The Broadway Melody appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For a more than 75-year-old flick, Melody looked relatively strong.
As one might expect, source concerns created the majority of the problems. Moderate amounts of grain appeared, and I also saw more than a few examples of specks and grit. Occasional streaks, lines and marks also occurred. However, these remained quite subdued given the film’s vintage, as I expected heavier signs of flaws. Some flickering also caused a few distractions, but I didn’t have any substantial complaints about dirtiness due to the movie’s age.
Actually, one notable exception occurred. Around the 50-minute mark, we got a scene that displayed many more problems than during the rest of the flick. It showed heavy scratches, spots and marks. It cleared up before long but stood out when compared to everything else.
Sharpness usually fared well. A few shots came across as a little ill-defined, and the movie’s grain made things look a bit murky at times. Nonetheless, the image stayed reasonably distinctive and concise. I saw no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, and only a little edge enhancement seemed apparent.
One distraction came from contrast problems. Significant portions of the film looked blown out and too bright. These weren’t a constant concern, and much of the flick demonstrated nice blacks and good delineation of low-light shots. Whites simply dominated a bit too much of the time. Despite the variety of issues, I still felt pretty satisfied with the image of Melody, as it looked a bit better than I expected.
Similar thoughts greeted the monaural soundtrack of The Broadway Melody. It never stood out as great, but it was more than acceptable when I considered its age. Speech worked best. The lines were surprisingly natural and not as tinny or rough as I anticipated. No edginess marred the dialogue, though the pieces were moderately thin and reedy.
Effects played a minor role in the proceedings. Dialogue and music dominated the film, so it didn’t use a lot of effects other than for minor ambient information. Those elements sounded meek and feeble but remained well within the realm of acceptability. Music followed suit. The songs were too bright and lacked much dynamic range, but they seemed perfectly fine when I factored in their age.
Some light background noise appeared through the flick, though not enough to create consistent distractions. As with the source flaws, some exceptions occurred. Around the 61-minute mark, some serious noise marred the production and made it sound like the characters were in the middle of a storm. The performance of “The Wedding of the Painted Doll” also showed a lot of hiss. Nonetheless, “talkies” were in their infancy when they made Melody, so its soundtrack held up well over the years.
When we look at the extras, we get an interesting roster of era-related materials. We start with a live-action spoof called The Dogway Melody. This 16-minute and 25-second short from 1930 casts dogs in all the roles and dubs in dialogue for them. The gag gets old pretty quickly, though it’s more entertaining - and probably better-acted - than its inspiration.
A long collection of Metro Movietone Reviews follows. We get five of these flicks; taken together via the “Play All” option, they run 71 minutes and 38 seconds. Each presents a number of short musical performances from a mix of artists. These vary from moderately likable to truly bizarre to genuinely creepy - does Harry Rose scare anyone else. There’s more of the disturbing performers than anything else, unfortunately. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to get a glimpse of what passed for entertainment 75 years ago, so this is a cool archival feature.
Another short called Van and Schenck appears next. Similar to the “Metro Movietone Reviews”, this is just a musical performance from the title act. Honestly, did people enjoy this freaky stuff? Van and Schenck sing with odd inflections and just give me the heebie-jeebies. I may get nightmares from this four-minute and 57-second clip.
Lastly, we discover a Broadway Trailer Gallery. This includes previews for four movies with a thematic connection to this one: Broadway Melody of 1936, Broadway Melody of 1938, Broadway Melody of 1940 and Broadway Rhythm. I hope they’re better movies than the 1929 flick.
Since I haven’t seen every Best Picture winner, I can’t state for a fact that 1929’s The Broadway Melody is the worst of the bunch. However, I can’t imagine the remaining four I’ve not watched can be inferior to this clunker. It’s a slow, dull and pointless affair with nothing to make it entertaining or interesting. The DVD features relatively good picture and audio. As for the extras, they mostly offer creepy shorts that I appreciated for historical value. Unless you feel the need to see every Best Picture winner, skip this atrocious melodrama.