Plot: What’s it about?
Wang Lung (Paul Muni) is a poor farmer about to be wed, though he has never met his wife to be, as his is an arranged marriage. His father has purchased his wife, an ex slave named O-Lan (Luise Rainer) and the two will soon be made man and wife. Wang ventures to the Great House to pick up his bride and right from the start, it is obvious that O-Lan is a kind, compassionate woman. Once back on the farm, she works right with Wang in the fields and never hesitates to do whatever she can to help out. When rains ruin most of the area’s crops, the hard work of the couple preserves their harvest and earns them a windfall of income. But down the road, a vicious drought hits and the couple and their children are forced to leave their land. Faced with such hardship, can they push on and find new success?
I had never seen The Good Earth before this release and while I wouldn’t revisit it often, I found it to be a well made, enjoyable picture. The story is a good one and is developed with genuine emotion, not melodrama that seems forced or unnatural. That realism was bolstered by some excellent performances, including Paul Muni and Luise Rainer, with Rainer winning her second Oscar for her effort. The leads are the most memorable turns, but the entire cast is in fine form and there is great depth on showcase. The Good Earth also won an Oscar for Best Cinematography and with good reason, as the visuals are lush and very well captured. I also appreciated the attention to detail with costumes and basic production design elements. I think The Good Earth is a great movie, but it is the kind you only need to see once, so a rental should suffice.
Video: How does it look?
The Good Earth is presented in full frame, as intended. I admit, I was a little disappointed here, but that is because I’ve come to expect so much from Warner. All those impeccable restorations have skewed the standard, as now, we want all classic films to look that good. The print here has more debris, marks, and grain than I’d like, but at almost seven decades old, that has to be expected. The contrast remains solid throughout, though a few scenes do waver a little here and there. When compared to other Warner classic releases, this transfer doesn’t measure up, but it still looks acceptable.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio here is quite robust, with more presence than you might expect, given the age of the material involved. I won’t go out on a limb too much here, but this a very well mixed soundtrack, with just enough punch when needed. So instead of sounding flat and dated like a number of films from this time period, The Good Earth is a little more rich, though still somewhat dated audio texture. So no, you won’t be using this disc to showcase your home theater, but for what it is, this is a splendid presentation. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes two unrelated featurettes, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.