June 16th, 2006

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The Inspector General" Review-Treasure Box Collection

Reviewed using an APEX AD 660 model player

The Inspector General

They say: 102 minutes - I say: 101 minutes, 45 seconds

Movie: One wouldn't normally look at a piece of political satire like Nikolai Gogol's "The Inspector General" and think that it'd make a good family film. However, someone at Warner Brothers in 1949 thought otherwise. In this adaptation, the character of Khlestakov (A spoiled, stupid, and in-debt nobleman) has been changed to "Georgi," an illiterate performer in a fake medicine show (played by Danny Kaye). After revealing to a poor woman that the medicine is fake, Georgi and his boss, Yakov (Walter Slezak), are chased out of town. Angered by the loss of sales, Yakov forces Georgi to leave his company. Georgi eventually wanders into another town, whose officials are panicked by the news that an inspector general has been uncovering and punishing corrupt officials in town across France (Another change from the original play, which was set in Russia). Upon learning of a funny-looking tramp being arrested (Georgi, who had been accused of stealing a horse), the mayor panics and assumes it's the inspector general in disguise. Soon, Georgi is out of jail and being pampered by the officials. Unlike his counterpart in the original play, Georgi tries to use this opportunity to get out of town. However, he is stopped by Yakov, who pretends to be Georgi's servant so that he can collect all the bribe money that Georgi will be given. Georgi is taken to the mayor's home and, in yet another change from the original play, is hit on my the mayor's wife (instead of the mayor's wife and daughter). Either being too noble or too stupid to understand her intentions, he focuses on a maid named Leza (Barbera Bates).

After several attempts to bribe "the inspector general" don't seem to have any effect, the officials decide to kill him. Georgi narrowly escapes and learns from Yakov that the corrupt officials tricked the town into buying an organ for the church, which they claimed was destroyed by a fire. In reality, they had sold it to another town. Upon learning of this, he sets off with his bribe money to buy it back. Eventually, the real inspector general shows up and Georgi confesses that he is a fake. Touched by his claims of only wanting to help the town (and since Georgi's confession saved the real inspector general from being killed), the inspector general doesn't punish him. Instead, he has a special plan for Georgi and Yakov. Said plan would probably work out horribly in real life, but everything turns out well since this is a family movie.

Memorable dialogue: None

Memorable scene(s): Near the start of the movie, there's a quick sight gag involving bird that I found amusing.

Another memorable scene has Georgi singing with multiple versions of himself. Apparently, the scene was intended as a reference to a then-popular African-American singing group called "The Ink Spots."

Presentation: Full frame image with extremely faded colors, mostly likely from an old 16mm print. There appeared to be some minor cropping during the opening credits, but that might've been due to my TV's overscan. The DVD is artifact-free, with one exception: When one watches the movie from the beginning, the screen pixelates at chapter six. The pixelation gets so bad that one cannot make out what's going on onscreen and can only be fixed if you go back a chapter and then go forward to chapter six. I don't know if this error occurs on all copies or if I just got one from a bad batch.

If you want to see this movie, your best bet is to track down the DVD issued by the Roan Group. According to an Amazon.com review, that version was mastered from a 35mm print and has superior quality color.

Other notes: The DVD only has a start menu with a "Play Feature" option. There are seven chapter stops, but they can only be accessed by using the remote while the movie plays.

Rating: On a level of personal enjoyment, I'd give this about **/*****. Then again, this isn't the sort of movie that I usually watch, so I feel that someone who likes such movies would give it at least a ***/*****. Your mileage may vary.