MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Another entry into Universal’s celebration of 100 years of movies is “Sullivan’s Travels,” with a new DVD edition. The story follows a successful Hollywood writer and producer who wants to connect with the common man during the Depression. So, he dresses as a hobo and decides to live with the bums to get a better look at life so he can produce a serious piece about the forgotten men. Of course, things go awry as he keeps getting pulled back into his life of leisure.
As poverty and financial struggles are still commonplace (as they will be in any era), and the snooty elite misunderstanding of such is just as prevalent, “Sullivan’s Travels” works even 70 years past the Great Depression. This is a highly satirical piece, poking fun at Hollywood itself and showing how out of touch it can be.
The film works both as a comedy and a serious film, though it is presented as a comedy. But it has a lot to say about the chasm between the common people and those making entertainment for them. Still, this rather biting message isn’t pushed too hard and is left for people to interpret for themselves. The genius of “Sullivan’s Travels” is to present such things in the background of the story and let the comedy play for itself.
And boy does that comedy work. From an early car/bus chase during Sullivan’s first step into a greater world, the movie hits the audience hard with slapstick and physical comedy. Later, after introducing the world to Veronica Lake, it allows for more silliness to take hold. Even after the film takes a rather serious turn late in the second half, it manages to turn around and still find the humor in such a grim situation.
“Sullivan’s Travels” is a film lost on younger generations that should really make a point to rediscover it, especially because what it has to say is still so relevant today.
This newly released DVD celebrated Universal’s 100 years of making movies. Bonus features include the theatrical trailer as well as two “100 Years of Universal” featurettes including “The Carl Laemmle Era” and “The Lew Wasserman Era.”