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Desk Set

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The penultimate Tracy-Hepburn vehicle really ought to rank higher among their nine collaborations. The lead roles suit them beautifully: He’s an absentminded computer expert, she’s a brilliant-yet-forlorn TV-network researcher whose department he’s studying. But Desk Set was made at the height of Hollywood’s mania for superwide screens, and director Walter Lang photographed it in CinemaScope. As a result, what should have been an intimate chamber piece filled with close-up exchanges got staged as a series of Last Supper tableaux, done all in static long shots.

For this ”letterboxed” laserdisc edition, the film’s severely rectangular images have been shrunk and set between black bands. While this keeps all the players in view (an improvement over the cropped tape version, in which actors continually wander out of the frame), you’ll have trouble making out expressions if you watch from more than six feet away or on a small TV. Still, it’s worth the eyestrain to catch what you can of Tracy and Hepburn’s tender, sparkling interplay. B-

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