Capraesque in every way, A Hole In The Head comes to DVD and Blu-ray in all its rollicking, fun-filled, song-filled glory. With his master touch, legendary director Frank Capra (It’s A Wonderful Life, Pocket Full Of Miracles) once again catches lightning in bottle when he teams with Frank Sinatra (On The Town, The Manchurian Candidate, Pal Joey), Edward G. Robinson (Little Caesar, Key Largo, The Ten Commandments), and Eleanor Parker (The Sound of Music, Pride of the Marines, Of Human Bondage) in the sentimental comedy A Hole In The Head.
Frank Sinatra stars as Tony Manetta, a widower living well beyond his means, in Miami where he’s raising his young son, Alvin (Eddie Hodges). With a limited understanding of the word “responsibility,” Tony, finding himself in debt and with his back against the wall, decides to reach out to his older brother, Mario, for yet another in a string of loans, fabricating that the money is needed for Alvin who has taken ill. The plot takes full-swing when Mario and his wife decide to pay Tony and Alvin a visit.
In the tradition of It’s A Wonderful Life, Mr. Deeds Goes To Washington, Pocket Full of Miracles, director Frank Capra weaves a comic tale filled with heart, laughs and love … and introduced the classic standard “High Hopes” to the world.
Featured in supporting roles are Thelma Ritter (All About Eve, Miracle on 34th Street, Rear Window), Keenan Wynn (Annie Get Your Gun, The Great Race, Nashville) and Carolyn Jones (The Seven Year Itch, TV’s "The Addams Family").
“You’ve Got High Hopes!”??Everyone has someone in their lives who is just excruciatingly exhausting to deal with. Maybe they’re a best friend, a spouse, or a close relative - but no matter what they do, no matter how much trouble they get themselves into, you feel compelled to be the one to hand them the parachute and then meet them on the ground with the net. Now you know how Edward G. Robinson feels about his brother played by Frank Sinatra in one of Frank Capra’s last films, ‘A Hole In The Head.’
Our favorite crooner, Frank Sinatra plays Tony Manetta, a widower and someone who he would describe as a self made business man who owns a hotel and has big dreams to transform Miami Beach into the “Disneyland of Florida” and put himself on easy street. Trouble is, Tony is far from self made. Throughout his life he’s had to con, conive, and coerce cash from anyone and everyone he can, in particular his brother Mario (Robinson), just to keep his hotel's lights on. That doesn’t even include taking care of his loyal son Ally, played wonderfully by Eddie Hodges.
While Tony romps around with his bohemian tennant/girlfriend Shiri, played by the always great Carolyn Jones, poor Ally is left to fend for himself proving to be the “adult” of the family. When an eviction notice comes and threatens to close the hotel and give Tony and his son the boot unless they come up with $5,000, Tony does what he knows how to do best - call his brother and ask for a loan. Again. Only this time he tries to play it like Ally is in the hospital and needs an operation forcing Mario to fly down with his wife Sophie (Thelma Ritter).
Quickly Mario and Sophie become wise to Tony’s schemes and see that he hasn’t matured since the last time he asked for money - so they make him a fool’s bargain, get married and settle down and Mario will set him up with a store of his own in their hometown of Brooklyn. If he refuses, Mario and Sophie take Ally back to New York with them per the terms of a previous agreement. Of course Tony agrees, only so that he can attempt to fool Mario into giving him some “expenses” money and save his hotel, his way of life, and stay with his son. At least until he needs to ask for money again.
This is one of those movies that aims to tug at the heartstrings and pull hard, but misses. Throughout the movie, you want Sinatra’s Tony to wake up, face the consequences like a 42 year old man should, own some responsibility, and take command of his life for the first time. You want him to be the “man of the family” instead of his child. But, at every turn, Tony lets down his friends, family, and ultimately the audience.
It’s hard to deal with people who won’t pull their end of the rope in life. You can help them stay on their feet every once in awhile, even carry their burden for a time if needed, but that comes with the expectation and hope that they’ll turn it all around. Even if they keep trying and failing, you’ll be there for them because they’re at least trying. Tony doesn’t even try - he just bounces from quick scheme to quick scheme, so it’s extremely hard to feel anything for him. You feel more for his kid, you feel for Mario who has to watch his brother tear his life apart, you feel for the poor wonderful, beautiful woman they fix him up with because she eventually learns his true intentions in Tony’s sole act of honesty.
This is one of those films that I wanted to enjoy, that I felt I should enjoy, but I just didn’t. It’s hard to hang your hat on a character who doesn’t have an arc to speak of, and that by the end of the movie, doesn’t really learn anything from his previous frivolous actions or face any real consequences. As a Frank Capra movie its even more disappointing because it feels like an imitation of a Capra film. ‘A Hole In The Head’ desperately tries to be ‘You Can’t Take It With You,’ ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ and ‘It Happened One Night’ all rolled into one - but misses the mark.
‘A Hole In The Head’ is certainly a nice film, one that features an incredible cast that also includes Eleanor Parker, Keenan Wynn, Ruby Dandridge, in addition to stars Frank Sinatra and Edward G. Robinson. It’s even nice for the couple Sinatra ballads “All My Tomorrows,” and “High Hopes,” but it doesn’t offer much more than a showcase of great talent in a mediocre movie. It’s a movie that perhaps would make fine rainy day entertainment, but it’s hardly a classic. At least not the classic I was hoping it would be given the pedigree involved.
When it comes to Blu-ray catalog titles, beggars simply cannot be choosers. This is a rough looking movie unfortunately. It’s quite obvious that Olive Films has done the best possible work they could with the print they had, but this is far from a clean restoration. While color replication is splendid, with nice and even, natural-looking flesh tones and fairly solid black levels, the condition of the print leaves much to be desired.
From the opening frames, it’s quite easy to see this print has seen better days. There are numerous, near constant nicks, scratches, and dirt specks throughout the print. Two thirds into the movie, there is a brief, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it burn flash giving evidence of a film break that had been spliced back together.
This print was clearly cobbled together from several different elements. There is a nice natural layer of fine film grain that leads to the belief that no digital smoothing was implemented, but definition is wildly inconsistent; from one shot to the next detail can look smooth and lifeless to looking quite clear and beautiful. It’s not the worst HD master I’ve ever seen, but it’s far from the best. Even for a catalog title where demand is limited, it leaves something to be desired when you have such amazing Miami scenery to take in.
Featuring a DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo track, ‘A Hole In The Head’ comes through with fine clarity. For a film of this vintage, there aren’t any audio anomalies, or hisses and pops disrupting the track. Voices are given plenty of range to breathe and fill the area they’re given. The minimalist Nelson Riddle score doesn’t have to compete with the dialog and motivated street sounds feel clean and natural.
Being a Sinatra film, this movie isn’t without a sporadic music number from Ol’ Blue Eyes, and fans should be pleased to hear that featured songs “All My Tomorrows,” and Oscar winning number “High Hopes” sound fantastic. A great mix all around.
There are no extra features present.
'A Hole in the Head' is one of those movies that, given the talent involved - Capra, Sinatra, Robinson, Thelma Ritter, Carolyn Jones - should have been a good movie. With those names it should have been a great movie, a classic - but it's just mediocre. Sporting a rough transfer and a solid DTS Master Audio track, this Olive Films Blu-ray release is one for fans of the film, the curious, and die hard Capra completists. Worth a rent.