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The Three Faces of Eve(1957)
Eve White is a quiet, mousy, unassuming wife and mother who keeps suffering from headaches and occasional black outs. Eventually she is sent to see psychiatrist Dr. Luther, and, while under hypnosis, a whole new personality emerges: the racy, wild, fun-loving Eve Black. Under continued therapy, yet a third personality appears, the relatively stable Jane. This film, based on the true-life case of a multiple personality, chronicles Dr. Luther's attempts to reconcile the three faces of Eve.
For more about The Three Faces of Eve and the The Three Faces of Eve Blu-ray release, see the The Three Faces of Eve Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 5, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Joanne Woodward, David Wayne, Lee J. Cobb, Nancy Kulp, Douglas Spencer, Ken Scott
Director: Nunnally Johnson
» See full cast & crew
The Three Faces of Eve Blu-ray Review
Being two faced wasn't good enough.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 5, 2013
Mental illness and psychiatry have had a rather bifurcated history in film. For every Snake Pit or Spellbound, where nurturing therapists help their afflicted patients come to terms with their problems, there's a One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or a Frances, with almost cartoonish mental health professionals out to slice and dice their patients' brains into zombiefied submission. The Three Faces of Eve is decidedly in the former camp, but it's also a rather interesting example of what ironically became a sort of obsession in the mid-fifties, a previously little known syndrome called multiple personality disorder. While latter day efforts like the Sally Field made for television movie Sybil (ironically but probably not so coincidentally co-starring The Three Faces of Eve's patient, Joanne Woodward, as Sybil's therapist) put this affliction on the pop cultural map for a younger generation, it was 1957's The Three Faces of Eve which first popularized it (if that's even the right word), offering a fascinating glimpse into a trifurcated mind that some audience members at the time probably thought was pure hogwash. Eve's story was in fact based in reality, and the film tries to take an almost clinical approach to the subject matter, replete with a patrician narrator (Alistair Cooke) and dialogue which is at least partially culled from the actual case files of the real life Eve. That said, The Three Faces of Eve was still met with a certain amount of critical skepticism when it was first released, though Joanne Woodward's career defining performance met with almost universal acclaim, and Woodward, who was then a largely unknown starlet, went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, beating icons like Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner and Deborah Kerr in the process. Nunnally Johnson, the journeyman writer-producer-director who was responsible in one way or another for some very fine dramatic films but who had at that point become perhaps more associated with such Fox fluff as How to Marry a Millionaire and How to Be Very, Very Popular reestablished his dramatic mettle with this film, at least with regard to Woodward's still viscerally compelling performance. If parts of The Three Faces of Eve seem a bit, well, simpleminded (no pun intended) to today's more psychologically astute audiences, Woodward's dramatic heft helps to keep the story largely on track.
Johnson invests The Three Faces of Eve with the imprimatur of authenticity right off the bat by having Alistair Cooke appear in a brief prologue where he assures the viewer that everything that's about to be depicted is true. Cooke returns throughout the film as a narrator, subtly reinforcing the idea that this is in its own way a documentary. Johnson also stages the film with a minimum of fuss and bother, furthering the ambience of a "ripped from the headlines" affair (something that may even have been implied by Johnson's decision to film in black and white, in those days still the preferred technique for gritty realism, as opposed to splashy Technicolor fantasies).
We meet Eve White (Joanne Woodward) and her husband Ralph (David Wayne) as they consult Doctor Luther (Lee J. Cobb) about some troubling symptoms Eve has been suffering. Not only is Eve experiencing debilitating headaches, she's also been indulging in peculiar behaviors, including spending hundreds of dollars on clothes that Ralph deems inappropriate for his frankly dowdy wife. In one of the film's most startling scenes (which Johnson stages almost completely out of the frame) Eve attempts to strangle her daughter Bonnie with the cord from a Venetian blind. It's a chilling moment, and the sign that something is desperately wrong with this seemingly meek little woman.
As Luther begins to probe her background in his office, he's stunned when Eve seems to reach a point of incredible anxiety, grips her head, and then suddenly undergoes a startling personality transformation into a seductive, blowsy woman who identifies herself as Eve Black (this is one of the areas where the film is a bit on the ridiculous side). Eve Black is what might be termed a loose woman, one who likes to take a "snort" (in her words) and sing at a local club while chasing local servicemen. After the incident with Bonnie and Dr. Luther's first hand witnessing of Eve's obviously split personality, it's decided the best course is to institutionalize her, at least for a little while (one of the film's few laughs comes from a funny interchange between Eve Black and a hapless doctor who doesn't realize quite what a "woman of the world" he's dealing with).
A long course of analysis continues, with Eve White initially unaware of Eve Black's existence, and Eve Black insisting that ultimately she is going to be the primary personality controlling this evidently pretty crowded body. Things get even more complex when a third personality named Jane is discovered. Jane seems to be the best adjusted of the three, and Luther has to decide how to integrate these three disparate characters into one whole individual. Meanwhile, a soap operatic subplot with Ralph plays out, and some of Eve Black's exploits get her precariously close to real trouble.
The film has been faulted for the sheer theatricality of Woodward's performance at times, but as commentator Aubrey Solomon makes clear, most of Woodward's lightning fast transitions were culled from her viewings of actual films of the real life Eve, who underwent similarly seamless transitions from personality to personality. The Three Faces of Eve is kind of like analysis itself at times, though—it's slow and ponderous, awfully talky, and gets to its revelations (which some may find improbable, though again they're evidently based in truth) in its own good time. While the film is really not overly dramatic in an in your face kind of way, Woodward's amazing performance elevates The Three Faces of Eve to a unique place in the annals of films about mental illness. Sometimes with barely a change in her expression or posture she is able to make completely clear which character is in control of Eve. All three faces are undeniably compelling and ultimately rather unforgettable.
The Three Faces of Eve Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Three Faces of Eve is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This is another stellar looking transfer of a Fox catalog CinemaScope feature, sourced from elements that were either pristine to begin with or have been immaculately restored. The film really doesn't have a lot of "pop" visually, playing out on pretty flat looking and minimally dressed sets, but Stanley Cortez's beautifully shaded cinematography gives the film an unusually lustrous look, something that comes through quite clearly on this Blu-ray. This really isn't chiaroscuro in any traditional way, but Cortez lights scenes carefully, sometimes leaving Woodward's face left in just partial shadows. Blacks are solid and consistent and gray scale is very accurately reproduced. While early CinemaScope offerings tended to be pretty grainy looking at times, by 1957 things had considerably changed. The Three Faces of Eve has a very fine layer of grain which floats quite naturally throughout the frame—it isn't overwhelming, but it's quite noticeable, especially when backgrounds are lighter. A couple of passing shots are just minimally softer than the bulk of the film (two of them are the establishing shots of the hospital where Eve is kept, probably done by a second unit), but otherwise this is a really gorgeous looking high definition presentation.
The Three Faces of Eve Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Three Faces of Eve features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix which suffices perfectly well for this dialogue driven film. The film actually has some nice musical elements courtesy of Robert Emmett Dolan, and those are reproduced accurately as well. The film doesn't have much in the way of dynamic range, but the track is damage free and reproduces the modest ambitions of the film's original sound design quite well.
The Three Faces of Eve Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Three Faces of Eve Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Three Faces of Eve is one of the quieter films about mental illness, but due to Woodward's commanding performance(s), it's an often fascinating experience. Some of the film seems a bit dated by modern day standards, and the soap operatic elements don't help things, but when Woodward's on the screen (which is most of the time), minor qualms drift away into nothingness, like a neurosis disappearing after years of analysis. This is another great looking and sounding Fox catalog release, and it comes Recommended.
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The Three Faces of Eve Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Three Faces of Eve Blu-ray - September 11, 2013
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release on Blu-ray director Nunnally Johnson's The Three Faces of Eve (1957), starring Joanne Woodward, David Wayne, and Lee J. Cobb. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across the nation ...
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