Again tackling Christianity, the Christian Androcles (who has a remarkable way with animals) is a lovable, naïve fool, while the lovely Lavinia (Jean Simmons) is revealed by the film’s end to be a female version of Shaw himself – passionate about morality but doubting in the existence of any one, true God. While I certainly don’t agree with the renowned playwright and the strong philosophical undertones his works exhibit (mainly religious pluralism and a sort of socialist utopia), they still make for interesting works of study. Even in these adaptations, Shaw’s intellect and wit are clearly apparent, with a depth to each film’s dialogue that must be explored through repeated viewings.
Having been adapted from plays, and in accordance with Shaw’s wishes, with little alteration, there remain large sections of ‘talk’ within each of these films. Monologues, triumphant closing statements that drive home Shaw’s conclusive points, clearly show the origin of these works. Large ensemble scenes with huge casts of extras, elaborate sets, and lovely scores lend a ‘big Hollywood picture feel’ to each inclusion, though only Androcles found a Hollywood backer.
These DVD releases are remarkably well preserved, with no noticeable flaws in the picture. Each film is presented on its own DVD with a simple scene navigation menu included along with a play through feature. The liner notes for each disc from historian Bruce Eder are invaluable and provide a miniature film studies lesson. Eder touches upon the relationship between Shaw and Pascal, their collaborative process, choices of actors, film costs, commercial success, and more.
Though nearly all of us are familiar with My Fair Lady, based upon Shaw’s Pygmalion, that is often as far as our exposure to the works of Shaw on film extends. Shaw devotees seeking to delve further into the film adaptations of Shaw’s plays, will find Eclipse Series 20 - George Bernard Shaw On Film fits the bill.