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Featured Blu-ray Review: The Three Faces of Eve

November 13th, 2013

The Three Faces of Eve - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

The Three Faces of Eve first came out in 1957 and was groundbreaking in its portrayal of mental illness. It stars Joanne Woodward in only her third theatrical release. However, despite being practically unknown to moviegoers, she won an Oscar for her performance in this film. On the other hand, 1957 was a long time ago and what was Oscar-worthy then might not have aged well.

The Movie

The film begins with Alistair Cooke telling the audience that this film is based on real life events. We then flash to August 20th, 1951 where we are introduced to Eve White and her husband Ralph, as they go to see Dr. Curtis Luther. She was having strong headaches and having spells were she blacks out and doesn't remember what happened. The doctor helps her out with therapy, which reduces the headaches and she has no blackouts.

We learn about changes a short time later when Ralph comes home and finds out the postman has dropped off more than $200 in clothing. Eve thought he bought it for her, but when he says no, she assumes the store made a mistake. When he calls the store, he finds out that not only did Eve buy the dresses, she came in and tried on the dresses before she bought them. After yelling at his wife, he goes to pack the dresses to take them back. But when he does, Eve attacks their daughter, nearly choking her to death.

With that, Ralph takes Eve back to Dr. Luther. At first Eve denies all the accusations Ralph throws at her. She thinks he might be trying to convince her she's crazy as a way of taking away their daughter. However, in the middle of the session, something happens. She begins to talk and act differently and when the doctor asks who she is and she says her name is Eve Black, which is Eve's maiden name. It so shakes the doctor he calls in a colleague, Dr. Francis Day. He asks Dr. Day if he would recognize multiple personality disorder if he saw it and Dr. Day responds he would be able to spot a faker. At first he thinks Eve is faking, till he sees the transition from Eve Black to Eve White. Witnessing that, both doctors are convinced this is the real deal, but the only way to treat Eve White / Eve Black is to hospitalize her for a while.

From this point on, we mostly watch Eve try to get better as her doctors deal with a poorly understood mental phenomenon. We also run into more spoilers than I can safely deal with.

I'm of two minds when it comes to this film. On the one hand, our understanding of Multiple personality disorder, or Dissociative identity disorder, has grown a lot since this movie was made. In fact, there's compelling evidence that the disorder doesn't even exist and is instead iatrogenically induced. (I only know what that word means because of a card game I used to play, Mythos. One of the phobias you could give an opponent was Iatrophobia, fear of doctors.) People are diagnosed with a mental disorder and as a result, they tend to show the symptoms of this disorder. The vague nature of Dissociative identity disorder makes it a prime candidate for this. You can't hold this against the film. You can blame the film for a couple of the other problems. Firstly, while the science is iffy, the portrayal is also a little too sensationalized at times and this means it hasn't aged well. Additionally, there's not a lot to hold onto and the ending was a little weak. That is, there's not a lot to hold onto, except for Joanne Woodward's performance. Fortunately, Joanne Woodward's performance is more than enough to carry the film. She really gives an amazing performance, one that more than makes up for the film's flaws.

The Extras

The extras on the Blu-ray include an audio commentary track with Aubrey Solomon, a film historian and author. There is also a two-minute Fox Movietone News look at the Academy Awards from 1958, including Joanne Woodward winning her Oscar.

The film was shot in Black & White CinemaScope. It's not a visually intensive movie, but the transfer sure looks great. The level of details is very high, especially for a film that's more 60 years old. There's excellent contrast as well as deep blacks. There's not a lot of grain, but no sign of DNR either. There are also no signs of print damage or compression issues. As for the audio, it's Mono, so there's no activity in the surround sound speakers. That said, it is clear with no hiss present and it never sounds tinny and there's no issue with the score overshadowing the dialogue.

The Verdict

The storytelling The Three Faces of Eve in hasn't aged well, but Joanne Woodward's performance still stands out decades later. The Blu-ray doesn't have a lot of extras, but it is still worth owning for that performance alone.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Three Faces of Eve, Lee J. Cobb, Joanne Woodward, David Wayne, Alistair Cooke, Edwin Jerome