DVD REVIEWS: Preston Sturges

PALM BEACH STORY Universal
Movie •••• Picture/Sound ••½ Extras None
THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK Paramount
Movie •••• Picture/Sound •••• Extras •••½
Screwball comedies from the 1930s and '40s may not be for everyone, but fans who believe that witty repartee is the true spice of life tend to worship at the feet of writer/director Preston Sturges. Palm Beach Story (1942) isn't his best-loved work (that would be Sullivan's Travels), but it's just a notch or two below, as great one-liners and wonderfully deadpan performances still abound. There's not much of a plot, just the romantic hijinks surrounding a quickie divorce in ritzy Palm Beach. But the real story is the sex appeal of Claudette Colbert, and the movie is virtually built around it.

Ultimately, it's The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944) that aficionados point to as fully capturing the peculiar genius of Sturges. The jokes fly fast and furious in a hilarious satire of small-town morals when a spirited young woman (Betty Hutton) wakes up pregnant (and hazy about the details) after a wild sendoff party for departing soldiers.

Beach's picture is a little grainy - and the sound is a bit muffled, so I suggest adjusting your system's tone controls to bring out the midrange and sharpen the dialogue. Creek's picture is sharp and lush by any standards, but it's truly outstanding for 1940s black-and-white, and the soundtrack is clean and clear. Two brief documentaries do a stellar job of explaining the true miracle here: how Sturges got his racy story past the era's censors. Both: [NR] English, Dolby Digital 2-channel mono; letterboxed (1.33:1); single layer.

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