The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker DVD Review: Unremarkable Non-Anamorphic CinemaScope Fluff

As soon as those infernal television set devices were installed into American homes and began to receive incoming transmissions of this and that in the 1950s, Hollywood had to come up with something new to pull the public in so that they could spend their hard-earned money. One of these gimmicks was dubbed “CinemaScope” – which presented for the first time, motion picture entertainment in a widescreen aspect ratio. While initially utilized to present productions that were on the more “epic” scale of things (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Forbidden Planet, The Robe, et al), it wasn’t long before even the most pedestrian of peliculas were being shot in this illustrious widescreen format.

And I can think of nothing more pedestrian than 1959’s The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker to signify that not all CinemaScope productions were good. In fact, in all fairness, The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker is a pretty unremarkable affair no matter how you look at it. But when I was ever-so-slightly-displeased to note that the Fox Cinema Archives presentation of this forgettable comedy set in the late 1890s was given a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer, I had to remove the film from the bottom pedestal it already found itself placed upon altogether and simply toss it to the ground next to the discarded mouse innards I imagine my cats would have left there for me were they smart enough to hunt such creatures to begin with.

Anyhoo, the film in question finds the great Clifton Webb as our titular, non-conformist family man who favors Darwin over God – during a time when such a thing had only just been deemed not entirely illegal. It was also a time when a woman could not show her bare feet in public for fear of being called a slut (or worse), and when the vast population of Richard Deacons were subpoenaed to issue subpoenas near and far across this great land of ours. And then there’s Mr. Pennypacker – a modest man who prides himself on teaching his nine children in Harrisburg to live a life free of prejudice and lies. Sadly for him, he has neglected to inform his Harrisburg family about his Pittsburg family: wherein he has another eight children from another wife!

Hey, just like the Jesus himself once said: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

OK, one more bad joke, kids: “Hey, with seventeen children in two cities, it’s clear that Mr. Pennypacker has been packing more than pennies.” Ta-dum. THANK YOU!

Somehow, Fox thought there would be a comedy behind all of this. They were wrong, as you can imagine – and I’m sure the original Broadway hit by Liam O’Brien this flick was based upon must have been far more amusing, but I can’t say I’ll ever go out of my way to see it unless they cast a stoned-out-of-his-gord Bob Geldof in the lead. But seriously, people: The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker is just a big fat dud, despite the fact that it features a young Jill St. John as (one of) Webb’s eldest daughter(s), Dorothy McGuire (Mrs. Pennypacker, Harrisburg), Charles Coburn (as Webb’s outraged onscreen father), and filmdom’s fifteen adult Tarzan, Ron Ely as one of the Pennypacker lads.

As I stated before, Fox pulled a grand faux pas here by releasing this one in a non-anamorphic transfer – because there’s nothing greater than watching a little tiny rectangle inside of a big rectangle. Sure, you can make the most out of your TV’s aspect button (where applicable), but, honestly, there’s really nothing to see here. Thankfully, the colorful video (which is pretty good, aspect ratio aside) and monaural audio (also good, save for the dialogue itself) presentations aren’t paired with any distracting special features to further annoy viewers.

Look, just skip it already.

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Luigi Bastardo

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