THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (Blu-ray Review)
Review by Mr. Paws😸
It wouldn’t be fair to say The Greatest Show on Earth hasn’t aged well. The film has always been grandiose, flamboyant and just a little bit corny. One need only hear director Cecil B. DeMille’s voice-over narration to know that. He delivers it with the same adjective-laden histrionics he’d later apply in The Ten Commandments, like the fate of humankind depends on a trainload of circus performers.
And yeah, it’s a crime against humanity that it won the Oscar for Best Picture over the likes of High Noon and The Quiet Man. But really, the Academy has made bigger blunders before and since. Besides, DeMille never operated under the pretense of creating high art. He was a master showman, his films crafted more through audacity than artistic vision. In another life, he would have been right-at-home as ringmaster in the very circus depicted in The Greatest Show on Earth.
Like such similarly-spectacular soap operas as Airport and Grand Prix, the film is shamelessly manipulative fun, with vivid imagery, colorful characters and the kind of melodrama one almost hates to admit they find engaging. Seeing it for the first time since I was a kid was an interesting experience. It’s still entertaining and the climactic train crash remains one of the greatest action sequences DeMille ever created, but I also had a few new takeaways.
|"Not to worry, Brad...we all float down here."|
Oscar wins notwithstanding, The Greatest Show on Earth has never been mistaken for a masterpiece, but it’s pure DeMille and still a lot of fun. That it was also the biggest film of 1952 (by a wide margin) makes it an obvious choice for inclusion in the Paramount Presents series. Available on Blu-ray for the first time, there ain’t much bonus material, but the film has been beautifully restored and the packaging - featuring both minimalist and vintage artwork - is my favorite of the series so far.
“FILMMAKER FOCUS” - Short appreciation by critic/historian Leonard Maltin.