Lives Of A Bengal Lancer
The GARY COOPER Franchise Collection

Design for Living / The Lives of a Bengal Lancer / Peter Ibbetson / The General Died at Dawn / Beau Geste

Great Movies, Great Collection, and, for the Money, Great DVDs

As I made my way to this page to write my review, I was thinking, "This will be all five-star reviews. What Cooper fan wouldn't love this collection?" When I got there, I was "Shocked, shocked I tell you!" at some of the comments I read. The world - as well as some of the reviewers on this web site - have gone crazy. For those of us who still have some sanity left, and appreciate the sanity that existed in Coop's day, I highly recommend this five-pack.

Yes, these are unrestored films. Does it surprise anyone that every film in the world has not been restored? The cost to restore one film is phenomenal - not a "little", as one reviewer suggested - and archivists are making their way through the stacks of black-and-whites as fast as they can. Give them time. In the mean time, be thankful that these films are available now. They are not poor quality, as a couple of people wrote. For unrestored films, they are excellent quality. And, frankly, I don't expect restoration to add a whole lot. That's probably why they haven't been restored yet.

Contrary to what some may think, none of these films is corny. They're just different, and need to be watched with discernment. I loved The General Died At Dawn, and found it to be as much fun as Design For Living, which, frankly, I found to be the weakest of the lot; yet, still enjoyable. The photography in General, as in all these films, is incredible. There's something about the photography of the 1930's (these films range from 1934 through 1939): a lot of atmosphere, an understanding of lighting. When color came in, that knowledge was lost. So, appreciate these films for what they are, not for what they're not.

The art direction in all five films is also gorgeous: sets, costumes - across the board, they're top notch. The acting is different from acting today, because these actors are coming out of the silent era. They are relearning their craft. Give them some credit. They still give wonderful performances, and Coop is a treat to watch in every film.

Contrary to a few malcontents, I appreciate the fact that Universal packed these five films together, making them more affordable. Frankly, I would only have bought a few of them, had they come out individually at $20 a pop. I also like the packaging and cannot understand why anyone would have a problem with it.

I think there's a lot we can learn from the so-called corniness - I call it honesty - of Coop's day. I also think we could learn from their humility. For the most part, people back then were thankful for what they had, and didn't complain. That's how they were able to make it through the depression. I wonder how the selfish, spoiled malcontents of today would have fared back then. My guess is that, like the General, they would have died at dawn. They certainly wouldn't have been self-sacrificing like Beau Geste.


Waitsel Smith, April 28, 2006

Text © 2006 Waitsel Smith. Image © Franchise Collection. All Rights Reserved.

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