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Saturday, September 18, 2021

The Court Jester (Blu-ray Review)


The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements


Danny Kaye plays Hawkins, a kindly performer charged with caring for the infant heir to the throne as he goes undercover to infiltrate the court of usurper King Roderick in this swashbuckling parody of Errol Flynn classics that dishes up classic moments of its own. This new restoration from Paramount's Paramount Presents imprint looks and sounds beautiful and is a great way to watch this family friendly, endearing classic.

The Court Jester (Paramount Presents)In the 1955 musical-comedy-adventure The Court Jester from filmmakers Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, the endearing Danny Kaye, fresh off his smash hit film White Christmas from the previous year, spoofs the swashbuckling adventure films of the Golden Era like The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and The Mark of Zoro (1940).

Kaye plays kindly performer Hawkins who has taken up with a group of rebels in the forest led by a Robin Hood-like figure named The Black Fox (Edward Ashley). The Black Fox intends to dethrone the usurper Roderick (Cecil Parker), a pretender to the throne, and replace him with its rightful heir, but the heir is yet an infant, and until the time comes, it falls to Hawkins to look after the baby heir. Meanwhile, the beautiful Maid Jean (Glynis Johns), one of the captains of the rebels, meets a man en route to the Castle who is to be Roderick’s new jester, Giacomo. Jean and Hawkins knock Giacomo out and swap in Hawkins, seeing an easy way to sneak into the castle where once inside, Hawkins is meant to meet with the rebels’ man on the inside and gain access to a secret tunnel allowing the rebels in. Jean is set to take the infant back to safety while Hawkins makes his way to the castle. When they part ways, however, the plan goes awry. Jean is picked up by a group of Roderick’s henchmen seeking beautiful maids to keep him entertained and Hawkins is delayed. He does finally arrive and convince Roderick he is the jester, but there are other machinations going on inside the castle that lead to a multitude of mix-ups, confusions, and life threatening situations, not to mention a few good musical numbers!

The Court Jester is most certainly classic Danny Kaye. One can’t come away from this film without a smile on one’s face, particularly after the tongue twisting “The Pellet with the Poison” gag. Unlike many comedies of the modern era, this film also spared no expense, coming in at a budget of nearly $4 million, which was a lot for 1955, so it was on par with the very films it was parodying, making it a lavish and believable satire one wanted to lose themselves in. Also onboard in the cast is Angela Lansbury as Princess Gwendolyn who becomes a love interest to Kaye’s character through trickery and witchcraft and the biggest casting is of Basil Rathbone, a veteran villain of these swashbucklers, playing the villain Sir Ravenhurst.

The Video

The Court Jester is one of Paramount’s classic VistaVision production which utilized their flat widescreen format on a horizontal 35mm negative, which was also developed over the years to extract a finer grain structure. This new restoration is from a 6K scan of the original VistaVision 35mm camera negative and one of the “separation masters” which was also scanned and recombined with the negative scan to address color fading in the negative. The film comes framed at 1.78:1 in an AVC 1080p encodement. The picture looks beautiful. There is definitely a very fine layer of grain in line with what VistaVision should look like and colors looks vibrant. There are only a few frames here and there where the separation master is used where we get a drop-off in quality with very coarse grain and softness, which is unavoidable, but acceptable given the age of this film.

The Audio

The original monaural soundtrack for The Court Jester is provided in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 on this Paramount Presents Blu-ray Disc release. The sound is about as good as it gets for a classic mono track from 1955, providing clear dialogue and sound effects with little hiss, pops, or clicks and quite sufficient dynamic range.

The Supplements

The on-disc supplements are very limited. We get an excellent mini video essay from film historian and critic Leonard Maltin and the trailer. The packaging includes a slipcover with a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster and an inner sleeve interior spread with key movie moments.

  • Digital Code
  • Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on The Court Jester (1080p; 00:07:02)
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD)

The Final Assessment

A truly family friendly, funny, and enduring classic that is served up in a delicious new 6K restoration on Blu-ray in the wonderful Paramount Presents line. This is a must have for film fans.

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The Court Jester (Paramount Presents) is out on Blu-ray January 26, 2021 from Paramount

  • Studios & Distributors: Dena Enterprises | Paramount Pictures | Paramount Home Entertainment
  • Directors: Melvin Frank | Norman Panama
  • Written By: Melvin Frank | Norman Panama
  • Run Time: 101 Mins.
  • Street Date: 26 January, 2021
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
  • Secondary Audio: German DD 2.0 Mono | French DD 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English | English SDH | German | French

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