Laura: Special Edition (1944)

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Released 8-Feb-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-David Raskin (Composer) And Jeanine Basinger
Audio Commentary-Rudy Belhmer (Film Historian)
Deleted Scenes
Web Links
Featurette-The Obsession
Featurette-Gene Tierney: A Shattered Portrait
Featurette-Vincent Price: The Versatile Villain
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1944
Running Time 83:32
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (38:41)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Otto Preminger
Rouben Mamoulian
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Gene Tierney
Dana Andrews
Clifton Webb
Vincent Price
Judith Anderson
Case ?
RPI ? Music David Raksin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary 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 English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Laura is a classic and justifiably lauded film noir made in 1944. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one for the wonderful black & white cinematography. One of the things which makes this a classic film is that there is more to it than just the mystery which the plot follows. It also has some witty dialogue, fascinating characters, excellent acting, a great twist, a wonderful moodiness (at least partially driven by the famous score) and a theme which focuses on obsessive love which is really the main focus of the film rather than the mystery itself. All of these things make it one of the best film noirs I have seen.

    The movie opens with a brash, no-nonsense detective, Lt Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) visiting the home of Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb who was Oscar nominated for this role). Waldo is a critic and radio personality known for his acerbic wit and his vigorous sarcasm. McPherson is visiting him to ask questions about a murder he is investigating. The murder he is investigating is that of a successful young businesswoman, Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney). Waldo is a 'person of interest' due to his five year relationship with Laura, despite their large age difference. He has been her mentor, friend and possibly lover during that period. Mark finds Waldo in the bathtub and Waldo offers to accompany him on his investigation. The next person they meet is Mrs Treadwell (Judith Anderson), Laura's aunt, followed closely by Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price before his horror days), Laura's fiancé. These two seem to have a close relationship the nature of which is initially unknown. As McPherson investigates he begins to fall in love with Laura despite never having met her. To reveal much more of the plot would spoil viewing of this film for those who have not seen it. Suffice it to say that if you haven't seen this film and enjoy noir or films of the era, you need to see this one.

    The film was directed by Otto Preminger, a great director and producer who also directed films like Anatomy of a Murder & Exodus, both of which I have previously reviewed. He was nominated twice for Best Director, one of them for this film, but never won. Originally he was only going to produce this film but after a clash with the original director, Rouben Mamoulian, Mamoulian was fired early in shooting. Something which is very typical of Preminger's approach is that he allows the audience to decide who is good and who is bad rather than leading them to a conclusion. This objective approach is certainly in evidence in this film. It was based on a novel and stage play by Vera Caspary. The other Academy Award nominations besides those mentioned previously were for the immaculate Art Direction and for the screenplay. The Oscar winning cinematography was certainly wonderful making great use of shadows and light, weaving them into the story such as during a scene where McPherson interviews a suspect. The score is very famous and a popular song, Laura, was subsequently recorded by Johnny Mercer who wrote lyrics for the theme used in the film. The vocal version does not appear in the film. It has since been covered many times including many jazz renditions, such as by Charlie Parker.

    Highly Recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is very good for a film of this age.

    The feature is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is very close to the original 'Academy' aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

    The picture was surprisingly clear and sharp throughout with the extras showing how much clearer the transfer is than things like the trailer or deleted scene. The blacks were very solid with no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was quite good for a film of this age. There was some light grain but considering the age of the film certainly no more than you might expect.

    The film is in black & white and the contrast between them was excellent with clear delineation between various shades of grey.

    As you would expect there were some artefacts around, however these were kept to a minimum. Disappointingly, there was some mild aliasing although it was fairly irregular, mostly appearing on jackets (e.g. 15:35) and blinds (e.g. 11:50) and also on a cigarette (1:45). Additionally there was some telecine wobble in the first minute or so, a jump at 31:36 where a frame or two must have been missing, some reasonably regular film artefacts in the form of specks and some posterization.

    There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear, easy to read and virtually exact to the spoken word. Subtitles were also available for the commentaries.

    The layer change occurs at 38:41 and was not noticeable.
    

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

Audio

    The audio quality is good considering the age of the film.

    This DVD contains two audio options, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s. I could not detect much difference between these two tracks with neither providing much in the way of separation.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this film by David Raksin is a classic score as mentioned above, however there is some mild distortion of the music from time to time. It was especially noticeable during the opening credits.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

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

Extras

    A large selection of quality extras are included spread over two discs. The second disc is single layered.

Menu

    The menu included music and the ability to select scenes, languages and subtitles.

Disc 1

Deleted Scene (2:30)

    One deleted scene is included which was originally removed from the film due to fear it would offend the troops at war because it showed luxury at home. The scene is really just an extended version of a montage in the film showing Waldo's relationship with Laura in flashback. There is also an option to include this scene in the film using seamless branching. The film then runs 85:30 as opposed to 83:32.

Commentary - Janine Basinger - Professor of Film Studies & David Raksin - Composer

    Janine Basinger is an excellent commentator and she forms the bulk of this commentary. Raksin is restricted to comments here and there, some of which are a bit pointless but many others contain interesting facts and anecdotes. They obviously did not record the commentary together and sometimes they repeat what the other one says. Despite this the information presented here is excellent and Basinger shows her obvious love of the subject. She discusses the cast and their careers, development of the film, the characters, the story and themes, costumes, music, sets. Oscar nominations, members of the crew, trivia, what makes the film special in her eyes, cinematography, other films of the time, lighting, the change in directors and many other interesting topics. A top quality commentary.

Commentary - Rudy Behlmer - Film Historian

    Rudy Behlmer is much drier than Basinger and really recites a pre-prepared script over the film rather than doing a scene by scene commentary. The information he has to present is certainly interesting but his presentation of it is less so. He includes lots of quotes from people involved and seems to spend a lot of time saying 'start of quote' and 'end of quote'. Decent but not at the quality of the first commentary.

Weblink

    A short set of behind-the-scenes footage with music and pop-up trivia. Nothing to get excited about.

Disc 2

Documentary - The Obsession (12:36)

    A 2005 production which is a short featurette on the making of the film and the film's importance. It includes interviews with film historians, other directors and professors plus the composer David Raksin. It covers film noir generally, characters, cast, Preminger's objective approach, cinematography, music, the influence of this film, the twist and imagery used. Quite good.

Documentary - Gene Tierney : A Shattered Portrait (44:22)

    This is a show from the US Biography Channel and is an excellent rundown on Gene Tierney's life, loves and career. It includes interviews with her sister, former husband Oleg Cassini, her daughter, her stand-in, Richard Widmark, David Raksin and others. It covers her birth, childhood, family, her 'discovery', marriages, her mental illness problems, her children and the unfortunate story of her first child, her relationships with Howard Hughes, Oleg Cassini, John F Kennedy and others and much more. Excellent viewing and a great extra.

Documentary - Vincent Price : The Versatile Villain (44:15)

    Another full length production from the Biography Channel this time focusing on Vincent Price. It includes interviews with many of his friends and family including Dennis Hopper, Jane Russell, Roger Corman, Roddy McDowell and his daughter, biographer and some of his co-stars. Topics covered include his love of theatre, his fine art collecting and obviously his film and television career. Not quite as good as the Gene Tierney one but still a much better extra than most on other releases.

Deleted Scene (2:30)

    Strangely the same deleted scene is included on the second disc this time with an optional commentary by Rudy Behlmer explaining why it was removed.

Theatrical Trailer (2:31)

    Poor video and audio quality mar this trailer and it gives away some of the major plot points. Style wise it is a trailer of its time with self important voiceover and slogan plastered over the screen.

R4 vs R1

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

    This movie has recently been released in Region 1 in a reasonably similar format. The differences are quite minor and are as follows:

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    To my mind Region 4 is the best option here. The Region 2 version is the same as ours.

Summary

    A classic film noir that is much more than just another noir.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is good.

    The set has a large collection of extras, all of good to excellent quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Yamaha YST SW90 subwoofer

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