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One work of genius, the rest, well, sort of OK but no more
on 29 December 2010
The Shop around the Corner is one of the all time classics. One of (according to the box) four films that Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart made together (I was well aware of at least one other about two Germans escaping as the country became more and more fanatically Nazi), and a Lubitsch classic. I was looking for a DVD of it, and this set was cheaper than the offerings on Amazon of just the one film.
So as far as I was concerned I was paying just over a tenner for one really great film. If the others were worth watching, that was a bonus.
On the positive side, the quality of the picture was excellent in all four cases. A further bonus was that Christmas in Connecticut starred Sydney Greenstreet who did not make all that many films. But don't get over-excited. Other Greenstreet films, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, The Mask of Dimitrios (when, oh when, will they release a DVD of this outstanding film?) are world beaters; this one is far from being one. Another positive is that some of the extras are definitely interesting, e.g. Judy Garland singing a verse of a Christmas carol.
On the negative side, the synchronisation between voice and mouth movements is not always good.
But the biggest negative is that the other three films are all just moderate to poor. I cannot see what the other reviewer sees in them. Christmas in connecticut and It Happened on 5th Avenue are based on really silly premises, and in both cases the writers struggle to bring them to a conclusion, in both cases failing badly. A Christmas Carol is Dickens without any depth, and frankly far less believable than other versions. OK, I am biased, I do not much like Dickens and I adore Alastair Sim, so I am bound to see an order of magnitude more in his version than in the one in this set.
So my advice is to buy the set if you like and want Shop Around the Corner, and not to be influenced by the presence of the other three films. But Shop Around the Corner is such a great film that its presence is reason enough to buy.