Revisiting another LaserDisc title, Criterion presents Alexander Hallís Here Comes Mr. Jordan on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1. This new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 2K scan of a preservation fine-grain positive. The film is presented on a dual-layer disc.
Again, Iím sort of surprised Sony didnít go all out and give the title a new 4K restoration but the end product we get here is still very impressive. I donít recall any large issues: the source is in excellent condition and it remains stable throughout, without any drastic drops in quality. Damage isnít a major concern, with a few little blemishes, like dirt, popping up in places, but I donít recall any large marks. Contrast levels also look nicely balanced with nice shifts in the grays that blend naturally. Black levels are also fairly deep and crushing isnít a major concern.
The digital transfer itself is very clean and the picture does look quite filmic. I didnít notice any digital artifacts and grain, which can get heavier in a couple of places, is rendered cleanly, and detail levels are high. The image remains quite sharp throughout, though I feel some shots were intentionally done a bit softer. It looks really nice and I think this is about as accurate a rendering of the film as one could hope for on the format. 8/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
In a perfect world (well, my perfect world) this title would have somehow been paired with the Warren Beatty remake, Heaven Can Wait (preferably with its own release), though I knew there was a slim to nil chance of that actually happening. But I guess I still expected a somewhat stacked special edition for what is a fairly high-profile title and itís slim pickings here.
There is a new interview included between critic Michael Sragow and filmmaker/classic film distributor Michael Schlesinger called Comedy and the Afterlife. The 32-minute conversation features the two talking about the film, Sragow first talking about how he reacted to the film when he saw it as a child (which pretty much mirrored my reaction to Beattyís remake, which I saw as a child and well before Here Comes Mr. Jordan). From here they talk about the impact the film had and the films it in turn influenced, from Powell and Pressburgerís A Matter of Life and Death to Xanadu (which was a musical remake of this filmís sequel, Down to Earth) and then to the straight-up remakes of Heaven Can Wait and 2001ís Down to Earth (which took the name of the original sequel despite being a remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan). They talk about those films to varying degrees, even mentioning a remake Bill Cosby didnít quite get off the ground, and it sounds as though Down to Earth (the 2001 remake, not the 1947 sequel) was probably born out of this project.
Other than going through the number of films this film somehow influenced the two also talk about Here Comes Mr. Jordanís production, talking about the unlikely casting of Robert Montgomery, James Gleasonís touching up of the script (as well as his role in the film), the filmís balance of bitter and sweet, and so on. I think I ultimately appreciated it more for the historical context of the filmís impact, but their thoughts on the film, along with facts about the filmís production, also prove fascinating.
Next is a 1991 audio interview between film scholar Robert Haver and actor Elizabeth Montgomery, daughter of Robert Montgomery and star of Bewitched. This audio interview was presented as an alternate audio track on Criterionís LaserDisc edition of the film, and played over the film similar to an audio commentary (this was also the sole feature on that LaserDisc). Here itís presented as a completely separate supplement and plays over a still of Robert Montgomery. Itís a very broad interview, with the two talking about a number of subjects, but most of the attention is paid to her memories of her father. She talks about her childhood, which she remembers as being normal because she didnít realize her dad was famous (same with her dadís good friend, ďUncleĒ James Cagney). His fame still played into her life, though, especially after she realized many friends she made were a byproduct of them simply wanting to meet her dad. Interestingly sheís not overly familiar with his films, but that seems to be because her father simply didnít let her watch movies, and cruelly enough the first movie of his she thinks she saw was Night Must Fall (where her dad plays a psycho) at a very young age. But she talks about the films she has seen, like Ride the Pink Horse and, of course, Here Comes Mr. Jordan.
Thereís not a lot of Mr. Jordan, though of all of the films she mentions it receives the most attention, and she does talk about how she believes the Beatty remake came about (Evelyn Keyes may have somehow played a role in that) and even recalls Bill Cosby approaching her about a version he wanted to do. The interview is best, though, where she just simply talks about her dad and all of the things she learned about him. Amusingly (though this certainly isnít uncommon between parents and their offspring) there is a lot of stuff she didnít know about her dad that she has picked up over the years, and she shares these details here. The last portion of the interview concentrates on Bewitched, with Haver asking her a number of questions about that television show and its production, even asking her what her favourite episode is. It is admittedly a bit of an odd feature because it wasóas far as I knowórecorded specifically for Criterionís LaserDisc edition of Here Comes Mr. Jordan but has very little about the film specifically, with a good chunk of it, maybe about a quarter of itóa third of it at mostófocused on Bewitched, almost as though Haver was a huge fan and just had to ask her about everything he wanted to know about the show while he had the chance (not that any of this isnít interesting, because it is). Her father is really the only real link and as a reflection on him itís a great feature, certainly entertaining and filled with some great stories. My only real beef with the feature is that I wish it was actually still included as an alternate audio track to the film, similar to the LaserDisc. It does run a bit shy of the filmís running time (the interview runs just under 80-minutes) but running it with the film like the LaserDisc (which was admittedly more out of necessity than anything else) would probably have made it feel a bit less static. As it is, though, itís still a solid addition and worth a listen.
Criterion next includes the Lux Radio Theater adaptation of the film that was broadcast in 1942. It has Claude Rains, Evelyn Keyes, and James Gleason return in their respective roles, but interestingly Cary Grant fills Montgomeryís role of Joe Pendleton. Whatís intriguing about this is that the rights to original play were bought up by Columbia with the intention of developing it for Cary Grant to star in. This is mentioned in the Sragow/Schlesinger interview, as well as the notes for this feature, though I donít recall it being mentioned why Grant didnít do the film. Montgomery goes an interesting route with the role and it is fun watching him in it, though itís not too hard to imagine Grant in it and you get a taste of how he would have gone with it here. This adaptation (which appears to have had all of the advertisements removed sadly) runs almost 53-minutes, so of course the story has been trimmed, either by rushing through certain bits of exposition or skipping sequences entirely (for example, the police investigation at the end has been completely excised). I also was amused that for radio, Mr. Jordan only pushes that Joeís voice may sound the same to him, but to everyone else he will sound like the Bruno Farnsworth; his looks donít get much of a mention. Itís otherwise a fairly faithful adaptation, right down to the lights apparently dimming at the end. Sound quality is okay, but age hasnít been exactly kind to these recordings. Everything is at least still audible.
The disc closes with a trailer and the enclosed insert features an excellent essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme, who shares her thoughts on the film and its lasting appeal, as well as giving a brief but thorough account of its production. She also devotes a bit of space to one of the filmís stars, Evelyn Keyes.
Though I enjoyed all of the material I was still a little let down by the lack of much else. Still, there is at least a few hoursí worth of material here. 7/10