Desire AKA The Pearl Necklace (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (28th December 2023).
The Film

Marlene Dietrich (The Scarlet Empress) and Gary Cooper (Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife) star in Desire, a romantic crime caper directed by Frank Borzage (A Farewell to Arms).

When jewel thief Madeleine (Dietrich) leaves Paris with a string of pearls, she conspires to smuggle them across the Spanish border with the unwitting assistance of American mechanic Tom (Cooper). But retrieving the jewels turns out to be harder than she thinks, and she finds herself falling for Tom.

Reuniting the leads of Josef von Sternberg’s smash hit Morocco, and co-produced by the great Ernst Lubitsch, Desire was acclaimed by author Graham Greene as the best of Dietrich’s American films.


A classic pairing of Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper gets the deluxe treatment from Powerhouse Films in the UK. The booklet states the following about the transfer:
Desire was sourced from Universal’s HD restoration, created from a 4K scan of a 35mm composite fine grain print in 2022. The film’s original mono soundtrack was remastered at the same time.
The new transfer generally looks a peach but there's obvious softness and plenty of fine, grain as befitting photochemical film and the style of shooting circa 1936. I generally find films from the '30s have a slightly hazy look and this one is not different. Gamma is perfectly balanced with no colour bias showing up, perfect, inky monochrome. Black levels are deep and rich and although I suspect shadow detail could've been better had they used the OCN, that was obviously not possible. Contrast is very layered and supportive allowing the glowing whites to shine without blowing out too much although some of Dietrich's white outfits lacked texture. That said, most fabrics in closeup have plenty of fine detail and texturing. Backgrounds can a little soft but that's predominately down to the way the film was lensed.

Encoding is , as usual, very strong on this single layered presentation and I could see no signs of print damage or digital manipulation; grain is filmic and even with smearing etc. Obviously, a 4K presentation with HDR would produce greater ranges within the monochrome but that's highly unlikely to ever happen. A nice, clean, solid, strong transfer of a problematic source handled beautifully by the encode ('A-').

1080p24 / AVC MPEG-4 / BD25 / 1.37:1 / 95:53


English LPCM 1.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Subtitles: English HoH

The restored sound is obviously pretty limited given the technology used to record it. Occasionally canned quality to the score is to be expected. Dialogue is robust and easily discernible. There is some mild hiss, especially if one cranks the volume up and only very slight distortion reared its head when I had the volume at double the norm. Hard of hearing subtitles are comprehensive with no missed lines or compression for speed. As good as we can expect ('B').


Audio commentary with film historians Nathaniel Bell and David Del Valle (2021)

A legacy extra that appeared on the 2021 US Kino BD. Bell & Del Valle ... rhymes nicely ... are a good team as they trawl through this romcom confection from the golden age. As to be expected all the ground (and trivia) one could wish for is covered between the two of them. Presented in lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (48kHz, 112Kbps).

"Frank Borzage: Oral History" 1958 audio interview conducted by George Pratt (39:47)

Presented in lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (48kHz, 192Kbps), this is an incredibly valuable extra as director Borzage died in 1962 only a few years after this was recorded, aged 68. Interviewer Pratt (1914-88) is also no longer with us; a film historian and assistant curator of film at the George Eastman Museum, Pratt was famous for carrying out a series of interviews of Golden Age personalities. This is a chunky interview that covers Borzage's career nicely from actor to director.

"Mr. Cooper Goes to Hollywood: Nathalie Morris on the Career, Reputation and Style of Gary Cooper" 2023 interview (11:42)

Morris is a new name and face to me (a senior curator of Special Collections at the BFI) and she does a commendable job in covering Cooper's career in a relatively short amount of time. Presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (48kHz, 192Kbps).

"Lux Radio Theater: Desire" 15 March 1937 radio episode (54:54)

If you've heard these radio recordings from the '30s and '40s before you know what to expect; limited range, generally clear but they do have a canned, scratchy sound befitting the limited recording technology of the time. A Cecil B. DeMille production and he introduces this episode. Presented in lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (48kHz, 192Kbps).

Theatrical Trailer (2:49)

Vintage promo presented in 1080p24 1.37:1 with lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound with no subtitles.

Desire Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (58 images)

Solid HD gallery of rather wonderful promotional images.

36-page liner notes booklet by Christina Newland, archival interviews with Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich and Frank Borzage and film credits

A splendid hard copy companion with an insightful new essay and a cluster of vintage interviews with key players.


Not sent for review.


Another slice of Golden Age Hollywood gets the luxury treatment with fine image and sound with fine supportive extras, best of which is a typically chatty and easy commentary from David Del Valle with historian Nathanial Belle. Another highly recommended disc from Powerhouse Films ... keep 'em coming ('A-')!

The Film: A- Video: A- Audio: B Extras: A- Overall: A-


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