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John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy
Henry Fonda, James Cagney, Jack Lemmon
Writing Credits:
Frank Nugent, Joshua Logan

Toward the end of WWII, the cargo ship Reluctant deals with various challenges related to all their free time.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 12/15/2020

• Scene-Specific Audio Commentary with Actor Jack Lemmon
• Trailer


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Mister Roberts [Blu-Ray] (1955)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 2, 2020)

As a sort of one-stop shop for Hollywood legends, you can’t do much better than 1955’s Mister Roberts. With John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy behind the camera and James Cagney, Henry Ford, William Powell and Jack Lemmon in front of it, the film boasts a top-notch collection of talent.

Based on a Broadway play of the same title, Roberts introduces us to the crew of the USS Reluctant, a cargo ship that covers remote areas of the Pacific during the last days of World War II. Bored with this tedious duty, Lieutenant JG Doug Roberts (Fonda) desperately seeks some combat action.

However, Doug does his job very well, so commanding officer Lt, Commander Morton (Cagney) won’t let him leave. This creates tension, and the ship’s crew feels the ramifications as well.

Although my introduction implies that Ford and LeRoy acted as co-directors, instead the latter actually replaced the former. Apparently Ford caused battles with his stars on the set, so when he needed emergency surgery, LeRoy got the nod.

In addition, screenwriter Joshua Logan directed parts of the film as well. With such disarray during the shoot, it seems likely that Roberts should’ve become a messy disaster.

Given the movie’s three Oscar nominations – including Best Picture - obviously Roberts enjoyed a good reception in 1955. The flick also did well at the box office, as it became one of 1955’s biggest hits.

65 years later, it remains clear why the film succeeded, as it offers a fairly charming affair. Don’t expect a plot-heavy tale, though.

In terms of story, the conflict between Roberts and Morton becomes the primary theme, and even that doesn’t dominate to the expected degree. Sure, Doug’s concerns and his battles with the boss turn into major elements, but much of the film feels more episodic.

This means it focuses largely on characters, and it does well in that regard. In addition to Roberts and Morton, we spend a lot of time with medical officer “Doc” (William Powell) and Ensign Pulver (Jack Lemmon).

Lemmon won an Oscar as Pulver, but I think Powell steals the show. He makes the most of his occasional onscreen moments and creates an indelible character despite limited material.

As for Lemmon, he offers good work early in his career. While Lemmon appeared on TV as early as 1949, he didn’t make his film debut until 1954, and Roberts became his fourth big screen effort.

Lemmon would play many manic characters ala Pulver in later years, and he creates a lively tone here. I do think Lemmon’s hyperactive style seems like a potential mismatch with Pulver’s personality, but he makes it succeed.

The ever-stable Fonda grounds the piece, and his inherent tone of earnest nobility lends contrast to Roberts’ feud with Morton. Cagney offers a true “Cagney performance” but he avoids self-parody and forms a solid antagonist.

If I wanted to find a flaw here, it would stem from the movie’s running time. While 121 minutes doesn’t seem excessive in general, the film’s absence of much narrative substance means it loses steam as it goes.

Also, I can’t claim to love the ending. I won’t discuss details, as even for a 65-year-old movie, I prefer to avoid spoilers, but the finale seems too bleak given the generally light tone of the preceding 115 minutes.

Still, Roberts boasts enough charm to make it an enjoyable effort. Abetted by a terrific cast, the movie becomes an involving ride.

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

Mister Roberts appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.55:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite some inconsistencies, this became a largely appealing presentation.

Sharpness turned into a somewhat up and down element, as aspects of the film could veer a little soft. That seemed related to the nature of some optical shots as well as the film stock, which hasn’t always aged well.

Even with these variations, the movie usually seemed well-defined, and it could look excellent at times. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and both edge haloes and print flaws remained absent.

Colors tended toward a somewhat blue tint. Though they occasionally lacked luster, the movie offered a lot of strong hues, and they could become impressive.

Blacks seemed well-rendered, and low-light shots demonstrated nice smoothness. Given the film’s age and limitations, this felt like a pretty solid presentation.

Taken from the movie’s original six-track audio, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack fared well for its era. Music used the soundscape best of all, as the score spread across the front in a pleasing, nicely separated manner.

Effects enjoyed less opportunity to shine, but the mix allowed for some gentle localization and placement of these elements. Sea-related elements opened up the soundscape to a reasonable degree, and we got some good movement. A loud explosion late in the film became the most active element.

Nonetheless, much of the track remained limited in scope. Given that the film adapted a stage production, this came as little surprise.

Audio quality showed its age but remained more than acceptable. Music was reasonably peppy and full, while effects showed fairly positive accuracy and range.

Speech could seem a bit reedy at times, but the lines lacked edginess and remained perfectly intelligible. This was a perfectly pleasant track for an older movie.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a scene-specific commentary from actor Jack Lemmon. He tells us about his experiences on the flick and tosses out a variety of anecdotes.

Take that “scene-specific” designation to heart, as it means Lemmon pops up semi-sporadically throughout the film. Normally the Blu-ray would offer edits that only ran the parts of the movie over which Lemmon speaks.

However, that doesn’t happen here, so if you want to hear Lemmon’s remarks, you need to sit through the entire flick. That becomes a chore since Jack goes AWOL for probably about half of the film.

For fans, though, I suspect Lemmon makes the nuisance worth the effort. At no point does the actor threaten to bring us a scintillating collection of insights, but he manages enough fun memories to make this an enjoyable listen. While you shouldn’t anticipate a slew of useful notes, you’ll still find a likable discussion.

Though it lacks much of a story, Mister Roberts compensates with engaging characters and a fine cast. These factors become enough to turn it into an enjoyable effort. The Blu-ray brings generally positive picture and audio along with a couple bonus materials. Roberts

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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