Format: Blu-ray, Subtitled
Subtitles: German, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Release Date: December 2, 2014
Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2014
Run Time: 90 minutes
The Poverty Row studio Columbia Pictures won 13 Academy Awards in the 1930s, and 11 of them were directed by Frank Capra. Capra was a filmmaker both loved and despised for his saccharine handling of social issues in film, each making grand statements in themes with the help of likeably quirky characters. Some criticize this style, while others revel in the pure emotional pleasure of films like It’s a Wonderful Life and You Can’t Take it With You. While there is an incredible amount of realism in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, including a recreated set of the Senate chamber, it also has the unmistakably familiar touch of Capra sentimentality.
Beginning as a treatment Lewis R. Foster for a film called The Gentleman From Montana, Capra intended to adapt the indictment of modern American political system into a sequel for the widely successful Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Gary Cooper was unavailable, so Mr. Deeds became Mr. Smith, and James Stewart was given a career-defining role. Stewart had just co-starred in Capra’s You Can’t Take it With You, but it was this film that truly showcased his abilities, catapulting him to fame.
Smith is an idealist boy’s club leader who is made a Senator with hopes that he will make a good Yes Man. Given the chance to work alongside his personal hero, Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains), Smith is shocked to discover the level of silent complacency expected of him in regards to the corruption and deceit. His hopeful nature is nearly crushed, as we can see has already happened to others he encounters. The romantic co-star is Jean Arthur as the cynical secretary named Saunders, who is eventually won over by Smith’s conviction to truth and justice.
The 75th Anniversary Blu-ray release comes in commemorative hardback book which includes 25 pages of photos, filmographies and a making-of essay written by Jeremy Arnold. The disc is included in the back cover, including plenty of additional extras along with the fully restored and mastered 4K HD presentation of the film. The special features include a commentary track with audio excerpts from Capra, along with a feature-length biography documentary hosted by Ron Howard. There are also five additional featurettes, most of which revolve around interviews with Frank Capra Jr.
Entertainment Value: 8.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 9/10
Historical Significance: 10/10
Special Features: 9/10