A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

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Released 12-Jul-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Mr Smith Goes To Washington
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1961
Running Time 122:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:13) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Daniel Petrie

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Sidney Poitier
Claudia McNeil
Ruby Dee
Diana Sands
Ivan Dixon
John Fiedler
Louis Gossett, Jr.
Stephen Perry
Joel Fluellen
Louis Terrel
Roy Glenn
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Laurence Rosenthal

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    A Raisin in the Sun is an adaptation of a play about the fortunes of a black family living in a Chicago ghetto. Their apartment is plain and they have to share a bathroom with other tenants on the floor. The family matriarch, Lena (Claudia McNeil), is waiting for an insurance cheque for $10,000 following the death of her husband. Her son, Walter (Sidney Poitier), is a bit of a failure, working a dead-end job as a chauffeur and dreaming of starting a liquor store business. His wife Ruth (Ruby Dee) is the typical long-suffering wife, concerned that her son is raised properly and worried now that she is pregnant again. Walter's sister Beneatha (Diana Sands) is interested in a Nigerian student (Ivan Dixon) but Walter wants her to be more interested in a wealthy merchant's son (Louis Gossett Jr.). When Lena decides to use the money to buy a house in a white suburb, various conflicts arise.

    Director Daniel Petrie has attempted to open out the stage material not by having scenes outside the apartment (though there are a couple in the middle of the film) but by using a variety of camera angles, from every direction within the apartment. This is actually quite effective, with some good compositions and little feeling that the action occurs in a confined space. Of course this works slightly against the material, given that part of the issue faced by the family is the cramped circumstances in which they live. The real attraction of the film should be the acting, given that it is an actors' piece, but the performances are variable. Poitier is very good, as is Sands, both coming across as real people in all but the most melodramatic sequences. McNeil is less convincing, giving a very theatrical and mannered performance, while Dee is merely adequate in what is a thankless role. John Fiedler, who died just a few weeks ago, is a stand-out in a small part as a slimy  member of a welcoming committee. It is also interesting to see Dixon in a larger role than we would be used to from his Hogan's Heroes "token black man" days, while even in his mid-20s Gossett's hairline was receding considerably.

    While Leonard Maltin's guide rates this as a four-star film, it really isn't that good. It is not the quality of the production that is at fault, but the material which has dated quite badly. Worth seeing for a couple of fine performances and good direction, but maybe a rental is preferable.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio appears to have been 1.85:1.

    This is a nice transfer, which is quite sharp and detailed. While it is not perfectly sharp, it is certainly as good as any other black and white transfers of the 1960s that I have seen. The range of tones on display is excellent, with some solid blacks and good variation in greys. Whites are also quite pure (unlike John Fiedler's character). Contrast and brightness are very good.

    Film to video artefacts are limited to some mild aliasing, most noticeable on the contraption that appears to stick out of the top of the refrigerator (I think it is a humidifier). Otherwise the only artefacts of note are tiny white flecks which appear regularly throughout. There are a couple of jumpy frames in the latter part of the film.

    Optional subtitles are available in numerous languages, which appear in large white text with a thin black border. They are easy to read, and appear to follow the dialogue closely, at least in their English incarnation.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer change placed at 60:13 in mid scene at a cut, so it is slightly disruptive.

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


    The default audio track is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, with a couple of foreign language dubs thrown in.

    The audio is very good. Dialogue is clear, there is no significant distortion and the film can be enjoyed free of distraction. There are few effects and therefore clear dialogue is really all that the film requires.

    The music score is by Laurence Rosenthal. I found it to be a little unmemorable, being much influenced by American classical music of the era but lacking any distinctive edge. Most of the time I did not really notice it, but I found the use of the music to underscore some of the dialogue to be quite distracting.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Filmographies-Cast & Crew 

    Incomplete filmographies are included for Petrie, Poitier, Gossett and Dee.

Theatrical Trailer (2:48)

    A full-frame trailer effusively presented by producer David Susskind.

Trailer-Mr Smith Goes To Washington (1:44)

    A trailer for another Columbia Tristar release.

R4 vs R1

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

    The only difference I can see between the Region 4 and the US Region 1 release is the inclusion in the latter of some production notes in an accompanying booklet. As the Region 4 came only as a test disc in a plastic sleeve, I cannot be certain that the Region 4 does not include this as well. In either case, there is no material difference between the two.


    A worthy film with some good features but perhaps time has dulled its impact.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is very good.

    Not much in the way of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, July 29, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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