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Devil & Daniel Webster, The (1941-Criterion)

Director(s): William Dieterle

Theatrical Release: 1941

Cast: James Craig, Walter Huston, Edward Arnold, Jane Darwell, Anne Shirley, Simone Simon

Genre(s): Drama, period piece, Fantasy, religion, Dean's List, Criterion Collection

Countries: USA


Location in store:

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Running Time: 106m.

This classic fantasy was based on a story by Stephen Vincent Benet. Jabez Stone (James Craig) is a simple New England farmer who has been suffering from a long run of bad luck. One day he mutters that he'd sell his soul for a little money and a decent crop. Moments later, who should appear but The Evil One himself, Mr. Scratch (Walter Huston). Scratch offers Stone seven years of wealth and good fortune in exchange for his soul; Stone, assuming it's some sort of joke, agrees. Soon Stone's fields are plentiful and money is rolling in, but his financial success comes with a price; he becomes a cold and greedy tyrant, losing the affection of his family and the respect of his peers. In time, Stone realizes that he's made a terrible mistake and that Scratch won't let him out of their deal without a fight. Desperate to regain his soul, Stone turns to the greatest legal and oratorical mind of his day, Daniel Webster (Edward Arnold), who challenges Scratch to put his contract with Stone to the test in a fair trial. While a critical success and a favorite of film buffs, The Devil and Daniel Webster fared poorly at the box office; it was eventually released under five different titles and clipped to 85 minutes in hopes of winning a larger audience, though it was restored to a 107-minute length for release on home video. (allmovie.com)

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Criterion Collection DVD #214 Special Features:

! New high-definition digital transfer, with restored image and sound

! Audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder and Bernard Herrmann biographer Steven C. Smith

! Reading of Stephen Vincent BenTtÆs short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" by acclaimed actor/director Alec Baldwin

! Comparison between The Devil and Daniel Webster and the earlier preview version of the film, Here Is a Man

! The Columbia WorkshopÆs radio dramatizations of Stephen Vincent BenTtÆs short stories "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and "Daniel Webster and the Sea Serpent", both featuring music by Bernard Herrmann

! The music of The Devil and Daniel Webster, presented in an interactive essay by Christopher Husted of Bernard Herrmann's Estate

! Gallery of behind-the-scenes photos and promotional materials

! New essay by author Tom Piazza and a reprinted article by BenTt

! English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired

! Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition
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