Diary of Anne Frank, The: 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray) (1959)

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Released 27-Oct-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Millie Perkins and George Stevens Jr
Featurette-Making Of-A Son's Memories
Featurette-Making Of-Memories : Millie Perkins and Diane Baker
Featurette-Making Of-Shelley Winters Remembers
Featurette-Making Of-The Score and Sounds
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-George Stevens Letters
Featurette-Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman
Featurette-Echoes From the Past
Featurette-Excerpt George Stevens : A Filmmakers Journey
Interviews-Crew-George Stevens Press Conference
Featurette-Movietone News
Theatrical Trailer
Theatrical Trailer-International Trailer
Gallery-Pressbook
Gallery-Photo-Behind the Scenes
Featurette-Millie Perkins Screen Test
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 179:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By George Stevens
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Millie Perkins
Joseph Schildkraut
Shelley Winters
Richard Beymer
Gusti Huber
Lou Jacobi
Diane Baker
Douglas Spencer
Dodie Heath
Ed Wynn
Case ?
RPI ? Music Alfred Newman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (2304Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German dts 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Italian dts 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Polish dts 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Spanish dts 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Dutch
French
German
Italian
Finnish
Norwegian
Polish
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Diary of Anne Frank is a solid retelling of the Anne Frank story by legendary American filmmaker George Stevens (Giant, Shane). This Blu-ray is a 50th Anniversary edition of the film.

    The book which started it all - A Young Girl's Diary - is a much loved, much studied text that was a staple of High School English Literature classes for many years.

    Anne Frank was a teenage girl who, in the 1930s, fled her native Germany with her mother, father and sister to the Netherlands to escape the persecution of the Nazis. By the early 1940's the Germans had occupied the Netherlands and the family were forced to hide out in the attic of a premises owned by Otto Frank's company. For over two years the family hid, maintaining silence during the day so as not to raise suspicion with the workers below and only at night could they afford to live normal, if confined, lives.

    The Franks were not alone in the attic. They were accompanied by a middle aged couple with their teenage son and an elderly dentist. Anne began writing her diary early in the piece but upon hearing on the radio a request that people record the events for posterity she revised the diary and produced the document that we read today. Her diary is not some soul searching guide to Nazi persecution - it is a daily insight into the mind of a young girl forced to deal with privation and also the first blossoming of her development as a woman. She formed a love/friendship with the teenage boy (called Peter in the book and film - Anne changed the names of all but her family).

    Perhaps the main reason that the book is so well read today is that it is so fresh and breezy. Sure, at times Anne deals with the grimmest of subjects but she also takes time to let fly at those who annoy her, particularly the dentist who she calls Dussell. It is no spoiler to say that the Anne Frank story ends unhappily - otherwise she would be a regular on Oprah.

    The book and the film are profound documents of the sadness and terror at the core of the Holocaust simply because they are both delivered in the voice of the 13 year old protagonist. It is therefore immediately accessible to the young whilst the sometimes banal jottings of this teenager attain a surprising level of profundity.

    The film The Diary of Anne Frank is a long (three hour) retelling of the story. George Stevens was a skillful maker of light comedies until the Second World War. As a combat photographer he was not only on the ground at the Normandy landings but was the first filmmaker present at the liberation of Belsen. The effect of the concentration camp experience produced a deep change in Stevens and he never made another comedy. For him the story of Anne Frank had a particular resonance and he took very seriously his obligation of fidelity to the material. By 1955 the story had become an hugely successful Broadway play, written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Stevens resisted the temptation to flesh out the confines of the book and play by keeping the action firmly in the attic. The outside world intrudes only in the same way as it came to the Franks, via messages from the Dutch pair hiding them and the radio that is their evening comfort. To keep the story tight he built a multi-story set based on architectural drawings of the Frank house. Given that the film is almost three hours long it is a testament to both Stevens' direction and the power of Anne's diary that it holds the viewer's interest throughout. There is little to speak of in terms of plot. The attic dwellers live day by day, arguing and pondering their fate with Otto Frank as the constant tower of strength keeping the emotions below bubbling point.

    As was popular in the 50's, Stevens launched a worldwide search for the actress who would take on the role of Anne Frank. In the interview footage which forms one of the multitude of extras with this release Stevens tells a journalist that he is looking for a 13-14 year old girl for whom this film would not necessarily launch their career but rather would be the role for which they are always remembered. He achieved part of that aim when he cast young model Millie Perkins as Anne. Perkins was by then 17 and exceptionally beautiful in a way that reminded many of a younger Audrey Hepburn (Hepburn was offered the role but declined saying that she was too old and the memories of growing up in the occupied Netherlands were too painful to bring back). Perkins was not a trained actress and critics then and now are divided on whether she does the role justice.

    No such debate turns on the Oscar winning supporting performance of Shelley Winters and the solid detailed turn by Joseph Schildekraut who performed the role of Otto Frank on Broadway. The most interesting casting decision (after Millie Perkins) was probably the choice of vaudeville comedy actor Ed Wynn to play Anne's nemesis, the cantankerous Dussel. The cast is very like a theatrical repertory.

    The Diary of Anne Frank may not be the masterpiece that Stevens envisioned but it is a timeless work. The horror is subtle but ever-present. We the audience supply our own images. In this era, with films like Schindler's List we have been taken into the horror of the camps and dragged through the mud by filmmakers who were never there. Stevens, for his part, had seen the camps first hand. He chose not to show them because people wouldn't or couldn't watch.

    Recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The Diary of Anne Frank was shot on 35mm film using the CinemaScope process and was projected at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. That ratio has been preserved for the Blu-ray release.

    The film was shot in black and white because director George Stevens wanted to convey the intensity and darkness at the core of the film. The decision to use CinemaScope was not, however, his choice. The studio demanded he make it widescreen which went against his plan to confine the action. According to the special features on this Blu-ray he went to great lengths to make the action as boxed in as possible.

    The result, of course, is that this may not seem the obvious choice for a High Definition master. There are quite a few close-ups but often Stevens films it as if it were on the stage. There are no wide vistas or multi-coloured costumes to dazzle the eye. That said, the film looks better than it ever has on Blu-ray. The scenes vary in sharpness but overall this is a crisp looking 50 year old film. Efforts have been made to restore the film and the print exhibits only minor artefacts in the form of speckles and little damage marks. The grain is evident but acceptable.

    It is not an example of a finely crafted, frame by frame restoration such as the Casablanca Blu-ray. There is some hardly noticeable flickering throughout and the differences in film stock may be detected by the eagle-eyed such as the nightmare scene at 70.08 and onwards, where the film looks different for the scene with her mother and that with her father.

    Still these are minor defects and any fan of the film would be well pleased with the presentation of this film on Blu-ray.

    There are a wealth of subtitles on offer including English for the Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Polish.

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

Audio

    The Diary of Anne Frank contains a wealth of audio options.

    For English speakers the prime audio track is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track running at 2993 Kb/s (there is also an English 4.0 448 Kb/s track). Anyone expecting an all-enveloping room-shaking experience has popped in the wrong Blu-ray. This is a perfect reproduction of the original sound but not a sonic treat. All the dialogue can be heard clearly. It appears to be in audio sync.

    There are no defects with the track - no pops and hisses.

    The music by Alfred Newman is always there under the action including the main theme which is memorable - unless you happened to have heard it a thousand times whilst reviewing the Blu-ray!

    Assorted incidental sounds such as bells ringing and guns, bombs and the like are all well rendered and involving.

    The commentary track is rendered in Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kb/s).

    Other languages (mainly DTS 2.0 448 Kb/s) include German, Italian, Polish and Spanish. There is also a Latin Spanish mono track.

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

Extras

    This Blu-ray release is dubbed the "50th Anniversary Edition". As a result there are a truckload of extras including an audio commentary from the surviving stars , a full length documentary, and every manner of Making of features and footage from the past including a screen test. All of it is in standard definition, although on this occasion I do not think that it makes a great deal of difference.

Audio commentary - George Stevens Jr. and Millie Perkins

    Son of the director, Stevens Jr. also had a role to play in the making of the film. As the letters from Stevens Snr attest, he kept Jr updated on the film and saw in him an artistic successor. Stevens Jr. also landed the plum job of filming second unit material in the Netherlands.

    This commentary track is light and breezy if a little reverential. Stevens Jr. is the nuts and bolts man talking about the process behind the making of the film whereas Millie Perkins gives a more personal take on what it was like to be a fresh young thing snapped up to take on this iconic role.

    Definitely worth a listen, though 3 hours is a long time for reminiscences!

The Making of The Diary of Anne Frank: A Son's Memories(25:05)

    Not only was George Stevens Jr. the son of the director he was a filmmaker in his own right. As he points out, he is also something of a rarity in Hollywood being a son who had a normal and happy relationship with his father. He has a strong series of memories of working on the film including a "tour" with his father prior to the making of the film, including meeting Otto Frank.

The Diary of Anne Frank Memories from Millie Perkins and Diane Baker (25:53)

    The ladies, now quite senior, relate their trials and tribulations of making the film. Interesting stuff, full of emotion, even if Millie Perkins remains convinced after all these years that she just missed nailing the final scene.

Shelley Winters Remembers The Diary of Anne Frank(7:00)

    This interview dates back to 26 May 1983 and was conducted by George Stevens Jr. Winters talks about her casting and approach to the role as well as her interplay with Stevens. Shelley Winters was always a formidable presence on set and it is interesting to hear how Stevens convinced her to "talk soft and think loud" to make the transition from stage to film.

The Score of The Diary of Anne Frank (7:54)

    This interesting featurette looks at two aspects of the sound for the film - the sound design and the score by Alfred Newman . Rather than worrying about blending an overflow of battle sounds the sound designers had to try to create a silent world where every footstep and tin can knocked over had particular resonance.

    As for the score Newman's son explains that his father always described himself as a craftsman rather than an artist. His aim was to create a fluid score that would support the action throughout the long running time. He also gives an interesting piece of trivia; Newman wrote the 20th Century Fox logo music - for MGM! They rejected it and the music which has become synonymous with Fox ever since was born.

The Diary of Anne Frank Correspondence between George Stevens and his son (13:12)

    George Stevens Jr reads a selection of letters from his father, written during the making of the film. Stevens Snr was not an Anne Frank bore - he also managed to slip in football scores and other information. An interesting time-capsule.

Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman (14:08)

    This feature from the Fox Legacy series is an entertaining look at the film although, it must be said, it is a little redundant in light of all the material also provided on this Blu-ray.

Diary of Anne Frank: Echoes from the Past (1:30:07)

    It doesn't get much better than this. A full length documentary which takes us behind the scenes to meet the real people behind the Anne Frank story and the tale of how Anne's diary went from unpublishable in post-war Netherlands to a worldwide success. Narrated by Burt Reynolds, this film, made in 2001, is an integral part of the extras package dealing with issues outside the scope of the film.

Diary of Anne Frank: Excerpt from George Stevens: A Filmmakers Journey (8:00)

    The director's son made this loving tribute to his father's art many years back. The excerpt fleshes out a little bit more about the Anne Frank story. Most interestingly, it features an interview with Millie Perkins who was then in her 40s. Therefore, this feature set provides a look at the actress as a youngster, a middle aged woman and an elderly lady!

George Stevens Press Conference (5:00)

    The press conference is brief but watchable. Stevens has to repeat answers to the key question - how is the search for Anne Frank going?. As it happens the searching process was tough with thousands of 13-14 year old girls, his ideal candidate, being auditioned. So how did they end up with a 17 year old model?

Millie Perkins Screen Test (2:20)

    Millie is absolutely gorgeous and luminous in her screen test. Many directors may still not have cast her as Anne but all would have recognised her potential.

Movietone News (6:44)

    A wonderful series of short (most about 1 minute) Movietone News Shorts. Alright, so they don't add much to the story and, for example, the Oscar one doesn't really have much to do with The Diary of Anne Frank but all are worth a watch. They are :

  1. Millie Perkins to be Anne Frank in Film of Diary
  2. Nobel Peace Prize to Belgian Priest
  3. Anne Frank Diary Star Readies For Films First Nights
  4. Academy Award Highlights
  5. Millie Perkins Visits the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  6. Brilliant Turnout For L.A. Premiere Anne Frank Diary

Theatrical Trailer (3.11)

    Hooley Dooley! This trailer pulls out all the stops saying of the book/film "no greater suspense story has ever been told" and suggesting that Millie Perkins was the "most honoured" new star. Still it is a rare treat when gossip goddesses Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper both get name checked on the trailer.

International Trailer (4.32)

    By comparison the international trailer is a long, somber affair with the emphasis on the diary and the deprivation rather than the love story.

Interactive Pressbook Gallery

    A short but informative pressbook.

Behind-the-scenes Gallery

    A series of 57 photos from the set as well as promotional photos.

R4 vs R1

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

   This is an All Region Blu-ray.

Summary

   The Diary of Anne Frank is solid, earnest and at times profoundly moving. This 50th Anniversary Edition is so stuffed with features that it provides weeks of viewing pleasure. The film presentation even has a black screen overture and exit music! Fans of George Stevens will snap it up and wait for Shane and Giant to come to Blu-ray.

    The Blu-ray presents a high quality picture and sound without reaching to the stratosphere.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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