Like many others, I was transfixed and mesmerised when I first saw this old epic, which I saw on a TV channel quite a few years ago. Always a sucker for an epic, specially one a bit different to Hollywood's usual fare, I admired the breadth, scope and humanity of both its story and production.
Smitten, indeed, by the epic scenes of storms over the wheatfields, filled with all the stirring drama of a Russian propaganda film and of course, the swarm of locusts, which, at the time, really took my breath away. One usually associates such spectacles with much later films, with special effects or later still, CGI.
A few tongue-in-cheek critics have nicknamed this adaptation (which I have not read) of Pearl S Buck's hefty novel, 'the lychees of Wrath' and the human condition set against nature and the landscape is every bit as dramatic as Steinbeck's dustbowl classic, but, of course, here set in China, though the bulk of The Good Earth was actually shot in Utah and California.
Whilst we are never left unsure that these are American actors playing Chinese people, it's done quite sympathetically and well, so it never intrudes, with actress Luise Reiner earning an Oscar, with cinematographer Karl Freund deservedly winner of the other award from the Academy.
As far as I could tell, I couldn't buy this DVD as a normal region 2, or at least at a reasonable price, so mine is a Korean release. Going by what others have said, the poor picture quality is not unique to this import, either. Poor, flat, grey contrast and never actually sharp in detail, though the picture doesn't suffer too badly from marks or flicker. The sound also needs cranking up to levels where hiss is audible, and is still of poor quality then.
True, 1937 makes it an old film but its quality of direction and, presumably, budget, would have allowed for the superior levels of production widely available from the big studios and that I'm sure it originally had.
This minor Classic does need both reappraisal and re-release, using a fully restored print. Then, justice can finally be done to a film that has every reason and chance to be counted as one of the greats of Hollywood.