Monday, June 6, 2022

The Major and the Minor – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1942
Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder
Cast: Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Rita Johnson, Robert Benchley, Diana Lynn, Edward Fielding, Frankie Thomas, Raymond Roe, Charles Smith, Larry Nunn

Release Date: September 23rd, 2019 (UK), September 24th, 2019 (USA)
Approximate Running Time: 100 Minutes 10 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: U (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £24.99 (UK), $39.95 (USA)

"From one of Hollywood's most acclaimed auteurs, Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard), comes the charming comedy classic The Major and the Minor. Legendary actress and dancer Ginger Rogers (Monkey Business) stars as Susan Applegate, a struggling young woman who pretends to be an 11-year old girl in order to buy a half-price train ticket. Fleeing the conductors, she hides in the compartment of Major Philip Kirby (Ray Milland, The Big Clock, The Pyjama Girl Case). The Major believes Susan is a child and takes her under his wing, but when they arrive at the military academy where Kirby teaches, his fiancée (Rita Johnson) grows suspicious of Susan's ruse..." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 2K resolution on an Arriscan at NBC Universal. The film was graded and restored at Dragon DI, Wales. Picture grading was completed on a Pablo Rio system and restoration was completed using a combination of PFClean and Revival software."

The Major and the Minor comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 43.3 GB

Feature: 26.7 GB

Though the source that was used for this transfer is in great shape, the few blemishes that remain are never intrusive. Contrast, black levels, and image clarity look solid throughout. Grain remains intact, and there are no issues with compression.

Audio: 3.75/5

This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English, and included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles. The audio is in very good shape; the dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.

Extras:

Extras for this release include an image gallery (stills/lobby cards/posters), a theatrical trailer (2 minutes 2 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), a radio adaptation of The Major And The Minor from 1943 starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland (59 minutes 38 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival audio interview with Ray Milland from 1975 (29 minutes 51 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), a video appreciation by film critic Neil Sinyard titled Half Fare Please! (30 minutes 43 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film scholar Adrian Martin, reversible cover art and a twenty-eight-page booklet (limited to first pressing) with cast & crew information, an essay titled Welcome to the Masquerade written by Ronald Bergan and information about the restoration.

Summary:

Billy Wilder is now widely regarded as one of cinema’s greatest auteurs. Long before he began his journey as a director, he was an in-demand screenwriter whose notable screenwriting credits include Midnight, Ninotchka, and Hold Back the Dawn. Reportedly, it was his experiences working on Hold Back the Dawn that made Billy Wilder want to become a director.

Out of the genres, comedy is the genre that has evolved the most since cinema’s inception. whereas other genres continue to thrive by pushing the boundaries of what audiences find acceptable. The same cannot be said for the genre of comedy. What was once funny may now come off as crass or worse, a relic from the past that audiences no longer connect with due to their lack of history.

With that being said, if ever there was a textbook example of a film from the past that had a subject-matter that would be frowned upon by modern audiences that deal in moral outrage, this would be it. Then that film would be The Major and the Minor.

Though the premise revolves around a grown woman who pretends to be an adolescent girl, The Major and the Minor make it abundantly clear early on that the story at hand is a whimsical farce. And viewing this film in any other way would be a disservice to it.

One of the most enjoyable things about cinema is discovering a director and then working your way through their filmography. And though I had seen most of Billy Wilder’s most celebrated films, Until now, I had never seen his directorial debut, The Major and the Minor.

Like most directors that are recognized as auteurs, Billy Wilder, with The Major and the Minor, foreshadowed elements that he would return to throughout his career as a director. And nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to his use of masquerade characters.

The cast delivers excellent performances, particularly Ginger Rogers (Black Widow) in the role of Susan Applegate, "The Minor," a young woman disillusioned with the big city. So much of the film relies on her performance, and she delivers a captivating performance.

Other performances of note include Ray Milland (The Big Clock) in the role of Major Philip Kirby. He delivers a solid performance that perfectly melds with Ginger Rogers' performance. And Diana Lynn (Easy Come, Easy Go,) in the role of Lucy Hill, the mischievous sister of the woman who’s engaged to Major Philip Kirby.

From a production standpoint, The Major and the Minor is an extraordinary comedy that never misses the mark. The premise is superbly realized, the narrative is well-executed, and the humor has not lost any of its bite.

Standout moments include a scene where Susan gets a con man to pretend to be her father so she can buy a train ticket at the reduced child’s price, and after he helps her, he stiffs her by keeping the change. The scene where Susan and The Major can be seen by his fiancée through the train window doing something that appears to be illicit when taken out of context, and a very satisfying finale that has one last deception.

The Major and the Minor gets a strong release from Arrow Video that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and an abundance of extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

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