1776 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For the most part, I thought this was a good presentation.
Sharpness offered the only minor concern, though I’m reluctant to blame the transfer. As I watched, I got the impression the original photography tended to the soft side. Overall clarity seemed positive in any case.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws failed to materialize. The movie remained clean and clear at all times.
In terms of colors, the film tended toward a brownish feel, though it mustered a fairly natural sense of palette. These appeared well-rendered. Blacks looked deep and rich, while low-light shots came across with nice clarity. This turned into a satisfying presentation.
I also felt the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack held up well over the decades. The soundscape focused pretty heavily on the front speakers – and usually stayed restrained outside of music. Songs and score showed nice stereo presence, and occasional effects cropped up from the sides.
Those instances didn’t add much, though, and the surrounds had little to do. A few shots used the back speakers in a minor manner. However, outside of the music, this was a restricted soundfield.
Audio quality seemed positive for its age. Speech could be a little reedy but the lines remained intelligible and reasonably natural. Effects also came across as a bit thin, but they showed acceptable clarity. Score and songs seemed pretty peppy and full. This was a more than satisfactory soundtrack given the movie’s vintage.
The Blu-ray includes both a Director’s Cut (2:45:11) of 1776 as well as an Extended Cut (2:47:55). This viewing represented my first screening of the film so I can’t comment on the differences. I wanted to mention the presence of the two versions, though.
Alongside the Director’s Cut, we find two separate audio commentaries. Newly recorded for the Blu-ray, the first features director Peter Hunt and actors Ken Howard and William Daniels. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific look at how the parties came to the project, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, cinematography, songs and score, and related topics.
While Daniels and Howard chime in occasionally, Hunt does the vast majority of the talking here – and I regard that as a good thing, for Hunt provides a wealth of details. The director gives us a bunch of fun stories and fleshes out various moviemaking areas in a lively, engaging manner. The actors contribute just enough to make their presence worthwhile, but Hunt is the one who turns this into a consistently delightful piece.
Created for a 2002 DVD, the second commentary includes director Peter Hunt and writer Peter Stone. Also heard with the Director’s Cut, the men sit together for their running, screen-specific view of story/character areas, sets and locations, the restoration of the Director’s Cut, cast and performances, and other topics.
On its own, this seems like a decent commentary. Stone tends to simply narrate the movie more often than I’d like, but he also provides some historical details, so those add to the experience. The commentary suffers most by comparison with the newer track, as the latter proves to be much more informative. Still, there’s enough information here to make the old discussion worth a listen.
Three Deleted/Alternate Scenes appear. We find “Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve” (3:20), “Reprise of Lee of Old Virginia” (1:12) and “Privy” (0:54). “Piddle” extends an existing musical number, while “Reprise” gives us a brief return of another song. “Privy” just provides a slightly different version of a scene in the Director’s Cut. None of these seem especially interesting.
“Piddle” and “Lees” can be viewed with or without commentary from Hunt. He provides us with some basic but useful notes about the scenes and their deletion.
In addition to two trailers, we locate nine Screen Tests. These take up a total of 12 minutes, 52 seconds and show us “William Daniels as John Adams” (1:13), “William Daniels and Howard Da Silva as John Adams and Benjamin Franklin” (3:13), “William Hansen as Caesar Rodney” (1:40), “Patrick Hines as Samuel Chase” (1:06), “Daniel Keyes as Josiah Bartlett” (1:07), “Leo Leyden as George Reed” (0:36), “Ray Middleton as Colonel Thomas McKean” (1:55), “James Noble as Rev. John Witherspoon” (1:26) and “Rex Robbins as Roger Sherman” (1:14). In enjoy this kind of material, so I’m glad to see the footage found here.
Though I don’t care for its musical aspects, the dramatic portions of 1776 work well enough to keep me entertained. It delivers a surprisingly robust view of history and brings its characters to life. The Blu-ray provides mostly positive picture and audio as well as a decent smattering of supplements. While I could live without the songs, I still like enough about 1776 to recommend it.