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Elia Kazan
Karl Malden, Carroll Baker, Eli Wallach
Writing Credits:
Tennessee Williams

A child bride holds her husband at bay while flirting with a sexy Italian farmer.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 2/16/2021

• “See No Evil” Featurette
• Trailer


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Baby Doll [Blu-Ray] (1956)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 4, 2021)

Back in 1951, filmmaker Elia Kazan and playwright Tennessee Williams joined forces for A Streetcar Named Desire, a much-lauded adaptation that stands at 47th place on the AFI 100 Greatest Films list. The two reunited for 1956’s Baby Doll, another steamy drama.

Set in Mississippi, middle-aged cotton miller Archie Lee Meighan (Karl Malden) marries teenaged Baby Doll McCargo (Carroll Baker). This marriage comes with one stipulation: Archie can’t consummate the union until Baby Doll turns 20.

As this birthday nears, Baby Doll finds herself less than thrilled at the sexual prospect. She taunts Archie with the way she flirts with other men and lives up to her name via perverse childlike twists on sexuality.

Into this setting steps Silva Vacarro (Eli Wallach), a Sicilian whose cotton gin devastates Archie’s business. This sets up a rivalry between the two men, and matters complicate when Baby Doll experiences a sexual connection with Silva.

While I enjoyed Streetcar and 1958’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - another film based on a Williams property – I admit they teetered on the edge due to their overt theatricality. Williams wrote big, broad characters, and they could veer toward over the top qualities.

To a large degree, Cat and Streetcar worked due to the sheer magnetism of their stars. With Paul Newman/Elizabeth Taylor in Cat and Marlon Brando/Vivian Leigh in Streetcar, the film boasted tremendous leads.

No offense to those involved with Baby Doll, but they lack the same charisma. Wallach enjoyed a good career as a character actor, and Baker got regular work until her apparent retirement in 2003, though she remained best-known for this film.

Though solid professionals, Wallach and Baker lack the fireworks that would appear necessary for this story to work. Frankly, Wallach seems like a decidedly odd choice for this role, as he doesn’t exactly come across like someone who could do much to seduce a young hottie.

Wouldn’t the role make sense with a younger, better-looking actor? Maybe that’s part of the gag – the fact that Baby Doll goes with a schlubby-looking dude – but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on the surface.

Also, Baker doesn’t seem as sexy and incendiary as she probably should for the role. While attractive, I get the impression Baby Doll should be a real scorcher, and Baker seems cute at best.

Adapted from a one-act play, Baby Doll doesn’t really feel like it comes with the character development or story material to sustain a nearly two-hour film. Frankly, our love triangle never becomes especially interesting, and without more magnetic performances from our leads, we don’t buy into the tale to a substantial degree.

This makes Baby Doll something of a lackluster ride, as the broad theatricality of the tale can’t be overcome by the characters or acting. This feels like an overwrought piece that doesn’t become especially compelling.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

Baby Doll appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a dated but more than adequate presentation.

Sharpness became the weakest link, as the image could feel tentative at times. Overall, I couldn’t call the result razor-sharp, but it seemed perfectly watchable.

Jagged edges and moiré effects remained absent, and I saw no signs of edge haloes or artifacting. With a natural – and non-intrusive – layer of grain on display, I discerned no problematic digital noise reduction, and source flaws weren’t a factor. No print defects materialized.

Blacks were fairly deep and dark, and contrast appeared positive. The movie didn’t boast the most dynamic silver sheen, but that side of things still looked fine.

Shadows offered good clarity. No one will use this transfer as a showpiece but it was fine for its age and sources.

As for the DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Baby Doll, it seemed acceptable for its age. Speech could be a little brittle, but the lines were always intelligible and reasonably warm.

Music showed decent to good range and clarity. The score displayed more than adequate vivacity.

Effects sounded decent. This wasn’t a movie that presented much more than general ambience, so the track didn’t have much to do, but these elements were reasonably clean and distinctive.

Source problems weren’t a concern, as the mix lacked distractions. Given the limitations of the original material, I felt this was a more than adequate soundtrack.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a featurette called See No Evil. It runs 12 minutes, 52 seconds and provides notes from film historian Dr. Drew Casper and actors Eli Wallach, Carroll Baker and Karl Malden.

“Evil” looks at author Tennessee Williams and his script, sets and locations, cast and performances, and controversies/reception. Though brief, this becomes a pretty good overview, one that benefits from the presence of the three lead actors.

A broad mix of black comedy and melodrama, Baby Doll can’t overcome its weaknesses. The movie lacks the sizzle and energy it needs to compensate for its over the top theatricality. The Blu-ray brings generally positive picture and audio as well as minor bonus materials. Baby Doll doesn’t quite connect.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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