An Affair to Remember (1957)
Theatrical Trailer-1.66:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:48)
|Year Of Production||1957|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (57:17)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Leo McCarey|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Case||Six-Sided Star Clamp|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Reaching the last of the recent batch of classic films of the 1940s and 1950s from Fox Home Entertainment, we finally come to the ultimate chick flick in Leo McCarey's immortal An Affair To Remember. Who is not aware of this classic from 1957? After all, it has been almost deified as the ultimate chick flick in such films as Sleepless In Seattle. It might not quite have the same artistic stature of the other films from this classic batch, for it only garnered four Oscar nominations in 1957 and won none, in stark contrast to the hauls of the other films. Unlike those other films though, this is a film that has endured and through that endurance has become an absolute classic of the silver screen, one that still reduces the true romantic to a tear-fest with ease.
The story, like many a romance, is simple enough. Playboy Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) is travelling by the good ship Constitution back to New York and the loving arms of his new fiancé Lois Clark, who happens to be endowed with an inheritance worth a cool $600,000,000. Now, despite the impending nuptials, Nickie has been less than faithful it seems. Still, all seems to start well enough on board the ship as there are no shatteringly attractive, young single women to be found - at least until he happens upon cabaret singer Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr). She also happens to be travelling back to New York to the man who loves her. Even though trying to avoid the prying eyes of the crew and the rest of the passenger list, ultimately love blooms between the pair - to a large extent consummated by a visit to Nickie's grandmother during a stop in the French Riviera. So they make a pact upon their arrival in New York - if they still feel the same way about each other, they will meet in six months time at 5 p.m. atop the Empire State Building (cue the copious use of tissues). But the path of true love is fraught with obstacles, and we are not just talking $600,000,000 either. Rushing to make the appointed meeting, a tragic accident befalls one of the pair that makes the rendezvous impossible to consummate (cue even more copious use of tissues). Will the path of true love finally take the right course?
If the story is quite simple, then to carry it off requires something very special indeed and in the two central roles of the film, Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr do everything that could be expected of them. Some genuine chemistry even makes some of the more banal sequences sparkle as if they were something fresh and new. The entire film hung on them and they came to the party with everything necessary to make the film work. Leo McCarey probably did not have much to do apart from say "action" and "cut" for this film. The rest came from the cast. Still, the film did cop an Oscar nomination for cinematography which would indicate a general level of excellence therewith. Whilst generally this has always been a bit of a puzzle to me, there are the odd sequences where something special is offered - none more so than when Terry McKay leans against the balcony door of her apartment, which opens to reveal the reflection of the Empire State Building. Little bits of movie magic like that go a long way to making a film a classic.
Okay, so it is not All About Eve or How Green Is My Valley, but in its own way it is a genuine classic film. One of the ultimate tear-jerkers of all time, this can still see the copious use of tissues as an integral part of the film watching experience. One of the greatest romance films ever made, if you cannot find a place for this in your collection, then you have not got a romantic bone in your body.
Another classic film from the archives that apparently has not warranted a full restoration of the film. A great shame indeed, for this goes some way to showing that the source material is inherently better than the Region 1 release indicated.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.
The transfer is generally reasonably sharp, within the context of obligatory soft focus shots involving Deborah Kerr. The digital age does somewhat highlight the blue screen work, but far less so here than in the Region 1 release owing to less use of edge enhancement. Detail is adequate enough given the nature of the film, with shadow detail holding up pretty well all things considered. There is some grain present in the transfer, most especially noticeable during shots of the ship or during the voyage: examples are at 2:00, 3:02, 13:37 and 42:28. The fact that the grain is consistent in similar shots would indicate that the problem is more than likely source related. The grainy look at times does detract form the overall clarity of the transfer, which is in all other respects quite decent.
The colours here are far more saturated and believable than those in the Region 1 release, which was predominantly under saturated. The early colour from De Luxe is not of the highest standard to begin with but this is as good as I have seen it look in recent times. Lacking the ultimate depth of tone that we would expect from a more recent film obviously, there are occasions when you could have wished for more depth to the blacks in particular. There is some slight oversaturation in the orange coat worn by Deborah Kerr at 5:53 but otherwise there are no problems in this regard.
There did no appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are, however, a reasonable number of film-to-video artefacts present in the transfer, one area where the Region 1 transfer is slightly better. Mostly the problems relate to some minor shimmer here and there (43:25, 68:22 and 99:55 being good examples), but there is some noticeable moiré artefacting in the wall at 60:11. Whilst there are film artefacts floating around, they are no worse than we would expect in a film of this age.
This is an RSDL format DVD with the layer change coming mid-change at 57:17. It is a little too obvious as the sound is interrupted during the layer change. I would have thought that there were at least three black scene changes where the layer change could have been better hidden, given that the DVD is hardly taxed for space.
There are eleven subtitle options on the DVD, but I only sampled the one - English for the Hearing Impaired. They are nicely presented in a white font that is easy to read. They are quite accurate with only the odd instance of words being missed out.
There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack. It basically matches the video transfer very well indeed - which is no great commendation in some respects.
The dialogue comes up pretty well in the transfer and is quite easy to understand. There did not appear to be any real audio sync problems in the transfer, despite the obvious dubbing work on Deborah Kerr's singing.
The original score comes from Hugo Friedhofer and it must have been pretty good as it copped an Oscar nomination for Best Scoring. Pulling just about every romantic string it can, this sounds terribly dated and clichéd nowadays, but the film would certainly not be the same without it.
There really is nothing much wrong with the soundtrack that forty years lopped off the age would not fix. Whilst billed as a surround encoded soundtrack, my ears would suggest otherwise. At best this is a mono soundtrack tricked up to sound stereo with a consequent calming of the frontal soundscape: the stridency of the mono soundtrack has been replaced with a slightly more refined sound that remains very frontal but eminently listenable. The extent of the surround encoding is a bit of ambient noise out of the front surrounds, such as ship horns, that hardly raise any interest at all.
|Surround Channel Use|
The film might well be a classic, but once again Fox Home Entertainment have presented us with an extras package that would indicate that this is just a toss-away DVD. Not even all the special features mentioned on the packaging are present on the DVD itself. Talk about a lacklustre package.
Featuring a bit of colour, they are otherwise quite bland.
Theatrical Trailer (2:48)
Whoa Nelly, what a shoddy piece of work this is! Presented in what appears to be an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced, is almost black and white and comes with some decidedly terrible Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. Apart from some very hissy sound, the main problems are that the trailer is decidedly impoverished as far as colour is concerned, is blessed with a smorgasbord of film artefacts and is really dark in tone. All of which means that there is little definition here and it is difficult to see what is going on. Completely forgettable.
Gallery - Photo
We have had some pointless extras in this series of classic film releases from Fox - but this one would have to take the cake. A grand total of four photos will provide you with absolutely no illumination of the film and basically this is a complete waste of everyone's time.
There is no substantial difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases, although the Region 1 does feature a French Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. As far as the transfer is concerned, the Region 1 release suffers from colour undersaturation and looks very anaemic at times. After watching both the Region 1 and Region 4 releases, I would have to say that the Region 4 is far more preferable in every way, unless you need a French soundtrack.
The ultimate chick flick, An Affair To Remember is genuinely one of the best romances to ever grace the silver screen. Whilst the video transfer is significantly better than the Region 1 release, it is by no means perfect and a complete restoration of this film is sadly lacking. The audio transfer leaves a little to be desired but the extras package is beyond a joke. Overall, a wonderful film blessed with a very mediocre DVD and one not in the slightest becoming of its stature.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|