Of Human Bondage (Force) (1934)

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Released 17-Dec-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Audio
Biographies-Cast
Filmographies-Cast
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1934
Running Time 82:40
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Cromwell
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Leslie Howard
Bette Davis
Frances Dee
Reginald Owen
Reginald Denny
Kay Johnson
Alan Hale
Reginald Sheffield
Desmond Roberts
Tempe Pigott
Case PUSH-T1
RPI $19.95 Music Max Steiner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, Extensive throughout.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Of Human Bondage was one of the first major films to feature Bette Davis (at 26 years of age), and is commonly regarded as the film which first brought her to the attention of the movie industry in any significant way. Her performance shows all the signs of greater roles to come; her archetypal "borderline psychotic" image and of course those trademark eyes.

    Philip Carey (Leslie Howard) is a club-footed medical student who becomes smitten with arrogant, amoral working-class waitress Mildred Rogers. The story revolves around the emotional and financial havoc which Mildred (Bette Davis) wreaks on Philip. She abuses his kind-heartedness and chivalry throughout the film, taking his attention, money and hospitality whilst giving him only heartache in return. Despite the attentions of the far more attractive pulp novelist Norah (Kay Johnson) and the charming Sally (Frances Dee), Philip stoically endures the torture of his obsessive relationship with Mildred.

    It is somewhat perplexing as to why Philip continues to be infatuated with Mildred, as she fails to display any redeeming features throughout the film. Perhaps, as a resigned Philip says in the movie "There is usually one who loves...and one who is loved". This emotional sadomasochism is somewhat depressing to watch, as Philip seems unable to defend himself whilst Mildred takes a twisted pleasure in humiliating him both in private and in public. Howard is typecast as the pathetic English gentleman with the fledgling Davis bitter and vitriolic well beyond her years. Whilst Davis' slightly melodramatic acting hints at her future stardom, her "Cockney" accent is poor and grates throughout.

    This is my first review, and I approached it with some trepidation as this movie was made in 1934. That's almost 70 years ago for those of you without a calculator handy! With that in mind, much of the language used in the film is somewhat quaint and your expectations of image and sound quality should be tailored appropriately. If you are unfamiliar with this W. Somerset Maugham tale, then ensure you do not read the back-jacket blurb before watching the movie. The entire story is given away in significant detail, which completely undermines the plot development in the actual film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This film is 70 years old and despite being told on the case that it has been "Fully Restored. Digitally Remastered", it shows.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer suffers from a distinct lack of sharpness. There are numerous occasions where close-up shots of telegrams and letters are almost unreadable, for example at 40:10 and 73:15. This is frustrating as they are often used to convey important plot information. There is a lack of shadow detail evident throughout the movie, with darker scenes often impenetrable.

    The transfer is marred by MPEG artefacts and has been heavily overcompressed, with Gibb's effect apparent throughout. Macro blocking is also present throughout, which contributes to the film's distinct lack of sharpness.

    Film artefacts abound, with flecks, specks, reel-change marks and scratches cropping up throughout the movie. Collectively, these are mildly distracting, but are not unexpected given the age of the source material. There are also instances where the film jumps, skipping a number of frames, most noticeably at 4:40.

    There are no subtitles present on the disc.

    This is a single layered disc.

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

Audio

    There is an extremely irritating "click" almost every time the camera shot is changed and between every scene change. This is very distracting and good examples can be heard between 5:30 and 6:45.

    There is only one audio track on the disc, which is English Dolby Digital 2.0. The soundtrack has a very mono feel throughout.

    The dialogue was usually clear but there were occasions when it became distorted, for example between 51:45 and 52:30. Leslie Howard's speech occasionally appeared slurred and was not helped by his habit of talking with a pipe in his mouth. There was some hiss apparent during quiet periods between dialogue and the sound appears to drop out altogether for a few seconds at 43:02.

    The musical score is credited to Austrian composer Max Steiner and, whilst not particularly memorable, the sad strings do suit the generally melancholy mood of the film well. Steiner was a major composer for American movies and wrote scores for some of the most important films of the day including Gone with the Wind and King Kong. He won three Academy Awards for his compositions - this was not one of them.

    The surround channels were not used.

    As would be expected, the subwoofer was totally unused throughout the movie.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a rather nice colour painting of the novel and the two main protagonists. It incorporates romantic sound bites from the movie, with music playing (rather loudly) in the background. A chapter index featuring 20 stops is also present.

Biographies

    Short text biographies for Leslie Howard (3 pages) and Bette Davis (4 pages). These make interesting, if rather brief, reading.

Filmographies

    Filmographies for Leslie Howard (1930-1943) and Bette Davis (1939-1981).

R4 vs R1

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

    There appear to be two different Region 1 DVD versions of this movie available. The first appears to be a bare bones disc, whilst the second features a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and additional extras including a Trivia Quiz, News Reels, Bloopers and Lobby Posters.

Summary

        Of Human Bondage is a movie which was considered risqué when it was made in 1934, due to the tawdry nature of Mildred's character. By today's standards, the subject matter looks rather tame, the acting is somewhat stilted and the film, for me, does not warrant repeat viewing.

    The video quality is poor, but acceptable for a 70 year old film.

    The audio quality is poor.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Monday, April 07, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationONKYO TX-DS484
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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