All About Eve appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Most of the image was strong.
Sharpness varied but usually looked fine. Some shots appeared moderately soft, a factor that seemed somewhat affected by the hazy “glamour focus” afforded the actresses. A few other scenes came across as a bit fuzzy as well, but the movie usually came across as accurate and well defined.
Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws were absent, as I noticed no signs of specks or marks.
Black levels appeared strong, with some nicely defined dark tones throughout much of the film. Contrast also felt solid, with nicely silvery tones throughout the flick, and shadow detail came across as distinct, with low-light sequences that were appropriately thick but not overly dense. The image of All About Eve rarely showed its age, as the picture looked pretty solid.
As for the movie’s LPCM monaural soundtrack, speech sounded reasonably natural and distinct. The lines could be a little thin, but dialogue usually appeared fine.
Effects and music also lacked much range, but they were fairly clear and well defined for their age. No background noise or issues interfered with the audio. Overall, this was a positive track for a nearly 70-year-old movie.
How did the Criterion release compare to the prior Blu-ray? Audio was a bit warmer, as the Criterion’s mono mix offered a lossless affair instead of the old disc’s lossy track. The Criterion dropped the earlier version’s 5.1 remix, but I didn’t miss it.
As for visuals, both the Criterion and the prior release came from the same transfer. Due to coding improvements and more breathing room on the disc, the Criterion felt a smidgen more stable, but for the most part, the two seemed virtually identical.
The Criterion set mixes new and old supplements, and we find two audio commentaries, the first of which offers remarks from actor Celeste Holm, director’s son Christopher Mankiewicz, and Joe Mankiewicz biographer Ken Geist. All three were recorded separately for this edited, non-screen-specific track. Rather than focus on the movie itself, the commentary probably should be retitled “All About Joe”, as it concentrates largely on the flick’s writer/director.
We hear little from Holm, who occasionally tosses in a tidbit about the flick. None of these seem terribly memorable, though, and she gets lost in between the statements from the two men.
Mankiewicz dishes the most dirt about the director, as he gives us a view of life with his father. He occasionally makes some positive comments, but his memories largely appear to be negative, especially in regard to the interactions between his parents.
Geist focuses more on Joe Mankiewicz’s career, with a particular emphasis on the director’s feelings of inferiority in regard to his brother Herman. While this track doesn’t provide much of a look at the movie itself, it nonetheless offers an interesting examination of the director and it seems like an intriguing piece.
At the start of the first track, Geist related that he didn’t think much of the book All About “All About Eve”. Interestingly, the second commentary comes from that text’s writer, author Sam Staggs. In his piece, Geist really never related what bugged him so much about Staggs’ book, so I guess I need to take the latter’s remarks here at face value.
Whatever problems Geist had with the book, Staggs offers a pretty interesting commentary – when he speaks, that is. Though the piece starts well, Staggs fades badly after a while, and much of the movie’s second half passes without information.
Nonetheless, Staggs manages to add some good facts about the production, as he details facts about the participants as well as notes about sets and locations and anecdotes from the set. The commentary includes far too many empty spots to truly succeed, but Staggs provides enough useful bits to make his track reasonably interesting.
On Disc Two, we get a mix of old and new extras, and we find a Lux Radio Theatre Adaptation from October 1, 1951. It runs 59 minutes, 55 seconds and boasts Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and Gary Merrill in their movie parts.
Most of these adaptations need to cut the stories to the bone, and since the 138-minute movie needs to be crammed into less than an hour, that seems especially true for Eve. Heck, the radio show even drops the film’s most famous line! Still, it’s fun to hear as a novelty.
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz goes for 26 minutes, two secons and offers notes from director’s sons Tom and Chris Mankiewicz, director’s wife Rosemary, Golden Age of Cinema author Rick Jewell, and Pictures Will Talk: The Life and Films of Joseph L. Mankiewicz author Kenneth L. Geist.
“Directed” discusses aspects of Joseph Mankiewicz’s life and films. It offers a decent overview, but don’t expect much depth, as the show’s too short to give us much detail.
We learn more about the director in the 25-minute, 59-second Joseph L. Mankiewicz: A Personal Journey. It provides remarks from Tom Mankiewicz, Chris Mankiewicz, Rosemary Mankiewicz, Jewell, Geist, and film critic Brian Dauth.
“Journey” acts as a complement to “Directed”, with more of an emphasis on family and behind the scenes aspects of his career. It’s the more interesting of the two, especially when it gets into brother Herman and the anti-Communist era.
The program is also pretty blunt about problems in the director’s first marriage and the suicide of his wife. This is also too short a piece, but it’s enjoyable and informative.
Next we locate the seven-minute, two-second The Secret of Sarah Siddons. It features Chris Mankiewicz, Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones, Sarah Siddons Society co-chair Donna Beaumont Atwater, Siddons Society Board of Governors co-chair Mary Lou Bilder-Gold, and actor Lisa Orgolini.
We learn about the real Siddons and the Society named after her. Joseph Mankiewicz invented the Society for the movie but then it became a real institution in Chicago.
Who knew? The featurette occasionally feels like an ad for the Society, but it’s still got some useful background.
Next we find an episode of AMC Backstory that covers All About Eve. In this 24-minute, 21-second program, we hear from actors Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, and Celeste Holm, Joseph Mankiewicz, director’s son Tom Mankiewicz, film historian Rudy Behlmer, and Bette Davis biographer Roy Moseley. The bits from Davis, Baxter and Joe Mankiewicz come from 1983 sources, while the others are more contemporary.
The program desperately wants to dish some dirt about the film, but it comes up short in that regard. We learn that Holm and Davis didn’t care for each other, and we hear of an extra-marital affair between Davis and co-star Gary Merrill, but otherwise, we don’t find much excitement in this drowsy documentary.
It tries too hard to find scandal to act as a proper “making of” piece, so it doesn’t really accomplish much. “Backstory” includes some rudimentary information about the movie, but it seems incomplete and lackluster.
Some archival films appear as well. These include a one-minute, 16-second Bette Davis Promotion. The clip seems puffy and doesn’t offer much of interest other than for archival reasons.
We also get two Dick Cavett Show Excerpts. One stems from 1980 and features actor Gary Merrill (28:42) whereas the other comes from 1969 and focuses on Bette Davis (19:56).
Of the two, Merrill’s proves the more engaging, as he gives a good look at his life and career. Davis’s chat is fun as well but that New Year’s Eve segment tends more toward jokes.
Recorded for the Criterion set, we locate an Interview with Film Costume Historian Larry McQueen. In this 17-minute, 56-second piece, McQueen discusses the various costumes used in Eve. He brings an informative examination of the subject matter.
From 1983, All About Mankiewicz provides a feature-length documentary. During its one-hour, 46-minute, 45-second running time, film scholar Michel Ciment offers a long interview with writer/director Joseph Mankiewicz.
The first half tends to focus on aspects of Mankiewicz’s life, whereas the second digs deeper into his work. I much prefer the latter, but both add up to an effective look at the filmmaker.
The package also provides a booklet. It mixes art, credits and essays from Terrence Rafferty and Mary Orr. The booklet completes the set well.
Note that the Criterion Eve drops a few extras found on the prior Blu-ray. It omits an isolated score, a featurette called “The Real Eve”, a trailer, some newsreels and a promo spot that focuses on Anne Baxter.
Also note that Criterion packages Eve in a pretty flimsy “digipack”. The hubs don’t hold the discs well, and they’re so sticky that they mangled the booklet in a minor way. Hopefully Criterion won’t make these “digipacks” their standard.
Nearly 70 years after its initial release, All About Eve continues to offer a witty and incisive portrait of showbiz and its inhabitants. Some parts of the movie don’t age well, but most of the time it seems lively and engaging. The Blu-ray presents solid picture and sound for a film of its vintage, and it adds a nice roster of extras. Eve remains a strong movie and this Blu-ray gives it the best home video rendition to date.
To rate this film please visit the Fox Studio Classics Edition review of ALL ABOUT EVE