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Image Entertainment presents
God's Little Acre (1958)

"Son, I been diggin' in this land close to fifteen years, and I'm aimin' to dig fifteen more, if need be."
- Ty Ty Walker (Robert Ryan)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 13, 2001

Stars: Tina Louise, Michael Landon, Buddy Hackett, Robert Ryan
Other Stars: Fay Spain, Aldo Ray, Vic Morrow, Jack Lord
Director: Anthony Mann

Manufacturer: Ritek Global Media
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, cleavage, sensuality)
Run Time: 01h:57m:42s
Release Date: December 18, 2001
UPC: 014381616224
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BC-C+ B-

DVD Review

Erskine Caldwell's notorious potboiler about poor white trash comes to the screen in heavily expurgated form. Not entirely certain if it wants to be a comedy or a drama, it plays a bit like a slightly more serious episode of Green Acres. If this were a self-help book, it'd be called Ineffectual Men of the South and the Women Who Laugh at Them.

Poor sharecropper Ty Ty Walker (Robert Ryan) is convinced that his grandpappy buried gold somewhere on the farm, and has been digging massive holes for years with his sons Buck (Jack Lord, many years before Hawaii Five-O) and Shaw (Vic Morrow). Perennial sheriff candidate Pluto Swint (Buddy Hackett) convinces Ty Ty that he needs an albino to divine the location of the gold, so the Walkers kidnap albino Dave Dawson (Michael Landon, many years before Bonanza). Meanwhile, both Will Thompson (Aldo Ray), Ty Ty's son-in-law, and son Jim Leslie (Lance Fuller) are after sexpot Griselda (Tina Louise, you guessed it, many years before being marooned on Gilligan's Island), who happens to be married to the insanely jealous Buck.

While the movie seems to desperately want to be a full-fledged sex comedy, being released in the repressed 1950s limited the sex content to some risqué humor and the sight of Tina Louise amply spilling out of her dress and too-small slip. The disc here provides a restored version of the banned, uncensored edition, but anyone expecting lurid content to be restored will be sorely disappointed. There seems to be a bit more of Tina Louise bending over, and a shot of Buddy Hackett falling into a bathtub with Ty Ty's daughter Darlin' Jill (Fay Spain), but that's about it for racy extra content. The trimmed sections are primarily related to Jack Lord's dismissal of God and an ending that is 180 degrees away from the theatrical release.

One of the more amusing aspects of the story relates to the title property, a parcel of land that Ty Ty has promised to the Holiness Church; anything that grows on it will go to God. Conveniently, nothing ever grows there, in part because Ty Ty and family are too busy digging holes looking for buried treasure to be bothered with anything practical like farming. Whenever it seems likely that the gold might be buried on God's Little Acre, Ty Ty moves the cross that marks the dedicated spot so as to "not be tempted." Mann uses the camera to point up Ty Ty's hypocrisy; whenever Ryan rationalizes moving God's Little Acre, the camera is positioned so that the metal cross obscures his mouth.

The only character demonstrating a lick of sense is black retainer Uncle Felix (Rex Ingram). Indeed, all of the other men are completely obsessed in one way or another. Ty Ty is obsessed with the buried gold; Pluto with accumulating votes; Buck is consumed by jealousy about Griselda; Will is also obsessed with her, despite being married to Griselda's sister-in-law Rosamund (Helen Westcott), and also is bent on reopening the cotton mill in the depressed town of Peachtree Valley, even though it's been closed for good.

The performances are good and Jack Lord is suitably intense to the point that one expects him capable of anything at all. The most surprising performance is turned in by Tina Louise; unlike her one-note breathy Ginger Grant character, here she plays an alluring tease with a conscience, both loving and hating her husband while ridiculing him. It's regrettable that the television program effectively put an end to her serious acting career. Director Anthony Mann, best known today for his noir dramas, gives the frequent fistfights an earthy realism that makes the viewer practically taste the dust. Elmer Bernstein's score is heavily derivative, with recognizable imitations of Copland and Gershwin dominating the music. This isn't quite a classic, but it's entertaining enough. The rollicking humor of the first half in particular is effective, most notably the staggering dousing of Michael Landon as the mystical albino.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The widescreen picture is nonanamorphic, which is regrettable. The opening credits are blurry and dupey, but the picture quality improves substantially afterwards. However, it's still lacking in detail and shadow detail is quite poor. Although the case states that the film is presented in a 1.85:1 ratio, sizable black bars are still visible on my 16:9 set, indicating a ratio of more like 2.0:1

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The 1.0 mono English is passable. Music is somewhat distorted and has a limited range. Dialogue is generally clear, but occasionally the mix of the music overwhelms it. Hiss and noise are limited.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Original theatrical cut
Extras Review: The principal extra is the original theatrical release cut, trimming nearly seven minutes. As noted above, this is mostly from the ending. Oddly enough, the two versions are presented in full on separate layers instead of utilizing seamless branching. This obviously limits space that could have been devoted to an anamorphic transfer and increased the picture quality.

Two 1.33:1 trailers are included. One is from the original release and a second is from a re-release making reference to the many later TV credits of the cast. But there's nothing presented on the disc about the controversy engendered by the book, difficulties in writing a script from such a controversial novel, the cuts that were made (or even a list of the cuts), or even about the restoration by UCLA. This package is begging for additional content, and Image doesn't provide anything whatsoever.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Southern humor and down-home drama in a film version of one of the most banned books of all time, but the controversial aspects are likely to escape the modern viewer. Nicely restored, the film unfortunately suffers from a weak nonanamorphic transfer. More information on the censorship certainly would have been welcome, but there's nothing here to be found. Worth a rental for the curious.

 


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