial tragedy". The film is certainly funny in parts, excellent really, but frequently enough in an understated manner that for me at least seemed more drama than comedy. That is not a criticism by any means, but for anyone thinking this will be a "Mel Brooks" type of funny it simply won't be. It is pretty unique, which is pretty rare indeed. If you like intelligent comedy that relies on context and wordplay you won't be disappointed.

    Carole Lombard and Jack Benny are superb and on top of their game here, and the film transfer is excellent. Even if you have never heard of Lubitsch but are Benny or Lombard fans you will like this movie.
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