A fight for life

SFX - - Reviews - Nick Setch­field

re­leased out now! 1941 | u | Blu-ray Di­rec­tor alexander Hall Cast robert Mont­gomery, Claude rains, eve­lyn Keyes, rita John­son

Think of it as a Roo­sevelt-era Quan­tum Leap: Robert Mont­gomery is Joe Pendle­ton, a prize­fighter with a lucky sax­o­phone and “a heart as big as a house”. When his soul’s snatched from a fa­tal plane crash by an an­gelic in­ter­loper he finds him­self in a brand new body, mixed up in mur­der and ro­mance.

Ar­riv­ing on Blu-ray with a crisp new 2K dig­i­tal restora­tion, it’s a fine early ex­am­ple of Hol­ly­wood Ce­les­tial, the folksy, fan­tas­ti­cal sub­genre that also gave us It’s A Won­der­ful Life and I Mar­ried An An­gel (Pow­ell and Press­burger lifted its vi­sion of heaven as an avi­a­tional bu­reau­cracy for A Mat­ter Of Life And Death).

You wish there was more mono­chrome oth­er­world­li­ness, but the wiseguy ’40s com­edy schtick is death­less. With Casablanca’s Claude Rains mem­o­rably twinkly as the cos­mic Mr Jor­dan, it’s a film that’s earned its own af­ter­life.

Ex­tras It’s a Cri­te­rion Col­lec­tion re­lease, so there’s a de­cent se­lec­tion of cinephile-pleas­ing spe­cial fea­tures: “Com­edy And Af­ter­life” (32 min­utes) is a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween critic Michael Sragow and in­die film­maker Michael Schlesinger, talk­ing about the movie’s his­tory and im­pact. From 1991, there’s an 80-minute au­dio in­ter­view with ac­tress Elizabeth Mont­gomery, talk­ing about both her fa­ther and her own ca­reer (she was Sa­man­tha in Be­witched, so su­per­nat­u­ral whimsy was clearly in her blood). There’s also an es­say by the New York Post’s Far­ran Smith Nehme, a trailer, and, best of all, the 1942 Lux Ra­dio Theatre adap­ta­tion of the movie, with Cary Grant – orig­i­nal pick for the role of Joe Pendle­ton.

The film has been re­made as a ve­hi­cle for War­ren Beatty (1978’s Heaven Can Wait), and Chris Rock (2001’s Down To Earth).

The new gay bar had fetch­ing decor.

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