The Three Faces of Eve is most famous for Joanne Woodward’s tour-de-force performance in her lead role. A relative unknown at the time, Woodward’s portrayal of a young housewife suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder would win her the 1957 Academy Award for Best Actress. Adapted from a book detailing the true experiences of a woman dealing with the psychiatric disorder, the film melds its narrative around a dramatized account of the woman’s troubled life.
A couple seek out help from a psychiatrist, a Dr. Luther ( Lee J. Cobb). Eve White (Joanne Woodward) and her husband Ralph (David Wayne) are having problems in their marriage. The audience soon learns the source of problems in their marriage stem from a second personality that manifests in Eve White. Ralph is a stern husband that does not understand what his wife is going through or her disorder.
Calling herself Eve Black, this second personality has a completely different manner of speech and style than the shy Eve White. Eve White is not directly aware of her alter-ego, losing consciousness for stretches while Eve Black goes out and parties. Eve Black is a wild flirt with men and likes to dress provocatively, the complete opposite of Eve White. Eve Black also considers herself a completely different entity than Eve White, claiming she is not married to Ralph or the mother of their daughter, Bonnie. Woodward convincingly handles the switch between the two distinct personalities with poise.
Dr. Luther is curious about the multiple personalities in Eve and wants to genuinely help her, as the disorder is rare even in professional circles. Eve White has to be pulled from her home and committed when Eve Black takes control at one point and shockingly attempts to strangle Bonnie. It is easy to underestimate today how shocking the attempted strangulation would have been in 1957 to audiences. The attempted murder of children was a taboo subject for Hollywood in those days. Many aspects of Multiple Personality Disorder are outed today, run through the ringer by decades’ worth of television and movies. It would have been new and strange to the masses when Three Faces of Eve was first released.
A third personality eventually emerges from Eve, now living on her own and separated from her husband and daughter. Calling herself Jane, this third personality has no memories and acts completely differently from both Eve White and Eve Black. Jane is a well-mannered sophisticate, a steadier and more responsible personality than the prior two ones. Dr. Luther discovers a traumatic event in Eve’s youth that might explain the multiple personalities, if all three personalities will acknowledge it.
The Three Faces of Eve is a curio from an earlier time. It is a good film elevated by Woodward’s remarkable portrayal of three distinct personalities, examining a rare psychiatric issue that still causes misunderstanding today. The taut script has a documentary-like feel to it, as the drama is firmly grounded in the actual details of the original case.
Fox has delivered a beautiful CinemaScope transfer for this award-winning film. The classic black-and-white cinematography looks fabulous, rendered with excellent shadow delineation. The 91-minute main feature has been encoded in AVC, at the fantastically-high average of 37.99 Mbps. Properly framed in its native 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the film-like transfer has been struck from nearly immaculate film elements.
The high video bitrate completely replicates the flawless grain structure of the original film. Grain is at its proper density and thickness for the CinemaScope film. The negative must have been treated with the utmost care over the years. Free of film debris and anomalies, clarity is fantastic with an appreciable level of fine detail. A hint of halos and ringing can be found in a few later scenes, but on the whole this transfer has been left untouched by serious processing.
Contrast and definition are excellent most of the time. The film does become softer in its final act, though that is likely inherent to the original cinematography. The first act is razor-sharp with a surprising amount of depth, the focus is unerring in the scenes shot at studio sets. The Three Faces of Eve has never looked better on home video and this BD has a clear advantage over prior home editions.
Fox has presented the mono mix in a stable 1.0 DTS-HD MA presentation. Both score and dialogue show little sign of age, as fidelity is rich for a 1957 soundtrack. Confined to the center channel, impeccable dialogue is nicely balanced with the fairly forgettable score. The Three Faces of Eve is completely driven by dialogue outside of a couple dance numbers. This film did have a stereo mix at one time, though that is not included on this BD.
A hidden Japanese mono soundtrack is included in 1.0 DTS-HD MA. The Spanish dub is presented in 1.0 DD at 192 kbps. Subtitles include English SDH, Spanish, French, and Japanese. The optional subtitles display in a white font, completely within the 2.35:1 transfer.
Audio Commentary By Film Historian Aubrey Solomon – Solomon is an author about early Fox movies and delivers a sizable amount of information about The Three Faces of Eve in his commentary. He clearly did his homework by preparing copious notes, as he occasionally sounds like he is reading from his own writings. There is also an annoying amount of silence in this commentary. Solomon can go quiet for minutes at a time.
Fox Movietone News: Academy Awards (02:22 in SD) – Vintage black-and-white footage of Woodward winning the Academy Award, presented to her by none other than John Wayne. It’s a must-see for fans of old Hollywood.
Theatrical Trailer (02:44 in SD) – An interesting vintage trailer, they definitely emphasized different things for marketing in the 1950s.
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