Topper / Topper Returns

Topper / Topper Returns

5.0 2
Director: Norman Z. McLeod, Roy Del Ruth

Cast: Cary Grant, Norman Z. McLeod, Roy Del Ruth, Constance Bennett

Norman Z. McLeod's Topper (1937) was still considered a major "event"-type movie on television as late as 1972, 35 years after it was made -- shown with lots of promotion, in primte-time, on local television stations, In contrast, Roy Del Ruth's Topper Returns, which was allowed to lapse into the public domain after 1969, became one of the most common


Norman Z. McLeod's Topper (1937) was still considered a major "event"-type movie on television as late as 1972, 35 years after it was made -- shown with lots of promotion, in primte-time, on local television stations, In contrast, Roy Del Ruth's Topper Returns, which was allowed to lapse into the public domain after 1969, became one of the most common films shown on small public television and low-end satellite channels in the 1980's. Topper is the better of the two movies, and has received a good full-frame transfer (1.33-to-1) from what appear to be first-generation elements. The art deco design (which, in that era, would have been called "jazz modern") of the Rainbow Club, where the second scene takes place, comes to life in this brilliantly sharp presentation; every ripple of Constance Bennett's delightfully sheer gown, shows off as she dances in the scene. The only flaw is the relatively low audio level, though the later pumps up nicely, so that none of the nuances of the delightful performance sequence between Cary Grant's and Bennett's tipsy patrons and Hoagy Carmichael's piano player are lost. The movie, which was made at and distributed by MGM, has been preserved as well as any MGM feature ofthe period -- the Hal Roach organization clearly recognized the value of the choicest feature film in its library. The funny thing about this movie that this reviewer noticed on watching it anew is how little it resembles any earlier Hal Roach productions; indeed, until the instrumental piece entitled "On A Sunny Afternoon" -- familiar from inumerable uses in Little Rascals and Laurel & Hardy shorts -- shows up in the night club scene 85 minutes in, one forgets that this is a Roach production. Topper Returns (1941) is mastered from the same source, near as one can tell, as the Hal Roach Video VHS tape from the mid-1980's, though it has obviously been retransferred digitally. The full-frame image (1.33-to-1) is the tiniest bit soft in certain intermittent shots but not in a way that would make one feel cheated by this disc. Even the darkly lit night shot in Topper Returns in which Joan Blondell's character dies and comes back as a ghost reveals a large amount of usable picture information. The sound on both movies is set at a low volume level which is clean enough to boost up well through speakers. Topper has been given 16 chapters and Topper Returns 15, which is adequate up to a point in the case of the former -- the earlier movie has a lot more plot and character twists, thought both are enjoyable on different levels. Topper is a fantasy-comedy about the fragility and brevity of life, and the obligation that we have to enjoy it as best we can while we can, while Topper Returns, despite having many comedic elements, is almost a film noir murder mystery. The latter attribute is not surprising, since it was co-authored by Gordon Douglas (later a top action director for Warner Bros. and Fox) and Jonathan Latimer, who wrote some nasty detective fiction in his time as well as the screenplay for The Big Clock and other top-flight film noir and mystery productions in theatrical films and television. There are no bonus materials, but the viewer can choose between 1.0 and 2.0 Dolby monaural audio -- the sound set-up and the chapters, as well as the choice of movies, are accessible from a dual layer menu that opens automatically on start-up with the "play" option for Topper in the default position. The disc comes with an insert booklet that contains some mostly irrelevant trivia as well as a chapter list -- the only real fault, apart from a single transfer anomaly that lasts hardly a frame, some 80 minutes and thirty seconds into Topper, is the printing of the credits for the two movies on the back of the disc box, which is too small and too similar to the background to allow one to read through it.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
The dead really live it up in the classic screwball comedy Topper. Cary Grant and Constance Bennett star as a high-spirited but recently deceased couple who set their ghostly sights on Cosmo Topper (Roland Young), a middle-aged, stuck-in-a-rut bank president, as the prospective beneficiary of a good deed that will earn them a spot in heaven. Their ghostly status seems to have put nary a dent in the couple's energetic hedonism, and their idea of a good deed is to loosen old Cosmo up, getting him to drink and dance and let down what's left of his hair. St. Peter might not approve, but it's all just an excuse for some top-notch screen chemistry; Grant and Bennett banter with effortless charm, while Young squirms and stammers like a trooper through a battlefield of embarrassment. Topper's success spawned a couple of sequels starring Young as the eponymous milquetoast. And, in a radical departure from the original formula, the second sequel, Topper Returns, sets up a screwball whodunit, with Joan Blondell playing a ghost who recruits the hapless Topper to help solve her own murder. Topper Returns has it all: a haunted house with secret passages and creepy domestic staff, a dark and mysterious caped murderer, and even a trained seal (don't ask!). And stealing easily half the scenes in this free-for-all is Jack Benny's famous sidekick, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, who snaps off a seemingly endless series of sharp one-liners with wide-eyed beleaguerment. Rest assured, none of this makes any sense at all, so don't strain your brain. Just sit back and enjoy two of Hollywood's legendary supernatural comedies.

Product Details

Release Date:
Lions Gate
Region Code:
[Dolby Digital Mono, Dolby Digital Stereo]

Special Features

Closed Caption; Full screen versions; Original restored 1.0 Dolby Monaural audio; Original restored 2.0 Dolby Monaural audio; Scene selects

Cast & Crew

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Opening Credits [2:29]
2. Rainbow Room [6:39]
3. Mr. Topper [9:04]
4. No Different [8:34]
5. Painted Jezebel [6:14]
6. Ectoplasm [6:42]
7. The Kerby's [9:20]
8. What Two Friends? [5:46]
9. Banker and Babe [9:51]
10. How Dare You! [7:16]
11. Where's Your Husband [6:17]
12. Room 314 [:17]
13. Pink Lady [3:16]
14. A Phantom [4:35]
15. Happy Home [5:30]
16. End Credits [4:38]
1. Opening Credits [1:30]
2. Danger Ahead [4:24]
3. The Carrington Place [7:23]
4. Sleepwalking [6:40]
5. Peculiar [6:14]
6. A Neighbor's Visit [9:02]
7. Boogeyman [6:31]
8. What About Topper? [6:28]
9. Don't Understand It [6:48]
10. Put out to Sea [7:53]
11. Big Feet [6:52]
12. Disappeared [8:37]
13. Who Done It? [3:41]
14. Road Closed [5:47]
15. End Credits [1:21]

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Topper / Topper Returns 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can remember watching this one as a small child. I haven't seen it for years and am looking forward to getting a copy to watch with my children. As good a comedy as 'arsenic and old lace' will keep your interest until the end. excellent buy for two old classics together!
Guest More than 1 year ago
These adorable movies are worth watching. They are funny and witty---real classics. They are appropriate for all ages (in my opinion) and the jokes are terrific. Hal Roach has really outdone himself.