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The Bette Davis Collection - Volume 3 (The Old Maid / All This, And Heaven Too / The Great Lie / In This Our Life / Watch on the Rhine / Deception)
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Bette Davis Collection Volume 3 (DVD)
IN THIS OUR LIFE Homewrecker Davis runs off with sister Olivia de Havilland’s hubby and that’s just for starters! THE OLD MAID Let the fireworks begin. Miriam Hopkins poses as the mother of the child Davis bore out of wedlock…the arrangement is beginning to fray. ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO Enchanted by governess Davis, nobleman Charles Boyer murders his wife. But is la Bette as innocent as she appears? THE GREAT LIE Friends make the best enemies. Scheming concert pianist Mary Astor and selfless Davis are entangled in secrets and lies. DECEPTION Now, Voyagers' Davis, Claude Rains and Paul Henried reunite in a gloriously flamboyant tale of musicians, indiscretion and murder. WATCH ON THE RHINE A leader of Germany’s anti-Hitler underground is hunted by Nazi agents in Washington DC. Dashiell Hammett adapts Lillian Hellman’s play.]]>
To quote Claude Reins in "Deception," Bette Davis is "all eyes and talent," and both burn bright in six vintage films she made for Warner Bros. between 1939-46. Lesser known than her certified classics, these are not exactly best Bettes, but they are marvelously entertaining and a representative showcase for one of Hollywoods most enduring leading ladies. These eminently repeatable films put Davis (and viewers) through the ringer. Few actresses portrayed characters who suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune so grandly, so regally, so tragically, or so deservedly. As an ad for one of Davis movies once famously proclaimed, when she was good, she was very good. When she was bad, she was terrific. Just check out John Hustons In This Our Life (1942), this sets unearthed treasure. Bette, flouncing like mad, jilts her fiancée, steals good sister Olivia de Havillands husband, and promptly drives him to drink and suicide. And shes just getting warmed up! (You dont need Jeannine Basingers informed commentary to debunk the tantalizing movie legend about a supposed cameo by members of the Matlese Falcon cast. Those gents at the bar look nothing like Bogie and company. But that is Walter, Johns father, tending bar). Davis was also very good at being noble. In the prestige project, Watch on the Rhine (1943), based on Lillian Hellmans play and adapted for the screen by Dashiell Hammett, she is the steadfast wife to Paul Lukas, in his Oscar-winning role, as a "legendary figure of the underground movement," who carries on his fight against fascism in Washington, D.C. In The Old Maid (1939), based on the novel by Edith Wharton, Bette allows her cousin (Miriam Hopkins) to give her illegitimate child a respectable name, and, posing as the girls unsuspecting aunt, must stand by while she grows up spoiled and "horrid." And in All This and Heaven Too (1940), she is a transplanted French schoolteacher who regales her initially scornful students with the true story behind her scandalous past. Deception is another ripping melodrama in which she stars as a pianist whose reunion with her lost love (Paul Henreid), a cellist is threatened by Rains as her arrogant and sadistic Svengali (whos responsible for those minks in her closet). Last but not least is The Great Lie (1941), pitting Bette against Mary Astor, who won an Academy Award as the bitchy concert pianist whose son Bette is raising (long story, but it involves missing aviator George Brent, whom they both love). These films offer such they-don't-make-'em-like-this-anymore pleasures as lush, melodramatic scores by such masters as Max Steiner, hothouse emotions, quotable dialogue, and, of course, indelible character actors at their peaks. These films are seen to their best advantage when viewed as part of each discs bonus features that recreate an old fashioned "Night at the Movies," complete with theatrical previews, newsreels, short subjects, and Warner Bros. cartoons featuring Porky Pig or Daffy Duck. --Donald Liebenson
- Aspect Ratio : 1.33:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : NR (Not Rated)
- Product Dimensions : 7.5 x 5.5 x 3.5 inches; 1.2 Pounds
- Media Format : Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Restored, Full Screen, NTSC
- Run time : 11 hours and 8 minutes
- Release date : April 1, 2008
- Actors : Bette Davis, Mary Astor, Miriam Hopkins, George Brent, Claude Rains
- Subtitles: : English, French
- Language : English (Dolby Digital 1.0), Unqualified
- Studio : WarnerBrothers
- ASIN : B0012OX7DA
- Number of discs : 6
- Best Sellers Rank: #119,799 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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This 1948 black and white film is beautifully and imaginatively photographed. While the film is not really a noir one, it is atmospheric, and you may feel your own hair is getting wet during a sullen, foggy rainy New York night. How the trick of making Henreid magnificently “play” the cello, with the usual facial grimaces players on stringed instruments are well known for, the left hand fingers plucking those vibrating strings, the right hand making the bow sing I can't imagine. (I am reminded of Cary Grant convincingly “playing” the harp in “The Bishop's Wife”).
The funniest scene in the film occurs when Hollenius takes Christine and Karel to a fancy restaurant for a pre-concert dinner. Alex proceeds to be the ultimate gourmet, endlessly discussing entrees, sauces, truffles and the like, enthralling the waiters. At one point a waiter brings by a large platter of something. Alex picks up a tiny dead bird- a lark, maybe- and even smells it. He chatters away endlessly in French, opining that no woodcocks are available. His two guests grow more and more sullen as Alex carries out his little performance.
To modern audiences, Christine's little charade of not being Alex's lover seems extremely over-wrought. Perhaps people were more innocent in 1946. However, “Deception” is well worth watching, especially seeing Bette Davis at the top of her form. They don't make them like Bette Davis any more.
Bette, a pianist, believing Henreid dead, came to America in the interim and embarked on an affair with her musical mentor Hollenius (a delightfully wicked Claude Raines). Bette now lives in New York City where Hollenius has installed her in a deluxe penthouse apartment, adorned her in furs and filled her living space with expensive art and furnishings.
This gives Bette some serious explaining to do when she and Henreid go to her apartment after the performance. But instead of being honest and telling Henreid about the affair, Bette decides to deceive him (hence the title) and tells him that the opulence of her apartment was made possible by tutoring rich music students.
Although it's an implausible plot contrivance (since apparently the entire city and music community knows of their affair, to say nothing of expecting Hollenius to pretend no such affair happened), we must excuse it because without this contrivance, there would be no story. For Hollenius , upon discovering her plan to ditch him and marry Henreid, realizes the power of the bargaining chip he holds. As long as she is not willing to tell Henreid of the affair, Hollenius can control her, blackmail and extort anything he wants from her by threatening to reveal it.
And so he does. He informs Davis that she belongs to him, although he will permit her this folly of a marriage and relationship. However, she will continue to secretly be his concubine (for all practical purposes) while he does everything possible to emasculate and destroy her new husband.
To explain why Davis doesn't just tell Henried she had the affair (which he already suspects anyway) and get it over with, the writers have given Henreid a convenient (for plot purposes) streak of insane jealousy (he actually STRANGLES her when he first sees her apartment, rightly believing it to have been paid for in sexual favors). So we can rather forgive Davis for not wanting to be strangled again. (Imagine this device being used today for a male character who is supposed to be "Mister Right"!)
What keeps "Deception" from being an unpleasant and uncomfortable film to watch is the underlying black humor which pervades the proceedings. Despite it's grandly operatic look and feel, the film is not entirely a serious one. It's a bit of a satire about the ridiculous situations people put themselves in when they refuse to tell the truth. Raines especially has fun with his role as the wicked puppet-master, and even tells Davis at one point, "why don't you just tell him the truth? Your lie has given me everything I need to control you!" But Bette sticks by her guns--literally, as it turns out--and if you are a Davis fan you will likely have fun watching her navigate this polished but slightly absurd film to its suitably melodramatic conclusion.
Top reviews from other countries
1. The Old Maid
2. All This, and Heaven Too
3. The Great Lie
4. In This Our Life
5. Watch on The Rhine
I enjoyed these rare old movies. Had not seen any of them. I bought on amazon sale 2016 for 15.99. This is a good set.
The picture and sound for all the movies is good. Each DVD has good chapter menus, the original trailer for the film, and its own set of special features, including "Warner Night at the Movies" and, for 3 or 4 of the DVDs, a commentary track.
I think I should report a minor but systemic flaw in the "Warner Night at the Movies" feature. One of the regular items in this feature is a newsreel, generally from the exact same year of the film and often from within a month or two of the film's release. But for some reason -- and I've never seen this problem on any Warner DVD before -- in at least two of the newsreels there is no audio, and in another of the newsreels the sound is there for only part of the running time. It's pretty pointless to have a "newsreel" where the viewer can't hear what the announcer is saying, so one wonders why Warner would include such defective newsreels.
It is logically possible that I got defective DVDs -- defective only in the newsreel audio. But this seems unlikely; what are the chances that I alone would get three defective DVDs in a set, and defective *only* on the newsreel, and *only* for the audio? It seems more likely that some sort of engineering mistake was made in manufacturing the DVDs or in the audio mastering. If anyone else had this problem with this set -- or if anyone didn't -- it might be useful to Amazon customers if those people would append comments here, to give some idea of how widespread this defect is. But in any case, the newsreels are short -- only about a minute each -- and the ones that are missing the sound don't seem particularly interesting anyway. I mention the missing audio only because potential buyers deserve to know what they are buying.
For information on the films themselves, readers can consult the IMDb. I will say that I didn't buy this collection for Bette Davis, but for some of the other stars and because some of the plots sounded interesting. However, Davis was very good in most of the films. I particularly liked her in All This, and Heaven, Too, and in Watch on the Rhine; in both of these films her characters are different from the usual extreme characters one expects her to play, and it is a testimony to her acting talent that she can portray more than one kind of female role convincingly. I think she is helped in this by two stellar performances in these films by Charles Boyer and Paul Lukas respectively; Boyer gives one of his finest acting performances, Lukas one of his best as well. Olivia De Havilland also has some fine moments in *In This Our Life* (which has some fine performances from several other actors as well). In the other films, there are good performances by Miriam Hopkins, Mary Astor, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains.
All the films have that Warner Bros. 1940s polish about them -- great music, sets, photography, scripts, etc. They are pleasant to watch for their sheer competence of execution. You will enjoy at least some of these films if you are a lover of that period of film history -- unless you simply dislike Bette Davis so much that she spoils any film for you. (But if that were the case, you probably would not be reading this review!) As I said, I didn't buy the collection for Davis. But two or three of her performances in these films are outstanding, which is icing on the cake for me.
I got a brand-new copy of the set very recently for only $40, but as it is out of print at the moment, many people are asking outrageous prices for the set. Don't jump to pay the top dollar. These movies are good, but the set is not worth hundreds of dollars. Look around for new or "like new" used copies. If you dig around patiently, eventually you should find a copy at a reasonable price.
As a DVD product, I would give this set about 4.5 stars out of 5, due to the faulty audio on the newsreels. But when you take into account all the other special features, and the high quality of the prints, and the fact that the movies are mostly very good, a ranking of 5 stars would not be terribly misleading.