Great Gatsby, The (1974) (Blu-ray)
|Year Of Production||1974|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Programme|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5||Directed By||Jack Clayton|
Paramount Home Entertainment
Howard Da Silva
Kathryn Leigh Scott
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby TrueHD 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
No-Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
It is perhaps no surprise that the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby should find its way to Blu-ray in this Region in the lead up to the release of the Baz Luhrmann film. It is perhaps also no surprise that the film has taken so long to get a high definition release such is its dubious reputation. It received middling to generally poor reviews on release with critics describing it as dull and inert. Fast forward almost 40 years and the next generation of those critics seems to be sharpening their pencils to take a dig at Baz Luhrmann's take on the book with early reviews again suggesting that the film has failed to capture the spirit of the novel and the whole jazz era background.
Aside from the 1974 and 2013 interpretations the novel had been filmed twice (as well as once for TV in a mini-series) before. One version from the silent era has been lost and the other from 1949 is generally considered a terrible movie. If one assumes for the moment that The Great Gatsby deserves its status as one of the most important and influential American novels of the last century, but that it has defied three attempts at filming it, then the question quite clearly becomes whether the novel is unfilmable. The difficulty to my mind is that the novel features an earnest, genuine but generally bland character as its lead who must be initially seduced by, and then feel repelled by, the glorious trappings of wealth and success and the hedonistic spirit of the jazz age. In other words it has to show you a beautiful façade and then expose the emptiness beneath it. This probably works better on paper than in cinema where most want a story where the good triumph over the rich and powerful.
The 1974 version of The Great Gatsby was distinguished by the fact that the hype machine began running a year before the release of the film. Not only was it bringing a great American novel to the screen but it was combining a distinguished British director in Jack Clayton, two popular stars in the form of Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, as well as a script by Francis Ford Coppola whose reputation was stratospheric after the Godfather movies. Though it was critically derided the film scored well enough at the box office to be a success and was popular with Robert Redford fans.
For those who haven't read the book (which the film follows quite closely) or, like me haven't read it in 30 years, the plot to the film is at once straight forward yet complex. Nick Carraway (a young Sam Waterston from Law & Order) has returned from the war and works in New York as a bonds salesman. It is 1921 and the horrors of WW1 are forgotten and the jazz age is in full swing. Nick lives in the fictional suburb of West Egg on Long Island across the bay from the wealthier East Egg. Nick lives in a small cottage between two mansions, one of which is owned by the elusive Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford). Nick only knows one person in the area, a vague cousin Daisy Buchanan (Mia Farrow) who lives with her wealthy husband Tom (Bruce Dern) in East Egg. Something moves behind Daisy's eyes when Nick mentions that his neighbour is Gatsby.
Gatsby is fond of holding grand parties where the jazz is hot and the champagne cold. He is so mysterious, rumoured to be a bootlegger, that he is rarely seen at his own parties. When Nick is invited to his neighbour's party he is surprised to receive an invitation upstairs to meet the great man himself. It turns out that Gatsby and Daisy knew each other an eternity ago when Gatsby was a dashing young soldier and she the daughter of a wealthy family. Gatsby was afflicted with a terrible disease - he was too poor to be accepted into the ranks of the privileged classes. Meanwhile Daisy's husband is having an affair with Myrtle (Karen Black), the lively wife of local mechanic Wilson (Scott Wilson). Gatsby encourages Nick to invite Daisy to the cottage so that he can woo her afresh. It is a reflection on his will to succeed that Gatsby reacts with horror when Nick tells him that you can't relive the past. "Of course you can" retorts a perplexed Gatsby.
As that relationship rekindles and Tom becomes aware that his wife is being taken from him, notwithstanding that he is happy to keep Myrtle as a mistress, it fuels a tragic climax leaving Nick utterly disillusioned at the cruelty of the idle rich. In its own way the conclusion is just as devastating as Jack Nicholson being told to forget it "this is Chinatown" and the look on the faces of all concerned when Leonardo Di Caprio starts talking about money in The Aviator. "We don't talk about money here, Mr Hughes" states the wealthy heiress. "That's because you have it" replies Hughes only to realise that he can never win his argument. Old money carries the sense of entitlement that the nouveau riche can never obtain.
Again, it is difficult to say whether this is a good adaptation of a book which sets out to disillusion the reader as to the lively spirit of the jazz age and the American dream. It is certainly long, perhaps too long, and the characters like Daisy are portrayed as shallow and two dimensional which is accurate to the book but more difficult to appreciate on screen. Early reviews of the Baz Luhrmann version suggests that he too has failed to capture the jazz age, perhaps with his tinkering with the music, however it is clear that the story behind The Great Gatsby is as relevant now as it was in the 20's when it was written.
The Great Gatsby comes to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1 transfer consistent with the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
The last time the film was released on DVD in 2004 it picked up some average reviews for the technical quality of the release. It is pleasing to say that those concerns have been alleviated by this high definition transfer. It is clear of any flaws or artefacts. However, it still looks like a 1974 movie and those expecting it to be cutting edge will be disappointed.
There is a general softness to the image particularly in medium shot. The close ups, however, show a very pleasing level of detail. There is constant sweat on the faces of the men folk who are exposed to the hot New York summer yet wouldn't dream of taking off any part of their three piece suit ensemble. Style over comfort any day!
The colours are stable and accurate. Whites and pastels predominate so this is not an extremely vivid production.
There is a pleasing level of grain allowing the movie to retain its sense of filmic grandeur.
There are subtitles in English and many other languages.
The Great Gatsby Blu-ray carries a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack.
Most of the soundtrack is front and centre. It is only during the party scenes and some other moments of ambience that the surround track is used. I can't recall the sub-woofer having much of a presence other than in the music scenes.
The dialogue is clear and easy to understand.
The Oscar winning music was supervised and conducted by Nelson Riddle. It consists of jazz era standards.
There are no technical defects with the sound.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are no extras with this release.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This appears to be an All Region Blu-ray. The Region A Blu-ray release is identical with the exception of a different High Definition soundtrack. Buy local.
The Great Gatsby is perhaps a little dull but nevertheless tells the story in a way which is technically accurate to the book. The Blu-ray presentation is decent in sound and vision terms considering the age of the movie though not spectacular.
|DVD||Cambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Pioneer SC-LX 81 7.1|
|Speakers||Aaron ATS-5 7.1|