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    When Harry Met Sally

    Polygram/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 98 mins . M . PAL


    Back in 1990 this audience favourite caused a stir when it modernised the 'romantic comedy' subgenre with its sharp dialogue and relatively unconventional story line. In my office everyone talked about the fake orgasm sequence and the fresh approach taken by writer Nora Ephron and ace director Rob Reiner (well, mainly the orgasm part). Ephron has since written and directed SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (Columbia Tristar DVD) and YOU'VE GOT MAIL, which is currently playing in your nearest out-of-focus multiplex cinema.

    I bought WHEN HARRY MET SALLY because by the time it plays on TV, I have already been yearning to see it again. While it is a low key character piece that does not suffer too much on the idiot box, the anamorphic widescreen treatment, lack of commercial breaks and uncensored profanities made Polygram's PAL-world pressing of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY an easy choice. I am one of those people who gets movie cravings during the witching hour; this title will be perfect for filling that desperate need!


    Polygram have placed an anamorphic transfer framed at 1.78:1 on one side of the disc, and a full-frame transfer on the other. Marked as 4:3, the full frame version opens up the upper and lower mattes to show bare ceilings and footpaths, but as far as I could see nothing was cropped from the left or right sides. The 16:9 version looks better for being properly framed and hi-res anamorphic, so if you have the choice go for the gold. Full-frame and 1.85:1 versions have been released on NTSC laserdisc in the past, so I am not sure whether the DVD has slightly less matting or has cropped sides thanks to zooming. The PAL laserdisc was full frame.

    Made for the PAL market, no doubt in Europe, Polygram's first batch of DVDs have surprisingly good picture quality. After the wobbly opening titles (and at 0:13:20, 0:38:00) we move into the campus scene in which Harry (Billy Crystal) says goodbye to his girlfriend before travelling to New York with Sally (Meg Ryan). The colours are strong -- maybe a tad undersaturated -- and the sharpness and detail is pleasing: leaves on trees are well defined for example, and shadow detail is good. The stadium shot of the crowd doing a Mexican wave (0:25:00) looks dazzling. I had to boost the brightness one notch for this DVD. Film grain is noticeable if you look for it, especially in the sky outside the airport, and source speckles show up occasionally, but otherwise this is a better than expected transfer. No drastic problems for a film 10 years old.

    The subtitle font is small and reasonable; not ugly at any rate, unlike THE FIFTH ELEMENT R4. Much of the faster dialogue scenes are paraphrased, and naturally the text appears on the image.


    The only format available is Dolby Prologic. Somehow I cannot see WHEN HARRY MET SALLY being a priority title for a Dolby Digital or DTS remix! As is, the sound is good through my stereo system, though with few directional effects. Some hiss is audible...not sure whether this is on the actual track or whether it comes out that way unprocessed through my amp.


    No extras beyond having the 1.33:1 version on the flip side of the DVD. Being full frame there is no panning and scanning, so it is not that horrible to watch (I compared a few key scenes).


    I cannot imagine how any previous home video release could be better than Polygram's DVD edition of this movie. Disregarding the awkward menu system and higher price tag ($34.95) this purchase is justified for anyone trying to bolster their date-movie collection.

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