Plot: What’s it about?
Margo Channing, played to sheer perfection by the one and only Bette Davis. “All About Eve” was that “other” movie in 1950, the “other” being Sunset Boulevard of course. The two were alike in so many ways, it’s uncanny. Amazing how movies have and still seem to be coming out in pairs, but one is almost invariably better than the other. In this case, however, it’s really tough to say which was the actual better movie. There are schools of thought on both films and while I’m more of a fan of Sunset…there are just as many that believe that Eve is the better movie. While it’s true that “All About Eve” ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Picture (thereby beating its main opponent, Sunset Boulevard), I feel that the latter holds the test of time as it showed how Hollywood was as opposed to the seemingly “harmless” world of theater as depicted in “All About Eve”. Both, however, hold high places on many critics’ lists. No matter which one is your favorite, they both deserve to be seen again and again, and both are available in Special Edition format.
“All About Eve” isn’t really just about the character of Eve (Anne Baxter), but rather the decline of a once former great theater talent by the name of Margo Channing. She’s just turned 40 years old and is facing the beginning of the end. Her looks are starting to fade and though she’s a well-known and respected talent, it’s clear that the search has begun to replace her. This is where we meet Eve. Looking like a timid little mouse, she first greets Margo after a performance. Slowly working her way into Margo’s life (first as an assistant, doing odd jobs; then later as her understudy), Eve has a sly, cunning demeanor that rubs a few folks the wrong way. Unlike Sunset Boulevard, this deals with the world of stage, but the remarks are just as witty and the screenplay by Joseph Mankiewicz really doesn’t get any better. At first, Margo feels sorry for Eve, not thinking her a threat. It’s only by the mere suggestion of Karen (Celeste Holm) that Eve gets a chance to work with and for Margo. The jaded theater critic, Addison (George Sanders, who won an Oscar for his role here) takes her side as well. It would seem that all is fair in love and war (and stage).
As it becomes clear that Eve is starting to pull the strings and make things turn in her favor, people start to doubt her. After all, the movie opens with Eve accepting the stage equivalent of an Oscar; so right away we know that something is going on (or soon will). But don’t let the supporting cast fool you as this was Bette Davis’ movie, through and through. Some say that she was never better than in her role and though a bit controversial, Anne Baxter ran against her in the Best Actress race (oddly enough, purists say that Baxter’s decision to run in the Actress category split the vote and therefore cost Davis her third Oscar). Baxter later admitted that she “…should had run in the Supporting Actress category…” to which Davis replied “Yes, you should have!” At any rate, the film is near perfection. I can only recommend a few other films ahead of this one (Cool Hand Luke, Singin’ in the Rain and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? come to mind), as it holds us just as well now as it did then – perhaps better. Look for an early appearance of Marilyn Monroe as Claudia Casswell, too! Highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Fox has an impressive catalog of titles and “All About Eve” is certainly one of the gems of this collection. The movie, made in 1950, was just before the era of widescreen films so the 1.33:1 AVC HD transfer does look good, but like other films of the era, won’t fill your HDTV screen. The black and white transfer certainly does look superior to the previous DVD version, removing the grain that so plagued the original. There are plenty of screen grabs here if you’d like to check them out. All things considered, this is by far the best the film has looked on a home video format and Fox has once again shown that they take care of their best titles.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is also an improvement over the older track on the standard DVD. The movie did win the Oscar for Best Sound and while that really might not mean a lot these days in regards to how it actually does sound, it’s a testament to the film itself. The movie is nearly all dialogue-driven and if there was ever a film that had some snappy dialogue, it’s this one. Sonics are a bit stronger, vocals are strong and well-centered and while the box may read “DTS”, this is essentially a really good mono track. Does it sound bad? Not at all. But bear in mind that the movie was made 60 years ago and adjust accordingly.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The previous standard DVD from the Fox Studio Classics line contained a slew of supplements and most are ported over to this Blu-ray. We’ve got the same two commentary tracks by Celeste Holm, Ken Geist and Christopher Mankiewicz (director Joseph’s son) as well as a second track by Sam Staggs. We get the newsreel as well as the AMC Backstory “All About Eve.” New to this Blu-ray are two “promotions”, one for Anne Baxter and the other for Bette Davis. These are nearly identical to those found on the recent “An Affair to Remember” Blu-ray. We also have “The Real Eve” and “The Secret of Sarah Siddons” as well as a nice little Digibook. It seems that the restoration comparison found on the DVD has been axed, which is a shame â€“ I like those. If “All About Eve” isn’t on your Blu-ray shelf, I don’t know what more I can say to convince you to make that happen.