Houseboat (1958)

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Released 6-Mar-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer
Teaser Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1958
Running Time 105:08
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Melville Shavelson
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Cary Grant
Sophia Loren
Martha Hyer
Harry Guardino
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music George Duning


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Danish
German
Greek
Spanish
French
Italian
Dutch
Norwegian
Portuguese
Finnish
Swedish
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, Loren and Guardino.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Houseboat stars two of the great stars of cinema history, Cary Grant and Sophia Loren. By 1958 Grant had been a major star for some time (since the late 1930s), while Italian star Loren was just starting to hit her peak internationally. Both are in excellent form in this film, and it is a joy to watch their scenes together. The film is a Romantic Comedy, and to add spice to the experience both of the leads were having a very public off-screen romance while it was being filmed.

    This film has always been something of a favourite of mine. I had come to be a Cary Grant fan through films such as Bringing Up Baby, Monkey Business and the fine films he made with Alfred Hitchcock (including North By Northwest). As for Loren, well I was a growing boy when I first saw this film, and developed a bit of a crush (fuelled further by her performance in It Started in Naples in 1960).

    The film itself is about a widower (Grant) trying to cope with the three young children left him when his estranged wife dies in a car accident. While he is struggling to cope with a family he has not seen for some time, Loren (Cinzia) is falling out with her father who is on tour as conductor of a symphony orchestra. Cinzia runs away from their apartment, as does Grant's youngest son. They meet and the young boy tags along with her to a nearby amusement park. Well, one thing leads to another and soon Cinzia is the new family maid (don't ask). Her father is not too happy about this and suspects she is dating behind his back. Cinzia protests that "He's 7 years old" - her father replies "In America that's old enough".

    The family are meant to move into a house which is being relocated to a new block of land. While it is crossing a railroad line, the driver of the truck towing it (Harry Guardino in a good performance) is distracted by Loren (who can blame him?) and a train hits the house. They are forced to move into a vacant houseboat (hence the title) and start to get to know one another a bit better. Romance blossoms, and after a romantic triangle or three involving Grant, Loren, Guardino and Grant's sister-in-law (Martha Hyer), it all comes right in the end.

    Well, you can tell from that brief synopsis that this is not the sort of film to win the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. On the positive side it has nicely judged performances from all four leads, and the 3 children also play their parts very well. There is a nice gentle feeling to the action, the comedy, and the romance, with the theme of the family coping with the loss of the mother also handled sensitively. Also, watch out for a brief appearance from a very young Werner Klemperer - some of you will remember him from TV's Hogan's Heroes.

    There are also some interesting moments where timing and manner (and the off-screen goings on) add significantly to the scene. Towards the end of the film, after Grant has been denying (to himself) his feelings for Loren, he comments about Guardino that "I've never seen a man behave so stupidly". Cinzia replies, with an arch look, "Haven't you?". This comment captures the essence of the relationships within the film, but can also be seen as a comment from the film-makers about the ageing Grant pursuing the much younger Loren. As I say, I like this film, and it is worth viewing to see two great stars at their prime, enjoying themselves in a relaxing and good-humoured film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Filmed in the VistaVision process with Technicolor film stock, the transfer is pretty good for a 45 year old film. While not perfect it looks better than many more recent DVD presentations.

    The aspect ratio is 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. The original theatrical release was at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, so the DVD is acceptably close.

    Overall the transfer is a little soft at times, but not unacceptably so. Shadow detail varies through the film. At one time (around 12:00-12:30) it is poor, but at other times night scenes are presented well (see 71:04). There is a little low level noise in some scenes employing rear projection, but this is infrequent.

    The colour is nice and vibrant for a film of this age (see the scene around 59:42 for an excellent example). Unfortunately, the outdoor scenes vary between location footage in long shots and studio footage shot in front of a rear-projection screen in close-up shots. The colour variation between these scenes is a little jarring (see 60:00 for one annoying example). There is also a change in colour at 67:14 which seems to be a new reel with differing preservation characteristics. I only mention these because the generally pleasing colour presentation makes these exceptions more noticeable than it would in a film which has not held its age so well.

    There were no significant MPEG artefacts seen. Aliasing was also minimal. Some minor film artefacts are apparent (see 37:04 for an example of a minor negative artefact) but they are small and you would have to be watching rather carefully to notice most. There is one horizontal black line at 96:02, but no other major damage. On the whole this is a well preserved print.

    The subtitles stay close to the meaning of the spoken dialogue, but stray quite often from being an exact translation. As one example "Stay there, stay there" becomes just "Stay there". The hearing impaired subtitles are also rather poor, missing a number of key on-screen actions (such as the noise of the house-moving truck hitting the family's car). You have another 12 foreign language subtitle tracks to choose from if either of the English ones fail to satisfy.

    This is a dual-layered disc, with a brief layer change at 56:02. It is not very disruptive, coming in the middle of a scene with no dialogue or music, and only some minor on-screen action.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is not as enjoyable as the video presentation. It is a rather "thin" mono track.

    There are 5 audio tracks, all of them presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (I am developing something of an antipathy for these 2.0 tracks). The languages available are English, Italian, German, Spanish and French. I listened to the English track (surprise!) as well as parts of the Italian. I was hoping that Loren would dub the Italian track, but it did not sound like her (though reasonably close). No one else can sound like Cary Grant (except perhaps Tony Curtis - refer the beach scene in Some Like It Hot), so no effort was made to match his voice.

    The dialogue is reasonably clear, with occasionally a loss of lip-sync. This may have been a factor in the original print as it is inconsistent during the film, but is acceptable overall.

    The music by George Duning is nicely understated and adds to the relaxed feel of the film. There are two songs, one a nice Sam Cooke ballad, the other a catchy number Loren sings (I think it is called Bing, bang, bong. Yes. Really). It has catchy lyrics such as "Presto, presto, do your very best-o". Trust me, it comes over nicely on the disc.

    There was no real surround presence, but the mono sound is spread across the front of the sound stage. Changing to Pro-Logic mode did little to add any atmosphere.

    The subwoofer boomed a little now and then during the musical numbers.

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

Extras

    For a change, an older, not particularly significant, film has a few accompanying extras. They are presented below in the order they appear on the DVD menu. While they are not particularly exciting they do help round out the package.

Menu

    There is a static menu, with 15 scenes available from the Scene Selection menu.

Gallery

    A set of 28 publicity shots for the film presented in crisp black & white. Some of these are quite good.

Theatrical Trailer

    This runs for 2:14. It is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is the usual long-winded summary of the film common at the time. The colour is good but it has a poor voice-over.

Teaser Trailer

    This one is also presented at a ratio of 1.78:1 and runs for 1:21. It is presented by Charles Herbert who plays the youngest son in the family. After describing some of the romantic action he concludes: "I can't wait until I grow up so I can understand it". My family laughed quite a lot when they heard that.

R4 vs R1

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

    This DVD is available in Region 1 in a similar edition to the Region 4, but misses out on some of the language tracks. Because of this and the PAL picture, the Region 4 version is preferred.

Summary

    Houseboat is a pleasant Romantic Comedy that can safely be watched by the whole family. The children will captivate the younger members of your brood (if you have one), while Cary Grant and Sophia Loren light up the screen and will entice older viewers. I have seen this disc for quite a low price at retail, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see two classic stars in their prime.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio is acceptable.

    The extras are basic, but of reasonable quality (and for a change I have no need of the Davison mantra: "There are no extras!").

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Sunday, November 23, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

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