You and Me (1938) (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Dennis Seuling
  • Review Date: Apr 18, 2023
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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You and Me (1938) (Blu-ray Review)


Fritz Lang

Release Date(s)

1938 (April 18, 2023)


Paramount Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
  • Film/Program Grade: C
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: C+

You and Me (1938) (Blu-ray)

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Famed director Fritz Lang fled to the United States from Nazi Germany and made 23 feature films for every major studio during his 20-year Hollywood career. You and Me, an odd combination of gangster tale, comedy, soap opera, musical, and social propaganda, was his third American film.

Joe and Helen (George Raft, Sylvia Sidney) both work at Morris’ Department Store. The owner, Mr. Morris (Harry Carey), is a compassionate man who makes a policy of employing ex-cons, feeling they deserve a second chance. So far, he has had no reason to regret this decision, despite his wife’s self-righteous objections. Joe is one of those ex-cons. He has abided by the strict terms of his parole and his time is finally up. He intends to head out west for a fresh start, but love complicates his plans and instead he and Helen marry.

Helen, however, has been keeping a secret from Joe. She, too, is a parolee and still has several months left to serve. On parole, she’s not permitted to marry, and she has just violated that condition. This forces her to cover up her secret with one lie after another. Meanwhile, Joe’s old gang is trying to enlist him in another robbery scheme.

The chemistry between Raft and Sidney is poor. Raft, best known for his gangster pictures, is not much of an actor. Trying to deliver lines and react believably, he comes off more wooden than a tree trunk. Stiff and awkward, he fails to fit the mold of romantic lead.

Sidney infuses Helen with a quiet desperation blinded by love. She’s put herself into a quandary and has to play it through, though each lie draws her deeper into a massive deception. Likable and sweet, she elicits viewer sympathy, though it’s hard to understand what she sees in Joe, who lacks even an iota of charisma.

Supporting performances by Carey, Roscoe Karns, Barton MacLane, George E. Stone, and Robert Cummings contribute some life and spark to this otherwise slow-paced, often muddled picture.

Director Lang incorporates stylized touches, such as the oddball narrated musical number that opens the film, You Can’t Get Money for Nothing, written by Kurt Weil. Accompanying visuals feature a montage of cash registers ringing up sales and row upon row of jewelry, fancy clothing, automobiles, furs and other expensive consumer goods. The number is unimaginative and dull and sets a heavy-handed tone for the film to follow. A second number is even stranger. Delivered in peculiar prose, it’s presented by a bunch of criminals who recall their days behind bars musically. It’s so weird that you can’t help being riveted, and is hardly Weill at his best. Remember, this is the guy who wrote The Threepenny Opera.

When the film attempts to be funny, the result is half-hearted. The narrative is driven by what will happen with Joe and Helen, but not enough suspense is generated for us to care and Raft’s mechanical performance doesn’t help much to invest us in the problems of these two individuals. With a stronger leading man—think Bogart—You and Me would have been far more engaging.

Lang would turn out some very fine pictures in Hollywood, including Fury, Ministry of Fear, Scarlet Street, The Big Heat, and Clash By Night. You and Me is a noble effort to switch up the typical Hollywood formula, but ultimately a disappointment. It did poorly at the box office when initially released but has attracted admirers over the years as one of Lang’s earliest American movies. Part of the problem is its surrealistic approach. Genres were pretty much rigid back then. Lang’s attempt to blend them makes the film more a curiosity than an artistic triumph. The script, by Virginia Van Upp, never comes to life and, were it not for Sylvia Sidney’s performance, the film would have languished in the realm of forgotten flicks.

You and Me was shot by director of photography Charles Lang with spherical lenses on black-and-white 35 mm film and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray release is sourced from a brand new 2K master. Picture overall is quite good, though a heavy scratch appears on the left at the 12:14 mark. Contrast is very good with sharp images and many scenes featuring a silvery tone. Director Lang favors montage to illustrate emotion, as in a torch song performed by a nightclub singer. Assorted images are intercut with the singer to coordinate with the lyrics. Lang employs atmospheric shadows to suggest shady dealings of the gangsters. A party celebration features many extras in lavish costumes and shows off elaborate production design.

The soundtrack is English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio. English SDH subtitles are available. Dialogue is clear and precise. The musical numbers seem intentionally dark and lack sparkle. A torch song, The Right Guy for Me, is more funereal than bluesy as the nightclub singer pours out her heart melodramatically, lit from below. In the department store scenes early on, there’s appropriate ambient background noise and a general hustle-bustle from busy shoppers.

Bonus materials on the Region A Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber include the following:

  • Audio Commentary by Simon Abrams
  • Trailer (2:23)
  • Behind the High Wall Trailer (2:06)
  • Night After Night Trailer (2:39)
  • The Gilded Lily Trailer (2:44)
  • The Woman in the Window Trailer (1:45)

In his commentary, film critic and author Simon Abrams provides an overview of Fritz Lang’s film career, from the movies he made in Germany through his Hollywood years. Metropolis was his silent masterpiece and M, starring Peter Lorre was an early sound era success. Kurt Weill, like Lang, had early success in Germany and collaborated with Lang on You and Me, composing a couple of songs that didn’t fit the traditional structure of movie songs. George Raft was an unusual choice for the film, since it required him to tone down his gangster persona in favor of a sympathetic romantic lead. Lang was feeling his way in Hollywood, where films were made according to rigid guidelines. Comedies were comedies, gangster pictures were gangster pictures, musicals were musicals, etc. There was little overlapping and audiences knew exactly what they were getting. You and Me did poorly at the box office because it wasn’t easy to pigeonhole. Lang did go on to make several successful movies in Hollywood. In addition to directing, Lang also produced some of his films and wrote screenplays. Sylvia Sidney would work with directors Joseph von Sternberg, Alfred Hitchcock, William Wyler, and King Vidor and, in later years, appeared on many TV shows.

You and Me is an interesting experimental collaboration between Fritz Lang and Kurt Weill, two expatriates from the Nazi regime, that never quite clicks. Sylvia Sidney comes off best in a film that pushes boundaries but is ultimately a plodding “message” picture.

- Dennis Seuling