O Henry or William Sydney Porter, has been considered by some as Americas greatest short story writer. His work often pivoted on the moral ending, dramatic resolution or the positioned revelation. The same style and labels float around Graham Greene, Rudyard Kipling or Roald Dahl in the UK but O’ Henry work straddled all three in terms not only of substance but of tone, textures and tense. So when you come up against a titan like O’Henry in the cinema world, you have to go big or go home to compete. This means that a studio has to check its sleeve to see what it has and this produces a bunch of directors (that include Howard Hawks, Henry Koster and Henry Hathaway),  great actors (like Richard Widmark, Charles Laughton, Marilyn Monroe and Anne Baxter) and getting no less than, writing royalty, John Steinbeck to narrate. With this sort of selection, what could go wrong? So which stories did they choose?

Choosing five of his most well known works that cover his often revisited themes of personal redemption, selflessness and humanity, the film dips in and out of the writers best pieces. From THE COP AND THE ANTHEM and Soapy (Charles Laughton) desperate to get arrested and thrown into a warm jail. THE CLARION CALL and a detective (Dale Robertson) wanting to arrest a murderer (Widmark) but unable to because of a debt. THE LAST LEAF and a sick woman (Anne Baxter) fights like a solitary leaf on a tree to survive. To the aforementioned THE RANSOM OF RED CHEIF where fugitives Sam (Fred Allen) and Bill (Oscar Levant) kidnap a hell child and regret it, Finishing with THE GIFT OF THE MAGI and Della (Jeanne Crain) and Jim (Farley Granger), a newly married couple, seek to buy each other Christmas gifts on a very tight budget.

Portmanteau films suite the writing of O’Henry, who was raised a journalist (watching the very short but well written feature on his life and writing is excellent. The genre allows for short structures to be built and they have always been popular because they allow an audience a chance to dip in and out of a work.

If you get something you dont like here, you wait 15 minutes and something else comes along. The stories work best individually. With the HD Transfer simply emphasising the well treated (and vault safe) film stock. The quality of the pieces are stark in terms of direction and tone, with the best work early on. Dr. Jenny Lind Proter, PhD commentary dabbles into this, less in terms of O’Henry written work and more in terms of how the production attempts at balance was forfeited early on, due to the desire to maximise the return from such a golden source. Interestingly for the modern viewer, this version is the bloated release version that was not the cinema version. Then it was four stories (which feel tighter in my opinion). After a test screening found that the fourth film, THE RANSOM OF RED CHEIF was unpopular and Hawks contribution was removed. This alone is not the weakness of the film but it now makes O HENRY FULL HOUSE less. The added extras give some value back but in the totality of the blu ray, this adds very little more than it should.


Special Features:

  • High-Definition Transfer
  • UK Blu-ray Premiere
  • Commentary by Dr. Jenny Lind Proter, PhD
  • The Life and writing O.Henry Featurette
  • The O. Henry Museum Featurette
  • Original Mono Audio
  • Still Gallery
  • Optional English SDH Subtitles for the Main Feature

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