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Blu-Ray : Recommended
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Release Date: April 9th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 1951

You Never Can Tell

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: David Krauss
How many Golden Age movies have you seen about a murdered dog who's allowed to inhabit a human's body and return to Earth to expose his killer? You Never Can Tell treads this unique territory with whimsy, wit, and a wagging tongue planted firmly in cheek. A brand new remastered transfer and solid lossless audio enhance the appeal of this delightful comedy-fantasy that deserves a spin. Recommended.

Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
English SDH
Special Features:
Audio Commentary by film historians Michael Schlesinger and Darlene Ramirez
Release Date:
April 9th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


Have you seen the recent Chewy commercial in which a cat inherits the lion's share of a rich man's estate (including his coveted summer house), much to the chagrin of his indignant offspring? It's pretty funny, but whoever came up with the gag just might've stolen it from the 1951 low-budget comedy You Never Can Tell. In director Lou Breslow's film, it's a canine named King who inherits millions from his dead master. The bonkers bequest makes national headlines and puts Ellen Hathaway (Peggy Dow), the tycoon's private secretary, in the spotlight as well...because if anything happens to King, then Ellen becomes the beneficiary of the magnate's millions.

One day, Perry Collins (Charles Drake), a former World War II GI, pays a visit to King. Perry says he bonded with the smart, agile German Shepherd after rescuing him from a jeep accident. Perry takes a shine to Ellen, who returns his affections, but their romance hits a snag when - horrors! - King is found dead, the victim of a sadistic poisoning. Up in animal heaven, King's spirit beseeches the celestial lion who watches over his angelic flock to return to Earth as a human so he can solve his own murder.

The lion indulges King, sending him back to terra firma as Rex Shepard (Dick Powell), a private investigator. For good measure, he gives Rex a sidekick, a former racehorse once known as Golden Harvest but now named Goldie Harvey (Joyce Holden). The one catch? The duo must find King's killer and return to heaven before the next full moon or else they'll remain on Earth as humans for the rest of their newfound lives.

Animals morphing into humans was new cinematic territory in 1951, and though You Never Can Tell requires more than a little suspension of disbelief to succeed, the amiable script and performances help us buy into the fantasy. Clever quips and bits of amusing physical comedy punctuate the screenplay by Breslow (who also co-wrote the infamous Ronald Reagan classic Bedtime for Bonzo) and David Chandler, which deftly mixes core elements of detective yarns and film noir with madcap farce. Though Breslow churned out dozens of scripts throughout the 1930s and '40s, You Never Can Tell is the only feature film he ever directed, and while he doesn't rival Hitchcock, Ford, or Hawks, he possesses a fine grasp of the medium and keeps the audience engaged throughout.

After years as a crooner and romantic lead in several Busby Berkeley extravaganzas, Powell reinvented himself as a film noir tough guy, portraying Raymond Chandler's iconic private eye Philip Marlowe to perfection in Murder, My Sweet. He mildly spoofs that role here, displaying a flair for comedy while fully embracing his inner dog. Most of the movie's charm springs from Powell's canine antics, but he never overplays the moments when King's four-legged spirit shines through. Seemingly dumb roles like this one are often the most difficult to pull off, but Powell bridges the gap between man's best friend and man himself with aplomb. (Holden also shines as his gal Friday, amusingly brandishing equine characteristics.)

Dow only made nine feature films over the course of three short years before eschewing Hollywood's hurly-burly in favor of a quiet domestic life in Oklahoma with her oil baron husband. Lucky for us, KLSC has revived interest in the actress by releasing several of her movies on Blu-ray (Woman in HidingShakedownBright Victory), and as a result, I've become mildly obsessed with Dow. Her natural, unaffected air, engaging personality, sincerity, and understated beauty enhance every picture in which she appears, and You Never Can Tell is no exception. She anchors and grounds this crazy tale, and if she can help put over this far-fetched fantasy, it's anybody's guess how far she could have gone and how high her star might have ascended had she decided to continue pursuing her Hollywood career.

You Never Can Tell exceeded my expectations and stands as an enjoyable trifle that will appeal to adults and kids alike. Though a minor blip on the career radar of both Powell and Dow, the film shows off both stars well and will make their fans crow...or should I say bark.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
You Never Can Tell arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the static menu with music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.

Video Review


A brand new HD master struck from a 2K scan of the 35mm fine grain yields a lovely 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that breathes new life into this 73-year-old movie. The natural grain structure remains intact and produces a film-like image that's distinguished by excellent clarity and contrast. Blacks are rich, the bright whites resist blooming, and a solid grayscale helps highlight fine details. Shadow delineation is quite good, the special optical effects during the heavenly sequence are smoothly rendered, and sharp close-ups nicely showcase the facial features of both humans and canines. Some rough patches break up the flow of this largely smooth presentation, but their relative brevity keep them from spoiling what is otherwise a pleasing viewing experience. 

Audio Review


The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track supplies clear, well-modulated sound. A bit of surface noise crops up from time to time, but the track is free of any annoying pops and crackle. A wide dynamic scale embraces all the highs and lows of the music score by six-time Oscar nominee Hans J. Salter and all the dialogue is easy to comprehend. Sonic accents like - of course - barking dogs are crisp and no distortion mars the mix.

Special Features


Aside from a few trailers for other KLSC releases (but sadly not one for You Never Can Tell), the only extra is an amiable audio commentary by film historians Michael Schlesinger and Darlene Ramirez. Their chat doesn't include much specific info about this minor movie, which Schlesinger calls "a childhood favorite," but he and Ramirez do provide cast and crew bios, identify various backlot locations and bit players, discuss the special effects, and poke fun at the plot. They also chat extensively about Peggy Dow and Dick Powell (and Powell's marriage to actress June Allyson), citing Dow's connection to Marilyn Monroe and how Powell reinvented his career after years as a crooner, and draw a connection between You Never Can Tell and the Chevy Chase comedy Oh Heavenly Dog. This is hardly an essential commentary, but if you enjoy the movie you'll get a kick out of it.

Final Thoughts

You never can tell if a comedy-fantasy will be a hit or a miss, but You Never Can Tell exceeds expectations, supplying laughs, warmth, romance, and a bit of mystery. This family-friendly farce benefits from a new HD master struck from a 2K scan of the 35mm fine grain and solid audio. It may not be high art, but You Never Can Tell delivers breezy entertainment for Golden Age fans. Recommended.

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