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The Devil and Daniel Webster

The Devil and Daniel Webster

Edward Arnold
Director: William Dieterle Cast: Edward Arnold
Edward Arnold
, Walter Huston
Walter Huston
, James Craig
James Craig
William Dieterle

DVD (Black & White)

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A cinematic retelling of a classic piece of American folklore that has rarely been seen in the original form since its initial release in 1941, director William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster gets the usual loving treatment from The Criterion Collection, albeit with a few disappointing, but unavoidable, flaws. Presented in 1.33:1 full frame, the image is remarkably clean given its age, with few signs of wear or speckling. Though the image itself is crisp and sharp, there is a distracting flickering that is, unfortunately, present throughout the film. While this flaw may prove somewhat distracting to some viewers, most will likely find it only a minor annoyance to an otherwise well-presented film. Unfortunately, the sound, as presented here, is also somewhat distracting, though likely unavoidable given the elements with which Criterion had to work. An underlying hiss is present throughout the film, with slightly muddled dialogue and an unevenly mixed musical score proving a minor annoyance in an otherwise enjoyable film. It really should be noted that the film is still extremely enjoyable if one is able to lower their expectations from modern standards of sound and image, and given the film's varied history, it's a pleasure simply to see it completely uncut and in the form Dieterle had originally intended. As is par for the course with Criterion, an abundance of generous and entertaining extras have also been included on this release. A commentary track featuring film historian Bruce Eder and Bernard Herrmann biographer Steven C. Smith is remarkably detailed, featuring minute information on everything from the unconventional methods used to calm a restless sow to revealing information about the innovative methods composer Herrmann used to give the Devil's rendition of "Pop Goes the Weasel" a truly otherworldly feel. Eder and Smith really know their stuff, and their commentary track is a virtually bottomless wealth of information concerning the film. Comparisons between The Devil and Daniel Webster and Here Is a Man (the alternate title for the preview version of the film) offer an interesting look at a few techniques that would ultimately prove ineffective, and a reading of Stephen Vincent Benét's original short story The Devil and Daniel Webster by actor Alec Baldwin proves to be an enjoyable listen. Also included are the original, Columbia Workshop radio performances of both The Devil and Daniel Webster and Daniel Webster and the Sea Serpent (with both featuring the music of Herrmann). Though the sound on both of these presentations leaves quite a bit to be desired (it actually sounds as if someone is crinkling foil during Daniel Webster and the Sea Serpent), they nevertheless contain a remarkably warm, nostalgic feel that make them entirely listenable. An interactive essay by Christopher Husted on the music of The Devil and Daniel Webster is as innovative as it is fascinating and a gallery of behind-the-scene photos and promotional material are likewise well presented and of very high quality. Rounding things out are some informative liner notes featuring both The Author Is Pleased, an original New York Times essay by Benet himself, and a fascinating article by Tom Piazza, appropriately entitled The Devil Gets the Best Lines.

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Product Details

Release Date: 03/21/2010
UPC: 0037429181423
Original Release: 1941
Source: Criterion Collection
Presentation: [B&W]
Sound: [Dolby Digital Mono]
Time: 1:46:00
Sales rank: 15,728

Special Features

Audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder and author Steven C. Smith ("A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann"); video comparison between The Devil and Daniel Webster and William Dieterle’s preview version of the film, entitled Here Is a Man; the Columbia Workshop’s radio dramatizations of Stephen Vincent Benét’s stories, "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and "Daniel Webster and the Sea Serpent," both with music by Bernard Herrmann; Gallery of behind-the-scenes photos and promotional materials; new essay by author Tom Piazza ("Blues and Trouble: Twelve Stories"); English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired; RSDL dual-layer edition; more.

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Edward Arnold Daniel Webster
Walter Huston Mr. Scratch
James Craig Jabez Stone
Jane Darwell Ma Stone
Simone Simon Belle
Anne Shirley Mary Stone
Gene Lockhart Squire Slossum
John Qualen Miser Stevens
Lindy Wade Daniel Stone
George Cleveland Cy Bibber
Frank Conlan Sheriff
William Alland Guide
Frank Austin Spectator
Walter S. Baldwin Hank
Hazel Boyne Actor
Sonny Bupp Martin Van Aldrich
Jeff Corey Tom Sharp
Alec Craig Eli Higgins
Eddie Dew Farmer
Patsy Doyle Servant
Robert Dudley Lem
Sarah Edwards Lucy Slossum
Fern Emmett Wife
James Farley Studio Gateman
Charles Herzinger Old Farmhand
Harry Humphrey Minister
Robert Emmett Keane Husband
Anita Lee Infant
Stewart Richards Doctor
Sherman Sanders Caller
Carl Stockdale Van Brooks
Robert Strange Clerk of Court
Ferris Taylor President
Jim Toney Another Farmer
Bob Pittard Clerk
H.B. Warner Justice Hawthorne

Technical Credits
William Dieterle Director,Producer
Joseph H. August Cinematographer
Bernard Herrmann Score Composer
Dan Totheroh Screenwriter
Vernon Walker Special Effects
Robert Wise Editor

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. "It Could Even Happen to You" [1:52]
2. For Better or for Worse [7:42]
3. Wonderful Language [4:07]
4. Seven Years [7:13]
5. Mashed Potatoes & Milk [1:40]
6. Paid in Full [3:10]
7. Ten Throws [6:41]
8. "Just the Beginning" [8:27]
9. Hail & Harvest [4:11]
10. Keeping Him Warm [6:23]
11. Higher Stakes [7:55]
12. No Respect [3:20]
13. A Changed Man [4:40]
14. Constitution & Bill of Rights [3:52]
15. "Quite a Success" [8:56]
16. The Contract [4:28]
17. "To Save a New Hampshire Man" [6:01]
18. American Judge, American Jury [5:14]
19. "Here Is This Man" [6:41]
20. And He Hasn't Been Seen... [3:22]
1. Color Bars

Customer Reviews