Overall | Monkey Business (1952) | Niagara (1953) | Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) | There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection-Volume 2 (1952)

Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection-Volume 2 (1952)

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Released 23-Jul-2002

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Overall Package

    Moving right along with Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection - Volume 2, we do actually have a genuine diamond of a film in this very interesting collection of four films. That film is what could be argued to be the best film in Marilyn Monroe's filmography - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Talk about celluloid meltdown!! Marilyn Monroe and the equally statuesque Jane Russell in the same film? Has there ever been a more dynamite duo of female leads in a film?

    Whilst the first volume in the collection featured films from both ends of her career, Volume 2 offers a tight bunch of films from the middle part of her career. Indeed these films cover almost all her output from late 1952 through to 1954 - Monkey Business from 1952, Niagara from 1953, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes from the same year and There's No Business Like Show Business from 1954. A more interesting mix of films you could not ask for, either. From the pure silliness of Monkey Business through genuine thriller and great comedy to the only genuine musical that Marilyn Monroe appeared in.

    This is a range of films that demonstrates just about every facet of the immortal lady's abilities, although it has to be said that celluloid melting is at the very top of those abilities. These films feature Marilyn Monroe in some of her sexiest moments, with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes offering several iconic moments. Adding to the sex appeal of this collection are also the aforementioned Jane Russell and the gorgeous Mitzi Gaynor.

    Whilst I would strongly suggest that every volume of Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection should be in every collection, if you can only afford to indulge in just one of the well presented box sets I would suggest it is this one. More than any other of the volumes, this encapsulates the career of the legend so well. Highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | Monkey Business (1952) | Niagara (1953) | Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) | There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

Monkey Business (1952)

Monkey Business (1952)

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Released 24-Jul-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:40)
Featurette-Restoration Comparison (0:41)
Gallery
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1952
Running Time 92:59 (Case: 96)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Howard Hawks
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Cary Grant
Ginger Rogers
Charles Coburn
Marilyn Monroe
Case ?
RPI Box Music Leigh Harline


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
French
German
Italian
Norwegian
Spanish
Swedish
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Talk about silly! This is one of those films that wears its silliness with ease and revels in it. The fact that despite the silliness the film actually works, and still works if you let it, is testament to some good direction, a good story and a fine bunch of actors determined to do the right thing by it. Mind you, the inclusion of the film in the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection is pushing things a little - this is a very minor role for the greatest siren of the silver screen. Mind you, Marilyn Monroe being what she is still manages to harbour the limelight with her appearance in a bathing suit.

    The silliness here begins with your quintessential absent-minded professor, Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant), who is trying to perfect a new chemical formula with the potential to be a fountain of youth, of sorts. His poor suffering wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) has to some extent accepted the eccentricities of her husband despite the constant reminder of a former suitor. One of those eccentricities is that when he starts thinking too much about work, he gets completely absent-minded - which is shown to great effect in the farcical opening sequence of the film. After one especially absent-minded evening where once again the couple have been unable to make it out of the door of their home, Barnaby hits upon the solution to his current problem. Next day at work, he seems normal - at least normal by his standards - when visiting his boss Oliver Oxly (Charles Coburn), whose secretary Lois Laurel (Marilyn Monroe) is something of a prototypical blonde, having problems with her punctuation. Whilst visiting his boss, one of Barnaby's test subjects, a chimpanzee, runs amok in the laboratory, fuelling hopes that the youth elixir has been successful. But soon all are disappointed and Barnaby and his team return to the slog of perfecting the formula. Unbeknownst to them though, during their absence from the laboratory one of the chimpanzees has perfected the formula and promptly dumped the result into the water dispenser. When Barnaby tries his own "revised" formula, which is promptly washed down with the tainted water, his reactions are the stuff of scientific non-advancement. Under the influence of the combined formulas, Barnaby reverts to an earlier age and mayhem ensues - mayhem that includes Lois as opposed to his wife.

    Subsequently, the mayhem is compounded when Edwina becomes a willing test subject and they both revert to an even earlier age - which really gets Edwina confused as well as bemused.

    The stars of the show here are Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers and they both really get into the spirit of the occasion. Whilst the silliness sometimes gets more towards the absurd later in the film, it has to be said that both actors do a grand job in evoking the child-like qualities that the story demands. Charles Coburn does his usual steady job as the boss, whilst Marilyn Monroe in a limited role plays the dumb blonde to perfection. The whole thing is well held together by Howard Hawks.

    Whilst it is not the best film in the Marilyn Monroe filmography, since she hardly has a huge role in the film, it remains a genuinely silly film. If you are in the mood for ninety minutes of silliness, then this will more than serve the purpose!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    After the visual delights of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, this comes a something of a disappointment. It is not just the fact that it is a black and white film but rather that the restoration job appears to have been a little perfunctory. The restoration featurette indicates that the film was in remarkably good condition, requiring minimal restoration in the overall scheme of things. On the evidence here, the description "remarkably good condition" has a different meaning than that I would normally ascribe.

    The transfer is presented in a Full Frame format that equates very closely to the Academy aspect ratio (1.37:1) of the theatrical release. The transfer is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Really, this is nothing much more than a slightly better than average transfer, even for a film of this age. Sharpness is a little variable but generally is quite reasonable. The transfer does however fall a little towards the diffuse side of things on occasion with the result that definition is not bad but hardly spectacular. Shadow detail is reasonable but there are obvious instances where something better would have been preferred. The main problem with the transfer is the grain - especially early on in the film. At times - such as at 11:03 - this gets incredibly grainy and very difficult to watch. The problem seems to improve later in the film. This could be very difficult to watch on a large screen.

    The "colours" on offer are not exactly the best either. The problem is that the black and white tones are not very well defined at all and the definition across the grey scales as a result is pretty ordinary. Whilst there are few places where the tones get really poor, it is a fact that I have seen films older than this with much better tonal definition across the board. This definitely could do with a good dose of solidity to the blacks.

    There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are a few film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, mainly some aliasing in things like window blinds (49:00) and jackets (35:55). There are plenty of film artefacts in the transfer, but very few of them are really intrusive at all.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD but again the exact layer change point has eluded me. As soon as I can identify it, I will update the review. Suffice it to say that wherever it might be, it once again is not disruptive to the flow of the film!

    There are fourteen subtitle options on the DVD, including four titling options for the extras package. Once again they are pretty good with only relatively minor dialogue omissions in general.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. I listened only to the English soundtrack.

    The audio transfer is not very good and the dialogue often descends into an echoic sound that is not exactly the clearest way to listen to dialogue. In some parts this gets very difficult to listen to and to understand. There does not appear to be any significant audio sync issues with the transfer.

    The original music comes from Leigh Harline, and to some extent draws upon the music afforded some of those zany comedies of the 1940s and earlier. Nothing too great about the whole deal, but within the context of the silliness of the film, it does the job of supporting the film quite well.

    This is not a great mono soundtrack at all, and as indicated descends into an echoic style that is not at all enjoyable. As a result of the echoic nature of the soundtrack, the dialogue comes and goes a little which really makes listening to this a chore more than a pleasure. When the sound gets close to something like normal mono, tweaked obviously to play out of the two front surround speakers, it is quite acceptable even if it could do with just a bit more air in it. Congestion does become a bit of a problem at times.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A little light-on this time round, which is something of a pity.

Menu

    Fairly basic efforts, although reasonably classy looking and they are 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (2:40)

    The quality on offer here can be summed up in one word - grain. Plenty of it too. Presented in a Full Frame format, which is of course not 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound of the mono variety, this is not a pretty sight at all. One of the poorest quality extras yet included on any DVD seen from the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection.

Featurette - Restoration Comparison (0:41)

    Talk about short! Whilst the format is the same as that we have seen in every release so far from the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection, the length leaves plenty to be desired. This effort features two split screen comparisons after the obligatory self running notes about the restoration. The first comparison is between the existing video master and the restored film elements plus video restoration. The second compares the restored film elements alone with the restored film elements plus video restoration.

Gallery - Stills

    Comprising nineteen stills, mostly from the film itself. Nothing much to write home about.

R4 vs R1

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

    As far as we can ascertain, the Region 4 release misses out on:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    In broad terms there is nothing significantly different between the two releases, so call this one even.

Summary

    The problem with Monkey Business is that it harkens back to a slightly zanier time in film-making and a fairly unsophisticated one at that. I would suspect that nowadays many would just find this annoying rather than funny, a penalty for the sophisticated times we live in I guess, which is a great pity for this really is superbly done silliness, with every one getting in on the spirit. The result is really a stress-relieving antidote for modern living that is a quite pleasant way of whiling away ninety minutes. The film does not pretend to be anything other than what it is and that is perhaps where devotees of an older era of film-making will find the greatest enjoyment. Switch off the brain, grab the popcorn and just join in the silliness. Whilst the transfer could perhaps have been better than it is, the result is nothing terrible.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews
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Damn! - Alex H (My biography...in 500 words or less!)

Overall | Monkey Business (1952) | Niagara (1953) | Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) | There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

Niagara (1953)

Niagara (1953)

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Released 24-Jul-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:56)
Featurette-Restoration Comparison (1:07)
Gallery
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 85:12 (Case: 88)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (27:11) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Henry Hathaway
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Marilyn Monroe
Joseph Cotten
Jean Peters
Case ?
RPI Box Music Sol Kaplan


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
French
German
Italian
Norwegian
Spanish
Swedish
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    If there was one film that could be pointed to as "the one" that catapulted Marilyn Monroe into the stratosphere of actresses in Hollywood, then Niagara is it. It was arguably her first genuine starring role (after Anne Baxter backed out if I remember the Internet Movie Database notes correctly) and she made herself an A-list star with it. It proved that she could not only ignite fires with her sexuality on film but also that she could actually act when asked to. Toss in a bit of singing and this demonstrated just about everything she had to offer. In some ways, this is the film that highlights what a great tragedy her life was, inasmuch as it constantly reminds us of what a woman she was. Legends are few and far between - there is no denying Marilyn Monroe that status. Goddesses are even fewer and even further between - Marilyn Monroe would just about make the grade.

    Given the title of the film, it comes as no surprise that the film was set around Niagara Falls. The story begins with a hint of something mysterious, as George Loomis (Joseph Cotten) is driven to the brink of insanity by his adoring wife Rose (Marilyn Monroe), so much so that he wanders dangerously close to the falls themselves. Returning to their holiday cabin, George finds his wife apparently fast asleep. Into the mix arrives a young couple from Toledo, Polly Cutler (Jean Peters) and Ray Cutler (Max Showalter), in town to visit the headquarters of Ray's company. He turns out to be a successful sales rep for the Shredding Wheat company and has won the trip to Niagara Falls for his sales performances. The couple are using the trip as a belated honeymoon. They have booked into the same holiday cabins as the Loomis' - indeed the actual cabin itself. So the Cutler's get to meet the Loomis', and the mystery just goes crazy. Obviously the Cutler marriage is a happy one, but equally obviously the Loomis marriage is not and those problems are manifested within sight of the falls. Rose Loomis has a plan and the Cutler's will be the unwitting participants therein to prove to the police that George Loomis was not entirely sane. Like all plans though, this one does not have a smooth ride and both Rose and Polly have some nasty surprises in store.

    Nothing more will be revealed, for whilst not quite up to the standard of Alfred Hitchcock, we do get a nice little twist that is not entirely expected.

    The star of the film in every way is Marilyn Monroe and she demonstrates it in just about every scene she appears in. She has the sassiness and innocence to pull off the role of the scheming wife with absolute aplomb. Even if you know the film well, her performance is good enough to still cast that little doubt in the back of your mind. Mind you, she still gets ample opportunity to demonstrate her sheer sexuality and I doubt anyone lying in bed under sheets could generate as much electricity on screen as Marilyn Monroe could. To be fair, her co-star was not quite in the same league and was to a large extent overshadowed by her presence. Whilst I would not go so far as to say Joseph Cotten was a complete miscasting, you do have to think that perhaps a better choice could have been found. The comparative lack of chemistry between the two of them does, however, add an edginess to the drama here. There was one other bright light in the film and that was the beautiful Jean Peters. She did not have much of a career before she gave it away to become Mrs Howard Hughes, but on the evidence here, it would have been a career worth watching. The rest of the cast do enough to flesh out their roles and that is about all you could ask for in the presence of Marilyn Monroe. Henry Hathaway did a fine job in the director's chair, but the special effects certainly date the film badly! You will see what I mean in the climatic scene of the film.

    Niagara is one of the most important films in the career of Marilyn Monroe, and one of the better ones too. Not quite in the league of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or Some Like It Hot - in my view her two best outings - but worthy of investigation.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    With a return to Technicolor for this release, the quality has seemed to improve again - at least in comparison to the DVD immediately reviewed prior to this (Monkey Business). Whilst not in the visual delight category of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, this is a good transfer in most respects and shows only a few indicators of the film's age.

    The transfer is presented in a Full Frame format that equates very closely to the Academy aspect ratio (1.37:1) of the theatrical release. The transfer is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Apart from a few places where grain is really in evidence, there is little to hinder the transfer at all. Funnily enough, the grain is most noticeable during the special effects segments of the film - 79:45 and 83:15 are examples - where the foreground is distinctly superior in quality to the background. This does raise the question as to whether this represents second unit shooting on different film stock or something similarly inherent in the source material. Nonetheless, it has to be said that in comparison to some grain harvests seen, this is a reasonably limited one. Otherwise, the transfer is reasonably sharp and quite well detailed. Shot mostly on location I believe, the result has a quite natural look to it (aside from the effects work that is). Shadow detail is where the film does fall down somewhat with some instances being quite poor - 31:15 is an example where more detail was really required. This is unlikely to be anything other than source material issues though. Low level noise is not an issue in the transfer.

    The colours here tend towards being a little muted, which is not exactly detrimental to the film. Aside from a few of the dresses worn by Marilyn Monroe there are not really a heck of a lot of bright, vivid colours to be found. The result has a quite natural feel to it, and overall aids the film pretty well. The only evidence of bleed in the transfer is during the opening credits, where the red tends to run a little. There is no real indication of oversaturation anywhere in the transfer. This is not exactly a vibrant transfer and I would have preferred a little more depth to the tones.

    There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are few film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, with the most notable being some moiré being evident in the roof at 2:42. There are quite a few film artefacts in the transfer, most notably and obviously during the opening credits, but dotted elsewhere during the transfer as well. This is perhaps the poorest of the restored colour films in the series in that regard, yet it is by no means a big issue here.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming during the black scene change at 27:11. Once again it is not disruptive to the flow of the film and was unnoticeable on my new DVD player (I had to resort to the old player to find out where it was exactly).

    There are fourteen subtitle options on the DVD. Once again they are pretty good with only relatively minor dialogue omissions in general.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. I listened to the English soundtrack, as you would of course expect.

    The audio transfer is pretty good and apart from some rather obvious drops into distinctly mono sound, the sound has a decent body to it and thus everything comes up pretty well. You will note that the recordings involving the waterfall itself sound quite congested and almost hissy. This is most likely the result of the deficiencies of recording technology in those days. As anyone who has been to Niagara Falls and had the chance to get close to them will attest, the din they make is quite amazing. The fact that this results in some less than perfect sound recording for the film is hardly surprising. There does not appear to be any significant audio sync issues with the transfer.

    The original music comes from Sol Kaplan, which is not exactly terrific but does the job of supporting the film well enough.

    This is a reasonably good mono soundtrack in that it is not obviously mono and the remastering has done a decent job of splitting the sound into the front speakers. It does get a little echoic at times, but not distractingly so. The sound could certainly have benefited from a bit more air but overall there is little to be truly complaining about here.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Another light load again, for what is arguably Marilyn Monroe's first real starring role. I would have thought a little more could have been done.

Menu

    Fairly basic efforts, although reasonably decent looking and they are 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (2:56)

    Let's see - very grainy, plenty of film artefacts, congested sound and black and white. Not much going for this on purely technical grounds. I thought the caption "Filmed in Technicolor" over the black and white picture was one of the funniest moments in a trailer that I have seen recently. Presented in a Full Frame format, which is not 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound of the mono variety. Not an inspiring looking or sounding effort at all.

Featurette - Restoration Comparison (1:07)

    Not much in the way of length with this effort, which follows the same format as the other DVDs in the series. This effort features three screen comparisons after the obligatory self running notes about the restoration. The first comparison is between the pre-restoration film and the restored film elements with video restoration. The second compares the existing video master with the restored film elements with video restoration. The third comparison is between the restored film elements and the restored film elements with video restoration.

Gallery - Stills

    Comprising nineteen stills, mainly from the film itself with a few costume test shots added in for good measure.

R4 vs R1

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

    As far as we can ascertain the Region 4 release misses out on:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    In broad terms there is again nothing significantly different between the two releases, so this one is also even.

Summary

    Aside from the fact that just about any shot of Niagara Falls reminds me of one of the best days of my life, a day that nowadays I really don't like to remember, Niagara is a very decent film and demonstrates exactly why Marilyn Monroe's career basically went into overdrive thereafter. Whilst it does not stretch any cinematic boundaries, it is a neat little story that has enough Alfred Hitchcock-like tautness to it as to sustain interest to the end. Sure the maestro would have added a few more twists into the equation, but you really never know where this one is going until the final act. The transfer is not the best in the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection but it is still good for its age and will satisfy all barring the most fastidious.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, August 02, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Vincent C

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Monkey Business (1952) | Niagara (1953) | Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) | There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

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Released 24-Jul-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:26)
Featurette-Movietone News: Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Cement
Featurette-Restoration Comparison (3:09)
Gallery-One Sheet Post Card; One Sheet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 87:41 (Case: 91)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:51) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Howard Hawks
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Marilyn Monroe
Jane Russell
Charles Coburn
Case ?
RPI Box Music Jule Styne
Leo Robin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Croatian
Czech
Danish
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
French
German
Greek
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Italian
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Spanish
Swedish
Turkish
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Well, here is a genuine jaw-dropping DVD! What else can you say about a DVD that features a great film, featuring two of the all-time hottest actresses in Hollywood, with a quite stunning video transfer for the age of the film?

    Asking that eternal question, we have in the blonde corner of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes none other than the blonde bombshell herself, the legendary Marilyn Monroe. In the brunette corner we have the statuesque Jane Russell, to offer the counter that Gentlemen Actually Prefer Gorgeous Women! On a purely sexist level, you would be hard-pressed to find two such perfect physical specimens of womanhood in all the history of Hollywood to play the lead roles in any film. So here we have what is arguably the finest film that both ladies made and nearly fifty years later it remains a terrific film to watch and enjoy - on any level your mind desires.

    Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) and Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) are two nightclub singers from the wrong side of the tracks (Two Little Girls From Little Rock). Lorelei has a unashamedly gold digging aspect to her life and is determined to find and marry a wealthy man. She can only love a wealthy man it seems. Dorothy on the other hand has no hankering for money and would rather marry for love, irrespective of the financial state of the man. Lorelei has found a suitor in Gus Esmond (Tommy Noonan) but marriage may not be possible until she gets on the right side of his father. So the two girls find themselves heading to Paris by ship, Dorothy supposedly chaperoning Lorelei in order to keep her out of trouble and away from any compromising incidents that private detective Malone (Elliott Reed) can report back to old man Esmond. Once aboad ship, though, Lorelei is certainly seeking wealth and eyes off the passenger list to ensure that her dinner table is graced by the wealthiest man available - for Dorothy of course. That man is Henry Spofford III (George Winslow). Dorothy would however be more pleased with the U.S. Olympic Team! Enter into the picture the owner of a diamond mine in South Africa, a dirty old man by the name of Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman (Charles Coburn), who soon finds himself attending upon Lorelei. Lorelei for her part has a desire for a rather nice piece of jewellery, a piece that will create some problems when they get to Paris. Only in Paris will this little tale be told.

    The whole film begins and ends with the two female leads. Marilyn Monroe was very much the second star here, for she takes a role that was originally intended for Betty Grable. It was only after the success of Niagara that it was decided to ditch the expensive Betty Grable in favour of the union-rate Marilyn Monroe. That change not only saved the studio a pile of money in wage costs but also added chunks to the profitability of the film! Irrespective of being first choice or thirty first choice, Marilyn Monroe ends up upstaging her then more famous, and much dearer, co-star. Marilyn Monroe does what Marilyn Monroe does best - turns on the sex appeal and pretty well melts the celluloid in the process. Jane Russell was the bigger star at the time but by the end of this film's theatrical run she probably was not, which is not to say that she did not do her own celluloid melting! The rest are just along for the ride - and what a ride it is! Howard Hawks had previously directed Marilyn Monroe in Monkey Business (in which Charles Coburn and George Winslow had also appeared) so had some inkling of the problems that he was going to cause, but one supposes that such problems could be lived with when the end result is some of the hottest non-nude celluloid ever filmed.

    With a host of iconic moments, some of which pretenders have since tried to emulate with a complete lack of success, the film is a classy and classic comedy from start to finish. You will never see Marilyn Monroe looking any better than she did here, and as a bonus you have Jane Russell thrown in too, and the result is as sharp and witty a comedy as we have seen in the past fifty years. Marilyn Monroe at her best, and a film that should be in every collection.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Well, this is certainly a jaw-dropping DVD indeed, and not just because of the presence of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Whilst it might be the fact that this was reviewed using my new player, the bottom line is that this video transfer is a pearler, and by far the best seen of the releases making up the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection to date.

    For a change we do not have a CinemaScope film this time, and we hearken back to the earlier days of Academy ratio films here - that is, 1.37:1 aspect ratios. The transfer here is 1.33:1 Full Frame, which is about as close to Academy ratio as you can get without being terribly pedantic. The transfer is not 16x9 enhanced.

    In this instance the restoration has done a stunning job in returning the film back to its original glory. Apart from a few lapses where soft focus has been used, as well as a few places where the short depth of field is quite obvious, this is a sharp transfer indeed. Perhaps just a little too sharp in places as the edge enhancement gets a little too obvious - notably around 6:55 and 7:10. Where the transfer really scores, though, is in the detail and nowhere is this more evident than during the opening seven minutes or so. This is the song Two Little Girls From Little Rock and the ladies are wearing bright red sequined dresses. I would swear that you can see every sequin on those dresses! The level of detail that has been achieved here is quite amazing for a fifty year old film. Shadow detail is pretty good, too, although to be honest I really don't think the film was shot in such a way as to create any problems in this regard. Apart from some rather obvious grain in the background around the 38:25 mark, there is nothing much else to worry about as far as grain goes, and as a result this is a wonderfully clear looking transfer. There is nothing in the way of low level noise in the transfer.

    If the detail in the transfer is stunning, then wait until you see the colours! Early Technicolor is usually a nightmare as far as colour consistency is concerned, but not here. This is a gorgeously vivid transfer with tonal depth in abundance. Oversaturation is constantly looking like breaking out, but never does and the result is about as colourful as we are likely to get for a film of this vintage. This is a really gorgeous looking transfer from the outset with plenty of consistency and depth to the dark colours, beautifully handled skin tones and a general quality that reeks of a film half its age. It is not an especially vibrant, glossy transfer but then again it does not need to be: what we have here is a terrific display of bold, bright matte colours that is very natural looking. Highlights are everywhere but if you check out two iconic scenes - the girls' entrance to dinner on the ship and Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend - you will immediately understand the quality on offer. The only real issue is some sight, but noticeable drop-off of in tonal depth around the 71:30 mark. There are no obvious problems with oversaturation nor undersaturation.

    There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are no significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. There are no significant film artefacts in the transfer.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 63:51. The change point is during a black scene change and is not disruptive to the flow of the film at all.

    There are twenty two subtitle options on the DVD, including three titling options for the extras package. Once again they are pretty good with only relatively minor dialogue omissions in general.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. I listened only to the English soundtrack.

    The audio transfer is very good and the dialogue, as well as the vocals, are generally clear and easy to understand. There were some hints of audio sync problems during the songs but I am suspecting that these were the result of Marilyn Monroe lip-synching during the actual filming and then having the vocals actually inserted later. This is reinforced by the fact it is only her vocals that seem to be out of sync. No matter - it is not that distracting even if it is a tad obvious to me.

    The original music comes from Jule Styne and Leo Robin, with the more famous additional vocal numbers coming from Hoagy Carmichael and Harold Adamson. Whilst the music is okay, it is certainly overshadowed by the musical numbers - most especially the iconic Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend.

    One thing that stands out like a sore thumb is the clarity of the soundtrack. There is nary an indication of any sort of distortion or background noise problem here. Considering the age of the source material, the remastering has obviously done a great job. Whilst you don't need much beyond the front speakers for this soundtrack, and in a perfect world we might have asked for a bit more bite to the sound, there really is nothing much wrong here at all.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Certainly well within keeping with most of the DVDs making up the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection, this is a decent package all things considered.

Menu

    Fairly basic efforts, although classy looking and they are 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (2:26)

    If you want to know how bad the feature could have looked, then all you have to do is check out the trailer. This is not a pretty sight at all - grainy, full of film artefacts and constantly oversaturated. As I checked this out before the feature, you can well imagine the dread I felt when I finally sat down to watch the feature! Not at all a good technical effort. It is presented in a Full Frame format which is naturally enough not 16x9 enhanced. It comes with some fairly centrally focused mono Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Movietone News: Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell In Cement (0:48)

    Considering the source, this actually is not bad looking stuff. It of course features the ceremony outside Manns' Chinese Theater (if you have to ask you are no movie lover) when the two screen sex symbols were enshrined in the concrete. It is presented in a Full Frame format which is not 16x9 enhanced, and comes with some fairly hissy mono Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Restoration Comparison (3:09)

    In the same format that we have seen in every release in the series thus far, this one features two split screen comparisons after the obligatory self running notes about the extent of the restoration required. Both utilise the same sequence from the film: the famous stuck in the porthole scene. The first comparison is between the original film restoration and the original film restoration plus video restoration. The second compares the latter item with the previous video master. I can attest to the fact that the video master actually looks worse than it does here, especially after you have watched the VHS tape a few dozen times! The whole thing just demonstrates the remarkable improvement in picture quality that results from film restoration - making it even more worrisome when films are not properly restored and preserved.

Gallery - One Sheet Post Card

    Well, it is one postcard of a one sheet!

Gallery - One Sheet

    Which is exactly the number of one sheets we actually get - one one sheet!!

R4 vs R1

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

    As far as we can ascertain the Region 4 release misses out on:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    In broad terms there is nothing significantly different between the two releases, so call this one even.

Summary

    One of the rare films that I still own on VHS that I can actually still sit down and watch, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is in many ways the peak of the careers of both Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Whilst both to some extent are considered leading ladies purely for their physical traits, which one has to agree are quite impressive indeed, this is the film that showed both actually were quite decent actresses. With enough iconic moments to grace a dozen films or more, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes remains one of the best examples of both their filmographies and a film that I can never tire of watching. With it being presented with such a wonderful video transfer, and what is a quite decent audio transfer, this is a DVD that is certainly well worth checking out. I understand that Fox Home Entertainment do not intend to release the films in the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection individually but only in the box sets. When they finally decide to toss away that idea, you can bet that this will be the film that will lead the individual releases.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, July 28, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Lorraine A
DVD Net - Vincent C

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Monkey Business (1952) | Niagara (1953) | Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) | There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

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Released 24-Jul-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Theatrical Trailer-3
Featurette-Restoration Comparison (1:59)
Gallery-One Sheet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 112:25 (Case: 117)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:32) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Walter Lang
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Ethel Merman
Donald O'Connor
Marilyn Monroe
Dan Dailey
Johnnie Ray
Mitzi Gaynor
Case ?
RPI Box Music Alfred Newman
Lionel Newman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.62:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.55:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Croatian
Czech
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Whilst the appearance of Marilyn Monroe singing in a film was by no means an unusual occurrence, There's No Business Like Show Business is the only genuine musical in which she appeared. Whilst her role is not exactly as large as most starring roles she had, suffice it to say that she still manages to get the heat up really well! After You Get What You Want You Don't Want It might not be the greatest musical tune ever written by the immortal Irving Berlin, but when it is sung by Marilyn Monroe wearing one of the most revealing costumes possible whilst still being fully clothed, the thermometer goes berserk. Add into the mix Heat Wave, and you get the general idea that the lady is red hot. Despite the fact that I have to confess to a slight interest in the films of Marilyn Monroe, this is one of her films that I steadfastly avoided. That is because of my general disdain for the musical genre. Having now been "forced" to watch the film, I can only shake my head at my previous ignorant attitude towards the genre and this film in particular. This is actually quite an entertaining film with some great music from Irving Berlin. Sure, it is not to be confused with some of the greats of the genre, but with enough catchy tunes, some great costumes (it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Costume Design, Colour in 1955), and Marilyn Monroe mixing her stuff with the gorgeous Mitzi Gaynor, there is enough to satisfy all but the most stuffy of musical lovers.

    The film is basically the story of the Donahues, troupers in the old tradition who started out as The Two Donahues, Terry (Dan Dailey) and Molly (Ethel Merman), and gradually added their kids Tim (Donald O'Connor), Steve (Johnnie Ray) and Katy (Mitzi Gaynor), into the act over the years, thereby becoming The Five Donahues. Over the years the vaudeville act of The Two Donahues segued into a more cabaret-style show as The Five Donahues. The family of course either succeeds together, or dies together. Much of the story takes place in the 1930s and 1940s - just when the kids are starting to perhaps question their place in the business and the rest of their lives. Generally the family succeeds pretty well, at least until Steve drops a bombshell that Terry has no hope of understanding and Tim meets Vicky Hoffman (Marilyn Monroe), who crops up a few years later on a double bill with The Five Donahues as Vicky Parker. Unlike the Donahue kids, who had the stage thrust upon them with relative ease, Vicky has had to fight her way to where she is and has a determination that makes her a little abrasive at times. So when Tim falls head over heels for her, the results are not exactly a fairy tale. The potential for the end of the stage life of The Five Donahues is pretty good, so exactly what will the result of the scenario be?

    Being a little unkind to the genre, the lack of a serious story is not entirely unexpected. Whilst the story is a little on the weak side, the talent engaged here attacked it with a relish that perhaps it did not deserve. The talent chosen for the film might not exactly be the most obvious, however. Solid pro Dan Dailey is just solid as the patriarch of the family, but is overshadowed in every way by Ethel Merman, star of stage. Her strong voice is the dominant of the show in many ways, even if she is not the highlight of the show. Where the strengths are is in the casting of the younger roles. Johnnie Ray, popular singing sensation of the 1950s, makes one of his two film appearances here and as an actor he makes a fine singer. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing though, as his rendition of If You Believe is quite terrific. Funnily enough though, it was his only solo in the film. Seems a bit odd to cast a singer then give him but one song to sing! Donald O'Connor, fresh from Singin' In The Rain, similarly only gets one solo, but what a solo - A Man Chases A Girl (Until She Catches Him). However, it is not his singing that is necessarily the highlight of his performance - he does perhaps the best pure acting job in the film. However, even that is overshadowed by the performance of Mitzi Gaynor - she might not get a solo but she can dance up a storm and is at her seductive, sexy best during the Marilyn Monroe song Lazy. But of course all are but the sideshow to the main attraction - albeit one added to the film only to add star power. Who cares! Looking gorgeous, most especially at her sensual, seductive best during After You Get What You Want You Don't Want It, she sure steams up the glasses pretty quickly. When you add in Heat Wave, which was originally intended for Ethel Merman, it does not take much more to ensure that she is by far the most memorable performer here, and not only for her looks either. She actually does a good singing job in her three solo numbers whilst adding a pretty decent acting performance to boot. Walter Lang does a decent enough job in the director's chair, although he probably stuck quite closely to the instructions the bosses gave him - loads of action, plenty of colour and use the widescreen vista!

    Following on the review pile after one of the most important films in the career of Marilyn Monroe, it has to be said that There's No Business Like Show Business is not one of the lady's most important films. As a piece of entertainment however, it is perhaps an underrated film and if you have not checked this one out before, you might well be pleasantly surprised as I was. Just to make it doubly worthwhile, Marilyn Monroe probably looks better here than in most of the other films making up the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This is another of the very widescreen colour films of Marilyn Monroe that has been given a pretty fine restoration job, resulting in a generally very good quality transfer. It certainly allows the colourscape afforded the film a wonderful chance to excel.

    Another of those CinemaScope films, the transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.62:1 (measured) that is 16x9 enhanced. This is just a little wider than the theatrical release but you would be hard-pressed to notice it I would think.

    There really is little wrong with the transfer in a general sense. It is quite sharp and very well defined, with oodles of detail if you want to check it all out. The shadow detail is good and there is nothing in the way of grain to impede the transfer in any way. Indeed, in all the films I have thus far reviewed out of the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection, this is perhaps the most consistent, satisfying looking transfer of the lot. There is nothing in the way of low level noise in the transfer, and overall clarity is very good.

    The colours here are extremely well handled all things considered. Just occasionally they a little muted, probably more to do with the age of the source material than anything else, as the general look is quite vibrant and colourful. Perhaps the transfer is lacking a little in the way of solid blacks, but the transfer features no blatantly obvious signs of either under or over saturation. This is very nice looking colour from the generally more steady Deluxe process as opposed to the more garish Technicolor process.

    There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Where the transfer really falls down is in the greater presence of film-to-video artefacts, most notably the presence of aliasing. This can be found to various degrees throughout the transfer, with clothing (check out the coat at 6:40) and a particular door (such as at 78:07) being the prime culprits. There were film artefacts floating around the transfer but in general these were not a distraction to the film.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming during the black scene change at 53:32. Once again it is not disruptive to the flow of the film and was unnoticeable on my player.

    There are thirteen subtitle options on the DVD. The English efforts sampled are good with only relatively minor dialogue omissions in general.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtracks with a L-C-R-S configuration. Since there are no other options, naturally enough I listened to the English soundtrack.

    The audio transfer is good and in general the vocals and dialogue come up well and are easy to understand. There does not appear to be any significant audio sync issues with the transfer.

    The original music comes from Alfred Newman and Lionel Newman, for which they copped an Oscar nomination. Whilst it is pretty good, it is of course subservient to the songs provided by Irving Berlin. Perhaps not up to the finest stuff he ever did, there are nonetheless quite a few decent songs here to suggest that it is a better collection than generally regarded. Or was that because the cast managed to carry off the material far more than it deserved? Whichever, I liked the show so the music and songs must have done their job pretty well indeed.

    Lacking any use of the low frequency channel, and with very limited if any use of the rear surround channels, the soundtrack ends up being a little more frontal than perhaps would be expected. Not that this is altogether bad as it does emphasise in some ways the stage nature of the film. A couple of times there seemed to be some fluctuation in sound levels but that would be the only complaint that could be justifiably thrown at the soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Another light load of extras rounds out this release.

Menu

    Fairly basic efforts, although reasonably decent looking and they are 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (4:15)

    Two overriding impressions of this effort are just how many film artefacts there are and how dirty looking the whole thing is. Makes you realise how good the feature looks! Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with reasonable but not great Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Theatrical Trailer (2:41)

    One overriding impression of this effort is just how many film artefacts there are, albeit way less than the lengthier trailer above. It also has slightly more muted colour, which makes this somewhat better looking for some reason. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with good Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Theatrical Trailer - Portuguese (2:42)

    Identical in basic content to the above, it is similar in all respects barring the voiceover language.

Featurette - Restoration Comparison (1:59)

    We have seen plenty of these and they have been consistent in presentation, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. The bad thing is that maybe a more formal, extended featurette might have been a better presentation for the overall collection. This effort features two screen comparisons after the self-running notes about the restoration. The first comparison is between the original film restoration and the original film elements with video restoration. The second compares the previous video master with the original film elements with video restoration.

Gallery - One Sheet

    Comprising one One Sheet, this is not exactly exciting stuff.

R4 vs R1

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

    As far as we can ascertain the Region 4 release misses out on:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    In broad terms there is again nothing significantly different between the two releases, so another comparison that ends up a draw on points.

Summary

    Perhaps coming to this film sight unseen aided my thoughts somewhat, but in the end I was more entertained by There's No Business Like Show Business than I thought I would be. That has to be a good thing and therefore the overall quality of the film and the transfers must be better than anticipated. If you tend to avoid musicals, then give this one a whirl in the DVD player. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Lorraine A
DVD Net - Vincent C

Comments (Add) NONE