Joe Butterfly (1957) (NTSC)

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Released 9-Oct-2019

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1957
Running Time 89:44
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jesse Hibbs
Studio
Distributor
ViaVision Starring Audie Murphy
George Nader
Keenan Wynn
Keiko Shima
John Agar
Charles McGraw
Fred Clark
Burgess Meredith
Eddie Firestone
Case ?
RPI ? Music None Given


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In the days immediately after Japan’s surrender in 1945 the staff of the army’s Yank Magazine including photographer Private Joe Woodley (Audie Murphy) and sergeants Ed Kennedy (George Nader), Dick Mason (John Agar) and Jim McNulty (Charles McGraw) are sent into Tokyo by their commanding officer Colonel E.E. Fuller (Fred Clark) and given three days to put together the last issue of the magazine. In Tokyo the team face not only a lack of office space to produce their magazine but also opposition from Henry Hathaway (Keenan Wynn), a war correspondent from the rival Trend Magazine, and interference from Colonel Fuller’s assistant Sergeant Oscar Hulick (Eddie Firestone). That is until the team run into Japanese wheeler dealer and black marketeer Joe Butterfly (Burgess Meredith) who gets them a deal to live in a large house with a Japanese family who are starving. The Japanese provide the space, the Americans provide the food for them and Joe Butterfly’s extended family while Woodley becomes smitten by the family’s daughter Chieko (Keiko Shima). All sorts of underhanded dealings and subterfuge ensue as the team try to meet their deadline while avoiding Hathaway, their own Colonel and the authorities.

     Joe Butterfly was directed by Jesse Hibbs who had previously helmed Murphy’s WW2 biopic To Hell and Back (1955) and would direct Murphy the following year in Ride a Crooked Trail (1958). Thereafter, however, he worked as a TV director with episodes of Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Rawhide and especially Perry Mason on his resume.

     Joe Butterfly was based on a stage play by Evan Wylie and Jack Ruge and is very much a comedy that is a product of its time. There is slapstick, mostly in connection with Keenan Wynn’s opposition correspondent character, quaint Japanese customs and cultural misunderstandings and an American actor Burgess Meredith (perhaps most familiar for playing the Penguin in the Batman TV series, although he did receive two best supporting Oscar nominations for The Day of the Locust (1975) and Rocky (1976)) here playing a stereotyped Japanese character with funny diction and toothy facial features. It was 1957 I suppose, but most of the film still feels wrong.

     It is easy to dismiss Joe Butterfly and indeed it has been basically forgotten. Audie Murphy may be one reason it survives but while he receives top billing he disappears from the plot for a lot of the time and the actual lead is George Nader’s Sergeant Ed Kennedy, who actually goes through a journey of coming to understand the Japanese people who a short time ago he had been fighting. And while there is a lot that is groan inducing about Joe Butterfly it is impossible to dislike the film because its ultimate message is about the need for the occupying US forces to show tolerance and understanding towards the Japanese people now that the war was over.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The original aspect ratio of Joe Butterfly was 2.35:1; the opening credits are in this ratio but the film itself is 1.33:1, in NTSC and not 16x9 enhanced.

     The print also has other issues. The opening titles flicker, the colours often look washed out, there are regular speckles and a couple of big marks (one at 55:34), and aliasing on coats. The film is quite soft and in the one night sequence, at the Japanese party, blacks are fine but shadow detail indistinct. Skin tones are okay, brightness and contrast vary occasionally.

     No subtitles are provided except where they automatically translate some Japanese dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 192 Kbps.

     This is not an action film. The dialogue is easy to understand while effects are limited to some building works and engines. There is no credit for the score which uses stock music including “catchy oriental” themes.

     There is no hiss or crackle.

     The lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     The silent menu only offers “Play”.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     I can find one review of a Region 2 PAL release of Joe Butterfly, a DVD that has no extras, a range of artefacts but is 2.23:1 although not 16x9. I am not sure that actually improves the presentation though. In Australia the film was part of the Audie Murphy: Man of the West Collection II, which is part of this Audie Murphy Ultimate Western Collection. See the summary section below.

Summary

     The best one can say for Joe Butterfly as a comedy is that it was a product of its times. The film now just feels dated and somewhat cringe-worthy although the underlying message about tolerance and understanding is worthwhile. The film is hard to recommend, especially given the incorrect aspect ratio. The audio is fine.

     Joe Butterfly is included as a bonus in the 14 disc / 14 film set Audie Murphy Ultimate Western Collection of 14 movies made by Murphy between 1950 and 1966; all the rest are westerns. The Audie Murphy Ultimate Western Collection is made up from the Audie Murphy: Man of the West Collection and the Audie Murphy: Man of the West Collection II. Both of these individual Man of the West Collection packs have been released previously. But if you are a fan of westerns or a fan of Audie Murphy and don’t have those two earlier collections, this Audie Murphy Ultimate Western Collection is a good buy.

     The Audie Murphy Ultimate Western Collection was supplied for review by Via Vision Entertainment. Check out their Facebook page for the latest releases, giveaways, deals and more.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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