(BFI DVD retail)
Disliked by its director and indifferently received both critically and commercially when first released in 1949, Otto Preminger’s 1949 adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s celebrated play Lady Windermere’s Fan is long overdue for reappraisal. It’s certainly not the definitive screen version of Wilde’s typically witty social comedy about 19th century London’s upper crust, but then Preminger probably never intended it to be, given that he and his scriptwriters, Dorothy Parker among them, played fast and loose with the text, framing the Victorian setting with a post-war one and focusing on the melodramatics over the laughs.
The result is a stylish, swift-moving and, bearing in mind Preminger was a notorious tyrant, surprisingly sensitive film. And it boasts a great cast in Jeanne Crain, Madeleine Carroll and George Sanders, each of whom sketch their morally opposed characters in satisfying shades of grey. Extras include Fred Paul’s 1916 silent version of Wilde’s play (65 minutes), an illustrated booklet featuring film essays and biography and fully compressed PCM mono audio.