The Devil's Daughter (1939) (NTSC)

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Released 18-Feb-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Cult None
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1939
Running Time 51:23
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Arthur H. Leonard
Studio
Distributor
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Nina Mae McKinney
Jack Carter
Ida James
Hamtree Harrington
Willa Mae Lang
Emmett 'Babe' Wallace
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI Box Music John Killam


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 mono (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     On the death of her father, Silvia Walton (Ida James) returns from New York to Jamaica to inherit the family banana plantation that has been run by her half sister Isabelle (Nina Mae McKinney) and overseer Philip Ramsay (Jack Carter). Silvia falls in love with Ramsay and is in turn loved by adjoining plantation owner John (Emmett Wallace). Isabelle, who herself is in love with John, is determined not to give up the plantation so she enlists the help of practitioners of the local “obeah” superstition (the Jamaica version of voodoo) to commence a ritual and scare Silvia into returning to America. When Silvia is drugged, and the ritual starts, no-one can be quite sure what the end result will be.

     The Devil’s Daughter is interesting for both the Jamaican locations and the all black cast. It was made at a time when theatres in the US were segregated and films were made with all black casts for a black audience. When in mainstream Hollywood the only roles available to black women were as maids or field hands – see Gone With the Wind for a perfect example – these all black films gave actresses such as Nina Mae McKinney an opportunity that was denied by Hollywood. McKinney first appeared in Hallelujah (1929), the first all black sound musical feature, and went on to appeared in 19 films, including Saunders of the River (1935) with Paul Robson and Elia Kazan’s Pinky (1949). Playing opposite McKinney as the other sister, Ida James is dainty and beautiful. She was primarily a singer and in 1945 was voted one of the 20 most popular vocalists in America; she sang with Nat King Cole and also appeared in Hi-De-Hi (1947) with Cab Calloway (who made that memorable impact in 1980 in The Blues Brothers).

     The Devil’s Daughter is a loose remake of Ouanga (1936) sharing the same writer (George Terwilliger) and a similar plot. It is a very short film (at only 51 minutes) although apparently it originally ran 67 minutes (but no available DVD is this length, so I assume the footage is missing). Given this short running time, it has very little plot; even less than might be expected as a fair amount of the film is taken up with the “comic” antics of Silvia’s retainer Percy (Hamtree Harrington), who himself falls foul of local superstition and local beauty Elvira (Willa Mae Lang). There are also music numbers such as the opening that are interesting but have little to do with the plot. Yet the film is not without interest both as cinema and as a piece of history, and it features Nina Mae McKinney.

     The Devil’s Daughter is included in the six film, 3 DVD collection The Devil at Work, a box set from Gryphon of devilish tales from the 1930s to 1970s. The films are: The Devil’s Daughter (1939) and Devil Monster (1946) on disc 1, Devil’s Partner (1963) and Beast of the Yellow Night (1971) on disc 2 and How Awful About Alan (1970) and Good Against Evil (1977) on disc 3.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Devil’s Daughter is presented in a ratio of 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced. The original ratio was 1.37:1.

     This is a 70 year old unrestored print. There are numerous scratches, and both positive and negative artefacts, but other than a few very obvious scratches (such as around 29:50), they are not as bad as I was expecting. The bigger problem is the sharpness. This is a very, very soft print, with detail very much lacking so that at times people are quite indistinct. Blacks are really gray and although there are no night scenes at times, especially during the last 5 minutes, shadow detail is non-existent. During that period at the obeah ritual, when the scene cuts to McKinney she almost cannot be seen. Contrast and brightness are also variable.

     A number of times, including 13:29, 26:13 and 37:56, a colour “Mill Creek” logo appears in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. It is quite distracting.

     There are no subtitles.

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

Audio

     Audio is an English Linear PCM track at 1536 Kbps. Mostly the dialogue is OK, with some exceptions such as Ramsay at the races talking to Silvia, and effects are flat, dull and tiny. There is a hiss in most quiet sections as well as crackles.

     The score by John Killam also features some spiritual numbers.

     I did not notice any lip synchronization problems.

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

Extras

     None

R4 vs R1

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

     The film is available in Region 1 US in a double bill with Chloe – Love is Calling (1934); the video and audio appear to be similar.

     I cannot find any equivalent of The Devil at Work package in any other region.

Summary

     The Devil’s Daughter was made in Jamaica with an all black cast at a time when theatres in the US were segregated and films made with all black casts for a black audience. The video and audio are not as bad as one could expect from a 70 year old unrestored black and white, non-mainstream film.

     The Devil’s Daughter is included in the six film, 3 DVD collection The Devil at Work, a box set of devilish tales from the 1930s to 1970s from Gryphon for a RRP of $19.95.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, April 11, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def 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

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