Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town (1950)

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Released 6-Dec-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Trailer-Original theatrical 50 sec teaser
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1950
Running Time 076:08
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (103:26) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Charles Lamont

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Marjorie Main
Percy Kilbride
Richard Long
Meg Randall
Gregg Martel
Charles McGraw
Kathryn Givney
Paul McVey
Jim Backus
Case ?
RPI Box Music Milton Schwarzwald

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis


"The family that made laughter a national pastime."

     Produced in 1949 and released in 1950, this was the second film in the Ma and Pa Kettle series. The Town is New York, New York!

    We are reintroduced to the Kettle family, Ma (Marjorie Main), Pa (Percy Kilbride) and their fourteen kids, living in the dream home won by Pa in a contest in the first Kettle feature, Ma and Pa Kettle. Eldest son Tom (Richard Long) is now married to Kim (Meg Randall) and is living in New York. Pa has won a second contest, but they can't take their first prize holiday to New York because "there's no one to mind the kids". Ma confesses that their offspring are difficult to handle but Pa defends all fifteen as being "chips off the old block". Ma replies, "Any more chips and there won't be any more old block!"

    Shotgun Munger (Charles McGraw) is a bank robber on the lam with a hundred thousand dollars in "a little black bag". Shotgun seeks refuge in the Kettles' old place where he is discovered by Pa. Masquerading as "Mr Jones", a poet, Shotgun ends up minding the kids while Ma and Pa go to the big apple. In return Pa agrees to deliver the "empty" black bag to "Mr Jones's" brother.

    The remainder of the film's plot revolves around the little black bag, or rather four little black bags, as Pa tries to make his delivery and various bad guys attempt to steal the bag, or bags, from him. Much fun is made of these comic crooks, who include a young Jim Backus as "Little Joe", the actor as yet to find fame as the voice of Mr Magoo.

    The first entry in this series, Ma and Pa Kettle, had been a box office bonanza for Universal despite the fact that it was a "B" picture and was produced for peanuts. That initial success evidently spurred the studio on to spend a little more on Go to Town and the results are up there on the screen. The exterior of the "dream home" is much more impressive and more use is made of the Universal backlot, its urban streets doubling for New York at night. In addition there is extensive location work in New York itself, almost all of it with the two stars. We see Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride in person actually walking through Grand Central Station, trying to grab a cab, riding the cab with torsos through the sunroof, at Central Park Zoo, taking a carriage in Central Park, entering the Rockefeller Centre and on that building's roof with New York spread before them. This amount of location work is very unusual for 1950, particularly in a comedy, and a "B" comedy at that.

    Director Charles Lamont keeps all this Kettle fun boiling with verve and enthusiasm. Outstanding pleasures are Pa "poisoning" the monkeys at the zoo and his subsequent "grilling" by the police, Ma getting the treatment at the beauty "saloon" and her glamorous transformation - with just a touch of Mae West. The best is kept for last and this is Pa, at a swank society party, calling a square dance, his call directing Ma as she weaves through the dance trying to get the black bag away from the crooks.

    This may not have been "the laugh spree of a lifetime" promised in the original theatrical teaser trailer, which is included on this disc, but it is one of the best entries in the Kettle series with enough genuine highlights to compensate for the occasional dull patch. Ma and Pa were, once again, a huge hit, filling the Universal coffers and leaving audiences eagerly awaiting the next entry, Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm.   

       Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town is included in the Universal two disc/four title set The Adventures of Ma and Pa Kettle Volume 1. 

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Transfer Quality


    The quality of the transfer is extremely good.

    The black and white image is rock solid steady and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The original theatrical ratio was 1.37:1.

    There is, of course, no 16:9 enhancement, except in the menus.

    Perhaps not quite as sharp as the image on the previous title from the series, Ma and Pa Kettle, the picture is still sharp and clear, with no evidence of low level noise.

    Once again the  black and white presentation is spot on, with wide grey scale and great shadow detail. Blacks are strong and solid.

    There is a small amount of grain, but nothing that is distracting.

    Aliasing was only noticed on animal cages at the zoo (52:40) and this was only slight.

    Artefacts were extremely rare, with only a few white flecks.

    The only subtitles are English for the Hearing Impaired.

    Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town occupies one layer of a single sided disc. It is paired with The Egg and I .






Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio is in excellent condition, considering the source is almost sixty years old.

    The original mono is clear and sharp.

    Dialogue is totally distinct and there are no sync problems.

    There are no pops, crackles or dropouts.

    Background hiss is almost non existent.

    The attractive and lively orchestral score is reproduced very satisfactorily, with the Chicken Reel sounding at its best over the final cast list.

    There is only one audio track on the disc - English.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use






    After the Universal trademark there is a menu screen offering the choice between this feature and The Egg and I  .

    After choosing Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town, the next screen is a hand painted publicity shot with the options:


          Scene Selection : 18 scenes, each with a black and white thumbnail, on five screens   

          Theatrical Trailer      

          Subtitles : English for the Hearing Impaired only.

    All of these menu items are presented with 16:9 enhancement.

    There is no sound or animation.


Theatrical Trailer (00:50)

    At less than one minute this is actually a "teaser" for the movie.

    The teaser opens with a closeup of a New York travel brochure, while a clarinet glides into what sounds like it should become Rhapsody in Blue. The brochure lowers to reveal Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride who, straight down the lens, greet us and introduce us to their new "coming soon" movie. Kilbride is exactly "Pa", but Marjorie Main is more soft spoken and grammatically correct than we would expect "Ma" to be. This introduction is followed by a few well chosen "bits" from the film, while superimposed graphics promise the hilarious delights in store - "the laughspree of a lifetime".

    The sound and image quality are reasonably good, though not up to that of the feature itself.

    The trailer is completely intact and is presented at the ratio of 1.33:1.












R4 vs R1

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

    This release is identical to the Region 1 release except that :

    The Region 1 release has four movies on the one disc - Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town sharing one side with The Egg and I.

    The Region 1 release has two additional language tracks, Spanish and French.

    The Region 1 release has the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles/captions "placed" on the screen according to the speaker's screen position.

     Except for an individual  concern with language, there is no reason to prefer the Region 1 release.




     An extremely fine transfer of one of the best in the Kettle series. Tight direction, excellent New York location work, very enjoyable gangster characters, inventive situations and Main and Kilbride at their wonderful best riding the crest of their success.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Monday, December 24, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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