All About Eve: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

“Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!”

The immoral words of none other than 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 belive 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 it’s 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’ list and the American Film Institute ranked them at #12 (Sunset Boulevard) and #16 (All About Eve) respectively. No matter which one is your favorite, they both deserve to be seen again and again, and both are available in Special Edition DVD format. Speaking of which…

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?

The first incarnation of All About Eve appeared very early in the days of DVD when Fox was cranking out their catalog titles. Fox has decided to release a new line of “Studio Classics” during the year of 2003 in which a few titles from their vault will be released every month (maybe we can hope they get off their duff and release The Grapes of Wrath and The African Queen sometime soon). That being said, the original version looked downright bad. Noise in the transfer, pops and grain plagued the transfer. Only because the movie was so good, did people not seem to mind. A new restored version has been made especially for the DVD and the results are quite amazing indeed. The picture looks sharper, cleaned and has been transferred from the original nitrate negative. There is an interesting little featurette on the disc that covers the entire process. At any rate, let’s just say that fans of the movie will be more than happy with the results (though I was impressed by Sunset Boulevard more) and if you’ve never seen the movie, then this is the way to experience it first.

Audio: How does it sound?

All About Eve won the Academy Award for Best Sound. Now that doesn’t mean a lot when movies like Titanic an Black Hawk Down win for sound nowadays, as the tracks are night and day. The sound has been re-mastered for this DVD release as well and though it does sound a bit dated (as most movies 50 years old tend to sound), I had no real problems with it. Dialogue, though a bit “scratchy” at times, seems to be very clear for the majority of the picture. There are no surround effects to speak of per se as the track is in Dolby Digital mono. There’s not a lot of comparisons to draw, but you can understand the dialogue fine and that’s what you’ll need to appreciate a movie of this calibur.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Sporting not one, but two audio commentaries, these are pretty fun to listen to. Amazingly enough, there are still some tensions about the movie and it’s very evident by listening to the tracks provided here. Celeste Holm doesn’t have much to say, but Christopher Mankiewicz has the most to say about some little tidbits here and there (he spied on his father’s Hollywood parties). Kenneth Geist, the author of “Pictures Will Talk: The Life and Films of Joseph Mankiewicz” tries to get his words in as well. All in all, both of these commentaries are entertaining, but have some dead space in them. True fans will love them and casual fans will possibly listen if the mood hits them. The next most noteable supplement is the AMC Backstory on All About Eve. This was created for the American Movie Classics channel and it pretty comprehensive, though short, about what really went on behind the scenes of the film. Some interviews with Baxter and Bette Davis as well as some promotional reels are also included. There is some ten minutes of the Movietone news, a theatrical trailer and a very comprehensive look at the comparison between the 1996 transfer of the film and the new 2002 version. All in all, All About Eve has never looked better and it’s just waiting to be added to every DVD collection out there. And it’s deserving.

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