Sunday, May 05, 2024

Tonight's Movie: You Never Can Tell (1951) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The quirky, inventive, and very charming fantasy YOU NEVER CAN TELL (1951) has just been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

This film was a delightful surprise when I first discovered it in 2011. At that time it wasn't available for home viewing in any format; a couple years later it had a DVD release, and now, over a decade since the DVD came out, it's happily out on a lovely Blu-ray. I hope this new release will lead to this relatively unsung little gem finding a wider audience.

King, a German shepherd, is left millions by his late owner, to be managed by the owner's former secretary Ellen (the always-luminous Peggy Dow). Ellen is due to inherit the estate after King's eventual passing.

Ellen is courted by Perry Collins (Charles Drake), who claims to have worked with King in the army during the war. Perry initially seems amiable enough but proves to have ulterior motives. He proposes to Ellen, then murders King so that Ellen will have the money. Ellen, unfortunately, is blamed for King's death.

King comes back to earth in human form as Rex Shepard (Dick Powell), private investigator, who's determined to clear Ellen's name and hang his murder on Perry. "Rex" is aided by his confidential secretary Goldie (Joyce Holden), who was formerly Golden Harvest, a thoroughbred racehorse.

The plot is completely nuts -- I'm not sure to this day I entirely "get" the concept of "humanimals" -- but it's also completely fun. This is a movie which bears watching closely for delightful little throwaway bits of humor with glances, reactions, and costuming, along with the more obvious creative bits, such as Rex and Goldie snacking on their preferred treats of kibble and grass.

Everyone in the cast is a delight, with Powell combining his '40s P.I. character type with the charm he demonstrated in an earlier comedic fantasy, Rene Clair's IT HAPPENED TOMORROW (1944). It's wonderful watching him with the warm and lovely Dow, who graced too few movies in her brief '50s career before retiring for a long, happy marriage and motherhood.

The unsung charmer of this film is Holden as Golden Harvest; she feels completely original as the former racehorse who takes time out from the investigation to root for her granddaughter at the racetrack. Holden is so good that it's surprising to me her screen career was relatively brief, with film and TV credits from 1950 to 1958.

As I wrote in my original 2011 review, the credited director was Lou Breslow, who wrote the very good screenplay with David Chandler, but Holden said in an interview that the real director was Powell, who conferred on every shot with Breslow and came up with "the ideas, the set-ups, the little innuendos." She said Powell was "brilliant," also noting his generosity in "letting" her steal some of their scenes.

The black and white photography was by Maury Gertsman. It looks very good on Kino Lorber's Blu-ray, which is from a new HD master from a 2K scan of the 35mm fine grain. The brief "heavenly" sequence still looks odd due to the way it was shot but it's now much easier to see than on the print I saw years ago.

Disc extras consist of a commentary track by Michael Schlesinger and Darlene Ramirez, plus a gallery of trailers for seven other films available from Kino Lorber.

YOU NEVER CAN TELL should please viewers of all ages. Recommended.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


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