I usually only review Blu-rays of films that I already know and like. I want to explore how a film I know is good is getting a worthwhile presentation. I consider the quality of the image, the sound, and the extras. But with Ernst Lubitsch’s 1924 silent melodrama, Three Women, I was buying a pig in a poke. I assumed it would be another sparkling, sophisticated comedy, like his previous work, The Marriage Circle. How bad could it be? It’s Lubitsch?
Instead, in his third American film, Lubitsch gives us a more serious story, with only rare laughs – mostly in the early part of the film. And yet, Lubitsch still had his touch. A flip of a hand, or an arch of an eyebrow, says volumes. Sure, people sleep with and marry the wrong people, but in this picture, it feels dirty.
Another difference: The movie is set in the United States. That’s extremely rare for Lubitz. Almost all his American films took place in Europe. After Three Women, it would be almost 20 years before he made another film set entirely in the States (Heaven Can Wait). Yet this time, there are scenes set in New York and Berkeley – even when the train station sign reads “San Bernadino.” (Of course, all these films were shot in Southern California.)
Lew Cody plays a cad with little money, no morals, and a talent for sweeping rich women off their feet. When a rich widow (Pauline Frederick) begins to recognize his lies, he turns on her 18-year-old daughter (May McAvoy). There’s also a nice, young doctor who is, of course, the man who should win the girl’s heart.
I’m not sure why this movie is called Three Women. The third woman, played by Marie Prevost, is barely in the movie. She’s the cad’s lover, and we never really get to know her.
The ending is absolutely ridiculous. That’s why I can only give Three Women a B.
How It Looks
The George Eastman Museum restored the film at 4K restoration, although the Blu-ray itself is 2K, of course. You can sometimes see the wear and tear on the source material, but not enough to become a problem.
The image is pillarboxed, with black bands on the sides, to keep the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.33×1.
How It Sounds
As a silent film, Three Women was originally screened with live music, and Blu-ray publisher Kino Lorber had the job of getting a musical score. They did a great job. Andrew Earle Simpson composed and conducted an orchestral score that carries the film exceptionally.
Technically, the score is provided here on an uncompressed, two-channel LPCM audio. No complaints.
And the Extras
The only extra is a commentary by English writer Anthony Slide. He offers some interesting bits and notices some problems, such as the train station sign and the fact that it could have been called Two Women. But he spends much too time telling the biographies of almost everyone who worked on the film. He also seems to be confused about the words subtitle or intertitle.
The disc will go on sale Tuesday, January 18.