No matter how disappointing this DVD is, it still offers some really nice music, and being a sucker for musicals, really does start to grow on you. The all-star cast is simply superb and add a great buzz to the film. Its just a pity that the transfer can’t be as good as the acting.
This film picks up the story of Jerome Kern (Robert Walker) at the opening night of his musical Show Boat and then goes back to the beginning of Kern’s song writing career when he was almost penniless. After moving to the UK where it was said all good songwriters are, Kern is able to build on a friendship with James I. Hessler and also met one of his earliest successes, who also turns out to be the future Mrs. Kern (Dorothy Patrick). After a rough time in the US, Kern collaborates with Oscar Hammerstein II and together they create an adaptation of the classic, Show Boat
The video is simply appalling. Where to start? Well, for starters it is presented in the aspect of 4:3, or 1.33:1, when it was actually filmed in 1.37:1. This means that the text at the beginning of the film is clipped on the left and right and makes some words hard to read.
The quality and clarity of the video transfer is simply horrible to watch. The reds are heavily over-saturated and does show some minor bleeding in some scenes. The colours, especially in the opening scene, are very solid with little definition or sharpness. Mind you, this is a 1940’s film when Technicolor was a new creation, but so much more could have been done to make this a better transfer.
There are a lot of film artefacts, but nothing too annoying apart from one special effects scene where the artefacts go berserk. There is minor film grain throughout the feature, but given the age of the film it can be accepted and ignored. It isn’t overly distracting but is just very apparent in some scenes.
There is no layer change, as it is a single layered, single sided disc, which probably is a cause of the poor quality. The longest film that this reviewer has seen on a single layered disc was Where The Money Is being 88 minutes, but this being 135 on a single sided disc just seems like a crazy idea. The compression of the video and audio must be so great, which could be a cause of the solid colours on screen.
The audio transfer is much much worse than the video transfer. Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, the audio transfer suffers heavily from distortion. This is probably a feature of the actual master print of the film, but still could have been improved for such an advanced digital technology. And what's this about being Digitally Remastered. I would really like to know what has been remastered.
The dialogue is just crazy though. In some scenes, the dialogue is audible and understandable, while during some other scenes, the words just come out a blur of noise. This is incredibly annoying as it means some lines need to be re-heard in order to hear them correctly, in some cases, re-heard several times. With no subtitles on the disc, it makes it even harder to understand.
The extra features are present, but not very special and not very extra either. There is a synopsis of the film for those of you who hadn’t read the back of the case, and also a song list. The synopsis reads as if no body has proof read it. The song list is helpful thought at identifying the songs and their sources. The menus are simply appalling though. It is a game of ‘guess to see what I have highlighted’ if you want to navigate anywhere. The flashing texts of the buttons makes it hard to know what is highlighted. But the extras do redeem themselves one mark for the song list.
A poorly mastered video, and irritating audio transfer, with barely any special features and a most horrible menu system.