Pillow Talk (1959)

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Released 20-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:20)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 98:15
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Michael Gordon
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Rock Hudson
Doris Day
Tony Randall
Thelma Ritter
Case ?
RPI Box Music Frank De Vol


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None 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 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Portuguese
Dutch
Swedish
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Hebrew
Arabic
Russian
Turkish
Greek
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The late 1950's and early 1960's seems to have been an era where the wholesome comedy reached the height of popularity. For me, nothing epitomises the period than the three films that Rock Hudson, Doris Day and Tony Randall made together. The first, and arguably the most successful, of the three films was Pillow Talk from the year of my birth. So successful was the film that it garnered an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, having also been nominated for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Music Score. Its success probably had much to do with the following two films from the trio - Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers.

    Jan Morrow (Doris Day) is an interior decorator from Manhattan who is blighted with the use of a party line for her telephone service. The reason why she is blighted is due to the fact that the other party on the party line is Brad Allen (Rock Hudson) who, aside from being a songwriter, is something of a womaniser. Indeed, so familiar with the opposite sex is Brad that his standard line revolves around one of his songs... As a result of his on-line antics, however, Jan's life is not easy and pent-up hostilities are liable to break into actual hostility at any time. Jan's other problem is one of her customers - Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall), a millionaire with an eye for one very attractive lady. Trouble is that the feeling is not reciprocated. The trio has one more connection: Brad is actually engaged by Jonathan at the current time to wrote songs for a musical he is underwriting. Jonathan happens to mention Jan in not so glowing terms to Brad but once Brad sees Jan, his interest is well and truly piqued. Trouble is that if Jan actually knew who he was, there would not be a cat's chance in hell of her agreeing to go out with him and so he dons an alter ego: Rex Stetson from Texas. Now all he has to do is not get caught with Jonathan around...

    One aspect of the at-times rather sweet nature of romantic comedies of the era was their rather endearing nature, and that is probably the best description as to why Pillow Talk continues to hold the attraction of viewers. The film is well written - as the Oscar would suggest - and that is very much the foundation upon which the film is based. The tight story certainly does not lag and does not unnecessarily linger on any particular aspect of the film - characteristics that are often sadly lacking in modern day romantic comedies. The main leads do a very nice job of realising the screenplay too, although I still confess to not being a great fan of Rock Hudson or Doris Day as regards their acting abilities, and the latter never held for me the same sort of girl-next-door charm as say a June Alyson did. Truth be told, Tony Randall is basically just a fill-in here, but handles the role pretty well. As ever, the stand-out is Thelma Ritter, one of the most competent character actresses to ever grace Hollywood.

    The choice of the Cinemascope format for the film was an interesting one and frankly one that really did not suit the film that well. Quite simply put, the film does not need a wide vista given its setting and even the spilt screen portions were still a little constrained (assuming of course that it was precisely for these portions that the Cinemascope format was chosen).

    Whilst never a great fan of the film or the leads, it has to be said that after many years of not seeing the film it does hold up well. Fans should rejoice that the film is now available on Region 4 DVD, even if the presentation leaves plenty to be desired.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    When you consider some of the gems of restorations that we have seen of films from around the same era as Pillow Talk, what we have here is really and truly second-rate stuff. Whilst appreciating that restoration is an at times expensive exercise, the fact that we get tossed up stuff that looks like it may have been mastered from a laserdisc master (the Region 1 release apparently is) is liable to induce complaints. From the opening credits on, you simply know that the video side of things is not going to be pretty - and it really is not. Whilst it is not the fault of the mastering, this is one film where I have really found the tendency to use gauze filters when filming the female lead to be extremely annoying: the transfer wanders between being reasonably sharp to being very soft at the blink of an eye, dependent purely on the camera angle and whether Doris Day is in frame in reasonable close up.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. Whilst filmed in Cinemascope, and therefore capable of presentation in an aspect ratio of 2.55:1, it is my understanding that the film was theatrically shown at 2.35:1.

    As indicated, the transfer wanders all over the place in sharpness, simply as a result of whether the female lead is on screen or not. At times, that soft, gauze filter really is a tremendous distraction and robs a transfer struggling for definition of a whole lot of it. The result is an at times quite flat looking transfer that just begs for some depth and detail, but the begging is never answered in the positive. There is a constant issue with grain throughout the transfer, most notably poor during the opening credits, but certainly not limited to just there. Clarity as a result is quite poor, not aided by the amount of dirt floating around the transfer. Shadow detail is average at best, but thankfully is not much of an issue in the overall film. Low level noise is not an issue.

    The colour palette is quite muted and even when there were the opportunities for the colours to really come to the fore, I cannot say they really did. I found the whole palette to be quite flat and lacking a little in vibrancy, although there was certainly a very consistent look to the tones. Blacks were reasonable without being really solid, whilst flesh tones seemed quite natural looking. There was no evidence of oversaturation in the transfer, nor of colour bleed.

    There are no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer, although some residual source material issues clearly exist here and there. Film-to-video artefacts were pretty much confined to some minor aliasing, most noticeably in the wall hanging in one of the offices - just about every time we see the hanging, it aliases (8:57 and 87:49 being examples). There is some moiré artefacting in the curtains at 17:12 and the Venetians at 81:07. The transfer is well blessed with film artefacts, with plenty of dirt specks and hairs being quite evident - especially during the opening credits. These did become quite annoying and on a larger display I would guess that they would be very irritating.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD, but as usual I cannot detect where the layer change is located.

    There is a plethora of subtitle options on the DVD, of which I stuck to sampling the English efforts. The presentation is fairly annoying - the font is a poor one and really intrudes into the film with minimal effort. On top of that they are not at all accurate, with much dialogue being well chopped and changed, sometimes to get the whole onto the screen but at other times without reason. At one point they seemed to be very slightly out of whack with the spoken dialogue time-wise, but nothing serious. Overall, not the best subtitling effort I have ever seen.

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 an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I stuck with the English soundtrack.

    To be fair, I am having difficulty coming up with an adequate way of describing the quality of the soundtrack and how the dialogue is presented. Whilst you certainly can hear and understand everything well enough, there are lapses in the soundtrack itself that do draw attention to the fact that, like the video transfer, the audio transfer is very much showing its age and feeling the effects of time. There are no real issues with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music score comes from Frank de Vol and whilst a good one, I can certainly understand why it did not win the Oscar. The film is better remembered for the songs, even though today they don't hold quite as much enchantment as they did forty years ago. Whether it was the actual audio itself or whether it is the score itself, I really have not resolved, but I found the whole thing to be just a little flat and unexciting.

    Everything that is not good about the soundtrack can probably be laid squarely at the feet of the fact that this seems to be an unrestored mono soundtrack. I am certainly not sure that it is actually mono, but the overall sound seems a tad cramped and very much out of the centre channel, coming straight at you. The lack of dynamic is noticeable, as is the at times rather obvious dubbing work - especially with some of the songs: they have a slightly different sound than the rest of the soundtrack. Whilst there is nothing really evident in the way of background hiss, there are a few instances here and there where the sound seems to drop out ever so briefly. I am quite sure this is source related, however, and not the fault of the mastering. At best functional and undistinguished, you really do wish that there was something better in the way of sound here.

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

Extras

    Given that this is an RSDL formatted DVD and there is oodles of space on the DVD (nearly 4 GB of empty space), the extras package is fairly woeful.

Menu

    Nothing to rave over and rather dreary looking.

Theatrical Trailer (2:20)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is well blessed with film artefacts, slightly dark in presentation, featuring obvious if light grain, quite dirty in appearance and has a general tendency towards a little softish in definition. There really is not much to commend the presentation at all.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 release has been available for several years, and compared to that release the Region 4 release misses out on:

    This of course ignores the obvious language and subtitle differences. The Region 1 release is on a single sided, single layered DVD. Reviews indicate that the presentation is 2.55:1 (being an opening out of the film to its full image) although the generally authoritative Widescreen Review says that the measured aspect ratio is 2.45:1. Notwithstanding the actual ratio, the film was I believe actually shown in cinemas using a 2.35:1 ratio. However, the essential choice is between a non-16x9 enhanced image with some additional extras (the production notes apparently being excellent) and a 16x9 enhanced image. Personally I would go with the 16x9 enhanced image but understand that this is not a great looking image in either format it seems. As far as I can determine, the Region 2 release is the same as the Region 4 release. The fact that the Region 1 release has extras that are not carried over to the Region 4 release despite the space available on the disc is especially disappointing.

Summary

    Pillow Talk is an endearing film that is a very good example of the sort of sweet romantic comedy that we do not see today from Hollywood. Fans of the film and the lead actors will lap this up but in all honesty the presentation on DVD is nothing to really inspire glowing tributes. The image looks rather tired, it is terribly afflicted at times by film artefacts and the transfer is desperately crying out for some TLC on the restoration front. The film does not disappoint, the presentation on DVD surely does. A sadly wasted opportunity from Universal to bring out a definitive version of the film on DVD, especially after waiting so long for it given the Region 1 release issued over four years ago.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. 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

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Comments (Add)
New anamorphic R1 release of "Pillow Talk" - Richie