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Blu-Ray Review: Kino Lorber’s Never Say Die (KL Studio Classics) 

Never Say Die

Bob Hope plays a rich hypochondriac that’s worse nightmare comes true in the Screwball Comedy, Never Say Die.  New to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber.  

The Film 

Writer/Director John Patrick Shanley must’ve loved Never Say Die.  The entire plot of Joe Vs. The Volcano, a hypochondriac’s worst fear of dying has come true, is pulled from this Bob Hope minor classic.  Though here rather than jumping into a volcano and falling in love, Hope just falls in love.  Well, with a lot of complications along the way like any good Screwball Comedy of the era. 

Never Say Die wastes none of its time with setup. Literally, within a few minutes rich Ne’er-do-well John Kidley (Hope) is told because of his stomach acid levels he’s going to be dead in less than a month.  This sets off a chain reaction of various leachy human’s efforts to bilk Kidley of his riches.  Kidley himself finding purpose in the thing he’s dreaded most, death, takes to the relatively clueless but kindhearted Mickey (Martha Raye) wanting to help her.  Mickey has run away from her family wanting to marry her bafoon of a boyfriend Henry Munch (Andy Devine).  Add in a Prince on the run for writing bad checks, Mickey’s angry clout-chasing father and a black widow of a femme fatale setting her sights on Kidley’s fortune, and you have a recipe for comedic disaster.   

Here Hope is front and center as the comedic star of the film.  Whether it’s working with Martha Raye as would-be love interest or the perfection of the work with Andy Devine as comedic foil or the uptight villain of Alan Mowbray’s Prince Sirmnov there are so many different but equally great performers for Hope to bounce off of.  Never Say Die like the best Star Vehicles of the Golden Age of Hollywood everything’s designed to the talents of the star and his co-stars.  

We all know how Never Say Die will end but it’s the twisty bumpy road to the destination that the film excels at.  One could do far far far worse than having Bob Hope as your guide through a Screwball Comedy.  

The Transfer

The all-new HD Master – From a 2K Scan of the 35mm Fine Grain, is an utter delight.  The sharp and wonderful black-and-white image has very little in the way of blemishes, scratches, or any defects.  

The Extras

They include the following;

  • Audio Commentary by Film Historians Paul Anthony Nelson and Lee Zachariah
  • Theatrical Trailer

The all-new Audio Commentary by Film Historians Paul Anthony Nelson and Lee Zachariah begins with introductions and bonafides.  Some of the details include how the film is based on a Broadway Play and a Silent Film before the film we are seeing; the rise of “health spas” at the time of making this film – a cultural zeitgeist moment during the 1930s, which made it ripe for mockery; a larger discussion about Bob Hope and where he was in his career at the time and the first of 3 in 1939; the forgotten history of just how huge a star Bob Hope was – a discussion of the comedy specials, USO, and more; 1941 – 1953 he was one of the top ten box office stars and in 1949 he was number 1; how the film is shot and edited – a larger discussion about how classic Hollywood comedies were beautifully edited and directed; an interesting note about Disney modeling specific characters after specific actors (starring here); a blacklisted actor here; a larger discussion about co-screenwriter Preston Sturges about his career, life and much more; a larger discussion about the various cast and crew that worked on the film.  Nelson and Zachariah deliver an informative and entertaining commentary track.  

KLSC Bob Hope Promo (4:18) – Kino Lorber has put together a wonderful long-form trailer for all the Studio Classic Releases featuring Bob Hope.  

Rounding out the special features are trailers for Never Say Die (0:55); Thanks for the Memory (2:07); The Cat and the Canary (3:40); Road to Singapore (2:38); The Ghost Breakers (2:15); Road to Zanzibar (2:16); Caught in the Draft (2:21); Nothing But the Truth (2:02); My Favorite Blonde (2:17); Road to Morocco (2:13); Road to Utopia (2:15); Where There’s Life (1:57); The Paleface (1:50); Sorrowful Jones (2:19); Fancy Pants (2:13); Alias Jesse James (2:13)

The Final Thought 

Never Say Die is a smart slice of Screwball Romantic Comedy showing Bob Hope at the top of his game.  Kino Lorber had put together a nice package for this Blu-ray release.  Recommended. 

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray edition of Never Say Die is out now 

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