HERE COMES MR. JORDAN
Review by Gordon Justesen
Montgomery, Claude Rains, Evelyn Keyes, James Gleason, Edward Everett Horton,
Rita Johnson, John Emery
Director: Alexander Hall
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 94 Minutes
Release Date: June 14, 2016
ďI donít want anybodyís body. I want MY body!Ē
Itís rather unfortunate that the only version of a rather popular cinematic fable that Iíve seen is Chris Rockís rather subpar 2001 comedy, Down to Earth. You will recall that Rockís movie was a remake of Warren Beattyís oscar-nominated Heaven Can Wait from 1978, which itself was a remake of an earlier film. That film is 1941Ďs Here Comes Mr. Jordan, itself an adaptation of a stage play by Harry Segall, also titled Heaven Can Wait.
Itís also rather unfortunate that I have never ever seen Beattyís Heaven Can Wait...but enough about the popular movies Iíve never seen but absolutely will at a certain point.
The story tells of aspiring boxer Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery), who also fancies playing the saxophone and piloting his own plane in his spare time. But itís his love of flying that leads to his sudden demise when Joeís plane crashes unexpectedly. Having been cremated right after the accident, Joe finds himself in Heaven.
But he manages to get the strangest news upon arriving there. Apparently, Joe wasnít actually supposed to die at that exact moment. In fact, as Heavenís own paperwork indicates, Joe actually had a good 50 years before his time was officially up.
But there is a solution to this error. Joe can return to life, but since heís been cremated he will have to do so in the form of someone elseís body. Thatís where the titular Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains) comes into play, as he provides Joe with the very body he will resurface in.
That body happens to belong to a ruthless millionaire named Bruce Farnsworth, who it turns out was murdered by his cheating wife and her lover. It seems a bit risky, but Joe goes along with the plan. Naturally, everyone who knew for sure that Farsnworth was dead are more than surprised to see him up and about, and while they see the actual millionaire, we see him in the form of Joe, who wonít be able to do anything more than give the man a more gentle soul.
Alexander Hallís film is a classic representation of the purely charming and lighthearted comedies that were popular in that era. Itís only real setback is that comes dangerously close to becoming too overly complicated near the end, as the body switching scenario overextends its welcome (youíll see what I mean). But the movie saves itself by ending at just the right moment.
Criterion once again displays their unbeatable brilliance by showcasing a most remarkable HD presentation of a 1940s release. By way of a 2k restoration, the Black & White picture looks extremely impressive, to say the least. Black levels are more than consistent from beginning to end, and overall image detail is terrifically strong. Itís yet another fine representation of Criterion and their ability to make films from any and all time periods look good as new!
The PCM mono mix offers exactly what youíd expect from a film that just turned 75. But as it stands, dialogue, background sounds and music playback all sound about as crisp and clear as they will get. If anything, the sound mix makes the film enjoyably old fashioned.
This Criterion Blu-ray features an intriguing conversation with critic Michael Sragow and filmmaker/distributor Michael Schlesinger. as well an audio interview from 1991 with actress Elizabeth Montgomery reflecting on her father, Robert. Thereís also a neat little bonus in the form of a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the movie featuring Cary Grant and co-stars Claude Rains, Evelyn Keyes and James Gleason. Lastly, thereís a Trailer and an insert featuring an essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan is a classic farce that deserves to be discovered by anyone whoís seen any of the multiple remakes it spawned. Itís indeed a product of its time, but still manages to deliver charms and laughs in equal quantities.