Behind the Candelabra (Blu-ray) (2013)

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Released 27-Nov-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Biopic Trailer-Mud
Featurette-Making Of-The Making Of Behind the Candelabra
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 118:32
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Steven Soderbergh

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Matt Damon
Scott Bakula
Michael Douglas
Debbie Reynolds
Cheyenne Jackson
Dan Aykroyd
Bruce Ramsay
Rob Lowe
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Marvin Hamlisch

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (3254Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Too much of a good thing is wonderful.

     Behind the Candelabra dramatizes the unspoken relationship between flamboyant entertainer Liberace, and his lover Scott Thorson. Based on an adaptation of Thorson's memoirs, this film chronicles the relationship between the couple from Thorson's perspective, and as such possibly glosses over Liberace's complex personality and inner demons.

     In 1977 Thorson (Matt Damon) is introduced to Liberace (Michael Douglas) by Hollywood producer Bob Black (Scott Bakula). Thorson had been working as a movie animal trainer, and had become friendly with Black after an encounter in a gay bar. Liberace immediately takes a shine to the young Thorson, and overtly flirts with him, much to the indignation of Liberace's current lover and protégé Billy Leatherwood (Cheyenne Jackson). It is not long before Liberace finds an excuse to ditch Leatherwood, and install Thorson into the Liberace household as nominal chauffeur and housemate. Liberace's houseboy Carlucci (Bruce Ramsay), treats the appearance of Thorson with disdain. It appears that Carlucci has seen the boyfriends come and go, whereas he has remained by Liberace’s side. The relationship between Liberace and Thorson quickly turns intimate, with the 40 year old age difference having no impact on their relationship. In a bizarre twist Liberace offers to adopt Thorson, but the arrangement is never formalised.

     After a period of time Thorson begins to realise that he is nothing more than a beautiful addition to the accumulation of possessions that Liberace adores. He even undergoes plastic surgery, at Liberace's insistence, to look more like his senior partner. After five years however the gloss has worn off, and it is clear that Thorson is destined to go the same way as the former companion Leatherwood. As Liberace begins to stray, the inner circle of friends turn their backs on Thorson as business manager Seymour Heller (Dan Ackroyd) acts to clear the path for Thorson's removal.

     Having become addicted to diet pills supplied by Liberace's plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz (Rob Lowe), and also now sporting a cocaine habit, Thorson is not prepared for life outside of the Liberace enclave. The death of Liberace's mother (Debbie Reynolds) seems to entice Liberace into ever increasing promiscuity, which eventually leads to the final breakdown of his relationship with Thorson and his fatal encounter with the AIDS virus. Now estranged from Liberace, Thorson is only reunited at Liberace's death, where at the funeral he imagines his former lover ascending into Heaven as if in a Las Vegas show.

     Douglas has portrayed Liberace in a manner that might confound observers not familiar with the flamboyant Liberace at his outrageous best. Liberace was overtly extravagant and outrageously camp at a time when an innocent public meant that his homosexuality was largely unknown amongst the common people. Inside the industry it was an open secret, but nevertheless countless thousands attended his shows believing he was an all-American boy who loved his mother and who just hadn't found the right girl to marry. Imagining Michael Douglas as the gay Liberace is difficult, but after having seen this performance it is obvious that Douglas has totally nailed the complex personality. Damon has also thrown off his tough guy persona in his portrayal of the "trophy wife" Thorson. Alternatively besotted with Liberace, but also repelled by his shallowness and promiscuity, Damon manages to portray Thorson as a boy who is initially attracted to the glamour and richness of Liberace, but who eventually comes to love the man for who he is, rather than for what he might provide. Director Steven Soderbergh has gone all out in providing a production in keeping with the supremely flamboyant and talented Liberace, and has elicited compelling performances from his lead actors. The sets are magnificent, the on stage performances are in keeping with Liberace's style, and the storytelling is powerful.

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Transfer Quality


     This Blu-ray is presented in the cinematic 1.78:1 with MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p. Filming using Red Epic digital cameras has resulted in a very clean recording with no grain. There is also no evidence of compression artefacts which is not surprising given that this is dual layer transfer with minimal extras. Blacks are excellent without any sign of crushing and shadows and greys are well delineated. The colour palette is vivid with predominantly golden hues within Liberace's mansion. The sharpness of the recording pays testament to the meticulous set design and detail in the creation of Liberace's mansion and wardrobe. The glitz and sparkle fairly leap out of the screen whenever Liberace is in shot, and the bright Californian sky glares intensely during outdoor scenes without an excess of contrast.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The default DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track was encoded at around 3500 Kb/s. With a musical score by the late Marvin Hamlisch, and mixed in recordings of Liberace's own performances, this soundtrack can't help but please. There is excellent fidelity in the musical interludes and dialogue is always crisp and clear. Use of the surrounds is not aggressive but is discreetly effective. Again, the LFE track is not obtrusive although it features in the various nightclub scenes and occasionally in the Liberace performances. Voice synchronisation with the video is faultless. Also included was an English descriptive audio Dolby Digital track encoded at 224 Kb/s.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     Animated menu with audio.


    Occurring on start-up before the main menu are Mud (2:25) - HD Video. Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kb/s, Gambit (2:05) - HD Video. Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kb/s and Salinger (2:27) - HD Video. Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kb/s.

The Making Of Behind the Candelabra (13:27)

     HD Video 1.78:1. Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kb/s. Douglas, Damon, and Richard LaGravenese (screenplay), along with various other contributors discuss the make-up, production and design including the requirement for capturing Liberace's flamboyance and personality with as much accuracy as possible. Although short at only 13 minutes, this feature is quite informative even though director Soderbergh is missing.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Behind The Candelabra is available on Blu-ray in Region A. Apart from language options the discs appear identical.


     Behind The Candelabra is a wonderful exposé of the flamboyant brilliance that was Liberace. As told from Thorson's perspective the Liberace character is somewhat one-dimensional and narcissistic, however the portrayal by Douglas is excellent and never stoops to caricature. Highly recommended.

     The video quality is very good.

     The audio quality is very good.

     The extra is short but informative.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mike B (read my bio)
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge Audio 751bd, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-58PZ850A. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
Amplificationdenon AVR-4311 pre-out to Elektra Theatron 7 channel amp
SpeakersB&W LCR600 centre and 603s3 mains, Niles in ceiling surrounds, SVS PC-Ultra Sub, Definitive Technology Supercube II Sub

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