Dark Victory appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though I’ve seen more appealing presentations for old movies, this was still a pretty nice transfer.
Sharpness usually appeared very good. The film only suffered from a few slightly ill-defined shots, as the majority of the flick demonstrated nice delineation. I saw no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, and the movie lacked edge haloes.
In terms of print flaws, Victory looked clean. It showed natural grain and failed to display any specks, marks or other issues. Blacks appeared deep and rich, while low-light shots demonstrated nice definition and clarity. This ended up as a pleasing image.
Although the DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Dark Victory didn’t demonstrate anything special, it worked fine for its era and genre. Speech seemed slightly thin but was good for its age; lines remained intelligible and clear.
Music demonstrated reasonable range. The music didn’t impress, but it appeared acceptably bright. Effects became a minor component in this chatty flick, and they came across as reasonably accurate; though they had little heft, they were clean and didn’t suffer from distortion or other concerns. The audio appeared pretty good for its era.
How does the Blu-ray compare to the remastered DVD from 2005? Audio seemed clearer and fuller, while visuals were cleaner and tighter. The 2005 DVD was a nice release, but the Blu-ray improved on it.
The Blu-ray includes the 2005 DVD’s extras and some additional materials. In addition to the film’s trailer, we find an audio commentary from film historian James Ursini and CNN film critic Paul Clinton. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track. Usually film historians offer biographies of the participants and production notes about the film in question. While Ursini and Clinton offer a little of that, their discussion usually strays from concrete information.
Instead, they semi-critique the flick much of the time. By “semi-critique”, I mean that they occasionally discuss the flick’s good and bad points, and they provide some interpretation of characters and story issues. For example, they consistently deride Bogart’s casting as inappropriate, and they harp on some of the movie’s unrealistic elements.
Unfortunately, we don’t get much more than that. Periodic tidbits about the participants and the shoot appear, and we hear a couple neat stories like Clinton’s encounter with an elderly Bette Davis. Much of the time, however, the pair do little more than narrate the movie, and a fair amount of dead air slows down the discussion. This never becomes a painful experience, but it lacks much depth.
A creative and fun addition to the set, Warner Night at the Movies attempts to replicate the cinematic experience circa 1939. This feature includes a preview for The Roaring Twenties (3:31) - a flick from the same era as Victory - plus a period newsreel (2:05), a “Merrie Melodies” cartoon called Robinhood Makes Good (7:47) and a short Andrew Jackson bio-pic entitled Old Hickory (16:50).
These are the kinds of pieces that might have preceded a theatrical showing of Victory, so if you activate this feature, you get an attempt to duplicate a night at the cinema. I like this program and think it’s quite clever. Use the “Play All” option to run each of these features and then automatically launch into Victory.
Next we get a featurette called 1939: Tough Competition for Dark Victory. This nine-minute and 33-second program includes remarks from Clinton, Ursini, film critic John Anderson, and author and film historian Rudy Behlmer. They discuss the stellar roster of flicks that came out in 1939 and Victory’s place in that spectrum.
They also chat about its prominence at the time, Davis’ performance and career, tidbits about the other actors, cinematography and score, and its legacy among the other 1939 classics. Some material repeats from the commentary, but this proves to be a decent overview of the Victory.
For an audio experience, we get a Lux Radio Theater Broadcast version of Dark Victory. From January 8, 1940, this show runs 59 minutes, 12 seconds and features Bette Davis and Spencer Tracy as the leads. That’s a step up from George Brent and a pleasant surprise; usually these radio shows offer replacement actors who’re less talented/famous than the originals from the movies.
As for the adaptation, it rushes through the tale to a degree, but it enjoys enough air time to cover the tale pretty well. Davis lacks quite the same manic zest from the film, though she still chews a lot of scenery. This is a fairly fun listen.
A weepy, maudlin “chick flick”, Dark Victory offers little to make it stand out from the crowd. However, an exceptional - if occasionally off-putting - performance from Bette Davis makes it more interesting than most movies in the genre. The Blu-ray offers nice picture and audio along with an informative set of supplements. I don’t think Victory gives us a great film, but it’s an intriguing piece that fares well on this Blu-ray.
Note that Dark Victory can be purchased on its own or as part of a five-film “Golden Year Collection”. This also includes Gone with the Wind, Ninotchka, Dodge City and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It retails for $69.96, so it’s a good deal if you want all five of the movies.
To rate this film visit the prior review of DARK VICTORY