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Pre-Code Hollywood Collection (The Cheat / Merrily We Go to Hell / Hot Saturday / Torch Singer / Murder at the Vanities / Search for Beauty) (Universal Backlot Series)

4.3 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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  • Pre-Code Hollywood Collection (The Cheat / Merrily We Go to Hell / Hot Saturday / Torch Singer / Murder at the Vanities / Search for Beauty) (Universal Backlot Series)
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  • TCM Archives: Forbidden Hollywood Collection - Volume One (Waterloo Bridge (1931) / Baby Face / Red-Headed Woman)
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Editorial Reviews

For the first time ever, Universal opens its vaults to bring you 6 classic films from the most decadent era in motion picture history: Pre-Code Hollywood. In 1934, Hollywood was turned upside down by the enforcement of a strict “Production Code” that would change the way movies were made for the next 34 years. During the “pre-Code” period (1929 to mid-1934), censorship barely existed in Hollywood and filmmakers had free reign to make the movies they wanted and the public demanded. No subject was taboo including adultery, murder, or sex. Starring screen legends Cary Grant, Fredric March, Claudette Colbert, Tallulah Bankhead, Randolph Scott, and Sylvia Sidney, the Pre-Code Hollywood Collection forever captures one of the most unique periods in cinema history. The Cheat A compulsive gambler (Tallulah Bankhead) will do anything to pay off her debt - including turning to a wealthy businessman behind her husband’s back. Merrily We Go to Hell An abusive alcoholic (Fredric March) reunites with a woman from his past and drives his wife (Sylvia Sidney) to drastic measures. Hot Saturday Scandal erupts after a young woman (Nancy Carroll) innocently spends the night with a notorious playboy (Cary Grant) and neglects to tell her fiancé (Randolph Scott). Torch Singer After giving up her illegitimate child for adoption, a notorious nightclub singer (Claudette Colbert) attempts to find her daughter through a children’s radio show. Murder at the Vanities While sexy musical revue “The Vanities” captivates an audience on its opening night, a murder investigation takes place backstage. Search for Beauty Olympic swimming champions (Buster Crabbe and Ida Lupino) are tricked into endorsing a racy magazine - and much worse.

Special Features

Disc 1 - The Cheat:
  • Forbidden Film: The Production Code Era

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Cary Grant, Fredric March, Tallulah Bankhead, Randolph Scott, Sylvia Sidney
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
    • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
    • Subtitles: French, Spanish
    • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Number of discs: 3
    • Rated:
      NR
      Not Rated
    • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
    • DVD Release Date: April 7, 2009
    • Run Time: 466 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B001QFFBAM
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,438 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "Pre-Code Hollywood Collection (The Cheat / Merrily We Go to Hell / Hot Saturday / Torch Singer / Murder at the Vanities / Search for Beauty) (Universal Backlot Series)" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    Verified Purchase
    While the interest in pre-code (June 1934) American talkies may never have been greater than currently, it should not be assumed that the films are good simply because they deal with subjects which became off limits after the code was upheld. This package is a case in point. We have 6 entries from Paramount Studios and they vary from very good to very bad. Let's start with the bad.

    "Search for Beauty", released in 1934, is a terrible film. The pre-code elements are some nudity and a screenplay based on exploitation using sex as the bait. This would be of interest if the context in which they were presented had any merit but this must be one of the worst films ever. The garrulous screenplay concerns the sex-ploitation of athletic specimens, fronts for the get rich schemes of a trio of ex-cons. A teenage Ida Lupino, looking like a kewpie doll, and Buster Crabbe, an Olympic swimmer, star as the dupes, first via a health magazine and subsequently a health farm. The screenplay is dreadful, the production values ordinary, the editing poor and the cynicism behind the plot mind blowing. The film promoted a real life "Search for Beauty" and Ann Sheridan, who made her debut in this film and can be glimpsed as the winner from Texas, confirmed later in interviews that the whole thing was as appalling as it seems on the screen.

    "Merrily We Go To Hell", released in 1932, is a marital drama whereby alcoholic writer Fredric March marries heiress Sylvia Sidney. When she is unable to reform him, she joins him in his extra curricular activities until she finds she is pregnant. It is a weak film with too much exposition. While the stars do a good job, the director, Dorothy Arzner, tries for unsubtle camera tricks which are corny.
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    I am not all that familiar with the other films in this package, but I can highly recommend Mitchell Leisen's MURDER AT THE VANITIES 1934 with Kitty Carlilse, Carl Brisson, Jack Oakie, Victor McLaglen, Gertrude Michael, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. This is a wonderful back-stage murder mystery with lavish musical numbers in the Busby-Berkeley style, with exciting visuals and some scantily dressed chorus girls. Songs include "Cocktails For Two", the outrageous "Marijuana" (in which blood, from a murder victim, drips down from the rafters onto the shoulders of one of the half naked chorus girls while they are all performing on stage), "Where Do They Come From, Where Do They Go?" and "Ebony Rhapsody". If you're a fan of 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Dames, Lady Of Burlesque, etc., you're going to love this rare gem, and now it's finally coming to DVD April 9th!
    2 Comments 69 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Looking at what's available on DVD, you'd think that Universal did nothing more than crank out horror film after horror film during the early 1930's. In fact, they branched out from their typical western fare into other types of films from time to time. Probably the best known is Best Picture winner "All Quiet on the Western Front", but there was also the all-color musical "King of Jazz", "Broadway" and "Lonesome" directed by a bacteriologist, and a variety of precodes. Unfortunately, none of Universal's precodes are in this bunch. On the bright side, this is some of the best precode material from Paramount, which Universal happens to own. This time they even provide some extras. This is a great improvement over The Cecil B. DeMille Collection (Cleopatra/ The Crusades/ Four Frightened People/ Sign of the Cross/ Union Pacific) in which some of DeMille's more interesting precode Paramount films were dumped into a collection with no commentary, no context, nothing. The following description comes from the press release with a few extra comments of my own. These are never on TV and it's not like I've seen them all last week, but I have seen them and do recommend them.

    The Cheat (1931, 74 min.) directed by George Abbott
    (Actually a Paramount production)
    A compulsive gambler (Tallulah Bankhead) will do anything to pay off her debt - including turning to a wealthy businessman behind her husband's back.

    Merrily We Go to Hell directed by Dorothy Arzner (1932, 78 min.)
    (Actually a Paramount production)
    An abusive alcoholic (Fredric March) reunites with a woman from his past and drives his wife (Sylvia Sidney) to drastic measures.
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    Verified Purchase
    Received Pre-Code Hollywood collection Friday 4/10/09. Watched The Cheat & Merrily We Go To Hell Friday night and Hot Saturday plus Torch Singer tonight. They are in excellent visual and audio condition and over 75 years old. Fascinating stories with excellent acting by all the female leads --Tallulah Bankhead, Sylvia Sidney, Claudette Colbert and Nancy Carroll. What gorgeous women! Lovely early 30s background music, nifty cars, fabulous clothes, great stories that move fast - - little more than an hour each. WHAT IS THERE NOT TO LIKE ABOUT THIS COLLECTION OF PRE-CODE MOVIES???? Can't wait to see the other two films tomorrow night. Thank you Universal for QUALITY. No need to have all the extras when you can have such good films of this vintage. Very nice packaging too. PLEASE PLEASE bring more of your pre-code Paramount films to DVD. Any chance of 1931 movie 24 Hours with Miriam Hopkins?? Thomas C. Kelly
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