Thursday, July 5, 2012

DVD Review: The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)

The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)

(Released: March 01, 2010 by The Warner Archive Collection)

Another looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Summary:  Got Milk?          

…Or, maybe I should say: (In auctioneer mode) I got TWO, do I hear THREE!

Humphrey Bogart plays struggling artist Geoffrey Carroll. Odd thing is (…and it wouldn’t BE a 1940’s Warner Bros. movie WITHOUT an "odd thing") his "struggles" are in his head, rather than with his talent, or succeeding in the world at large.

You see, in order to create his masterworks, Geoffrey needs to be inspired. Kinda like *I* need to be inspired by good movie and TV DVDs or comics to write these Blog entries.

But, unlike my Blog posts, Geoffrey is best inspired by death!

Richard Basehart
Now, Geoffrey isn’t the sort to raid the night for his victims as were Lionel Atwill and / or Vincent Price in the various incarnations of "Terror in The Wax Museum" and its 3D remake "House of Wax", Boris Karloff in Val Lewton’s "The Body Snatcher" – or even Richard Basehart in "He Walked by Night". Much less Bogie himself in that Warner "horror classic" (quotes for sarcastic emphasis) "The Return of Dr. X"! (We’ll get around to THAT ONE someday!)

No, Geoffrey was more subtle in going about the business of jump-starting his muse.

MILD SPOILER ALERT:Without which I may not properly be able to discuss the film!

(…And, hey, it’s a 1947 film only available on Warner Archives – so I’m not committing TOO BIG a crime here, am I?)

Geoffrey would simply marry someone and, when inspiration was needed, poison her slowly and over time – with certain illegally-obtained chemical compounds in a GLASS OF WARM MILK – and, during the period of the unfortunate Mrs. Carroll’s withering and expiration, paint her as "The Angel of Death"!

Yes, really!

Okay, MAYBE "Captain Queeg" might have approached this level of depravity, had he not turned his psychological issues toward the United States Navy… but "Rick Blaine", "Sam Spade", or "Charlie Allnut"? NO WAY! 
Even "Duke Mantee" would have just shot her!

Nevertheless, such was the fate of "The First Mrs. Carroll" – unseen on-screen, and unknown beyond a weak and disembodied voice. During that period, Geoffrey meets Sally Morton (Barbara Stanwyck) who, after "The First Mrs. Carroll’s" death, becomes "The Second Mrs. Carroll".

Things are well for a time. Geoffrey and Sally live a seemingly happy life with Geoffrey’s young daughter from Marriage Number One; Beatrice – played with extraordinary and uncharacteristic maturity-beyond-her-years by Ann Carter, who also wowed us in Val Lewton’s (There’s that name, again!) "The Curse of the Cat People".

That is until Sally’s former fiancĂ©e, Charles "Penny" Pennington, and slinky Cecily Latham (Alexis Smith) who aspires to be "The Third Mrs. Carroll" enter the picture…

…And Geoffrey’s muse chooses this time to go dark! He begins breaking out the "warm milk" each evening as Sally retires! Ruh-Roh, Shaggy! 

Despite its ostensibly dark tone and uncharacteristically creepy later scenes for Bogart, "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" is capable of having its fun with the audience.

At one point, Bogart slyly (and surely with an implied "wink") delivers a parody-purposed permutation of his iconic line:

"I have a feeling this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful hatred!"

His last line, at picture’s end, is also priceless – but I won’t spoil that!

Nigel Bruce
The picture is also chock-full of odd and entertaining characters lead by the great Nigel Bruce (filmdom’s BEST Doctor Watson) as imbibing yet proper ("proper" as he can be, at least) Doctor Tuttle. Upper-crusty Mrs. Latham, Christine the sarcastic maid, Horace Blagdon the slimy chemist and supplier of that special additive for Geoffrey’s recipe for warm milk – that’s not NestlĂ©’s Quick, and MacGregor the helpful Scot round out this unique gathering of quirky personalities.

"The Two Mrs. Carrolls" is a release of "The Warner Archive Collection". Please GO HERE to read more about this relatively new enterprise from Warner Home Entertainment. .

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS. (They vary little for the various Warner Archive Collection releases, making this part of the proceedings rather easy on your humble reviewer! …Can you say "Copy" / "Paste"? )


It's Warner Archives: That means virtually nothing in the way of Extra Features. No Commentary track, no subtitles, no background or "Making Of" featurette. No "Warner Night at the Movies" that I’ve loved so much in other packages! And, there is a needlessly limited choice of devices on which to play it, vs. standard DVD. But, there ARE slight improvements over previous TWAC product, as you will see in the "PROS" section.


It’s Warner Archives:
That means we get a film that would probably not garner sufficient support for a general release. Given a choice between "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" as a Warner Archive Collection release, or no release at all, I’ll gladly take a TWAC version. And, they HAVE made certain improvements over previous releases – noted below:

Robo-Promos: "Robo-Promos" is my term for advertisements that play automatically before you even reach the initial menu. There are NO "Robo-Promos" on this set, in contrast with virtually ALL of the earlier Warner Archive sets. Good for you, Warner Archives!

Menu: (Singular): A nice departure from the old standard, stark dark blue Warner Archives menu. To the left, there is an attractive photo of "The Warner Bros. Theatre" (Was there actually such a thing?), with the marquee reading: "Now Playing: The Two Mrs. Carrolls", and a large image of the DVD box cover (ALSO more nicely designed than the older "dark blue" packages) is pictured on the right of the menu. Double good for you, Warner Archives!
The Old Dark Blue Menu
The options to "Play Trailer" and "Play Movie" are offered on this single menu.

Scene Selections / Chapter Skip: Again, TWAC has made improvements in what was a deficiency in earlier releases. Those releases were authored to only move forward or backward in TEN-MINUTE INTERVALS – regardless of where that ten minute jump will land you logically within the story. For the James Cagney films "Jimmy the Gent" and "Taxi" as well as certain other more recent releases, the selections fall more logically within the story, even if they aren’t pictured or listed on a "Scene Selection Menu". Triple good for you, Warner Archives! Alas, they would revert to the old ten-minute chapters soon enough.

The Extra Feature (Singular): Theatrical Trailer for "The Two Mrs. Carrolls": (02:10) …How I wish I could have written some of these!

Cue the usual on-screen hype:

TEXT: "A crumpled note… A glass of milk… A strange portrait… These are the haunting threads of SUSPICION that turned a woman’s love to mortal fear!"

VOICE: "He wants to GET RID OF YOU, just as he did the FIRST Mrs. Carroll!"

TEXT: "The two stars you’ve ALWAYS wanted to see together… In a story charged with suspense, suspicion, and strange love –The Two Mrs. Carrolls’!

"Humphrey Bogart – Caught in the INESCAPABLE BONDAGE [ Joe’s Note: Now, hold on there!] of two loves!

"Barbara Stanwyck – Few men have known a love like hers!

"Alexis Smith – So desirable – So desiring!

"It’s one of the screen’s most memorable moments, when Humphrey Bogart clashes with Barbara Stanwyck, in Warner Bros.’ compelling production of the stage triumphThe Two Mrs. Carrolls’!"

The Film: "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" marks the first and only screen paring of screen legends Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck.

Given the presence of both Bogart and Alexis Smith, not to mention the overall theme of "spouse murder", it is impossible to not draw comparisons to another, similar Warner film; "Conflict" (1945). See that review HERE!

Yeah, Bogie is a spouse killer in each film, and Alexis Smith is the object of his desires, but "Conflict’s" brushing with the supernatural, not to mention the presence of Sydney Greenstreet gives it the nod – at least in my opinion. See ‘em both, though! 
Why, oh why was I LEFT OUT of the FUN!

The Cast: 

Humphrey Bogart as "Geoffrey Carroll".

Barbara Stanwyck as "Sally Morton Carroll".

Alexis Smith as "Cecily Latham".

Isobel Elsom as "Mrs. Latham".

Nigel Bruce as "Doctor Tuttle".

Ann Carter as "Bea Carroll".

Patrick O’ Moore as "Charles (‘Penny’) Pennington".

Anita Sharp-Bolster as "Christine".

Barry Bernard as "Horace Blagdon"

Colin Campbell as "MacGregor".

Ann Carter


Okay, so "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" may not be the greatest of Bogart’s films… but that’s because the bar is set SO HIGH, and by so many immortal classics, that it simply hasn’t a chance!

Oddly, the domestic discord related to this film was not limited to the Carroll household. I rarely get into the personal in my Blog posts – but, in this case it is worth noting, that Esther did not like this film… and I did!

It’s not as if we have similar tastes on everything – not by hardly! But, I can almost always gauge whether or not she is going to like something, and the degree of her negative reaction to "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" was in excess of what I’d expected.

Then again, perhaps I should not expect "wife-killing" movies – even those with a slight (though not exactly overt) comedic glimmer to be popular with the ladies. By picking on "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" to the degree she has, she might also be ribbing me for my (perhaps excessive) fondness for lesser-known, more obscure Warner Bros. films that feature Bogart, James Cagney, or Edward G. Robinson. Yeah, I like ‘em! …So what?!

As a product of "The Warner Archive Collection", and not a standard Warner Home Video release, it must be reviewed and rated by a new and different set of standards. Lower the formerly-high "bar" for Warner DVD product like THIS ONE, and you should be satisfied with what remains.

"The Two Mrs. Carrolls" is recommended for fans of Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, murder (especially with a twist), and Warner Bros. Golden Age filmmaking in general.

And, if you like it more than your spouse – well, that’s just the way it goes! 


Comicbookrehab said...

Well, the Warner Archive liked this review, because they tweeted a link to it! I agree with them - nice reivew!

Joe Torcivia said...

Really? Is this something you could forward to me?

If so, please send it as a comment. I’d love to see it.