The Diary of Anne Frank appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this double-sided DVD-14; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This wasn’t an exceptional transfer, but it mostly replicated the source material well.
Sharpness usually appeared solid. Some wider shots displayed a bit of softness, but those examples seemed minor. The majority of the flick came across as nicely detailed and distinctive. I noticed no issues connected to jagged edges or moiré effects, but light edge enhancement seemed apparent periodically throughout the film.
Blacks looked nicely deep and firm, and contrast seemed good. The low-light shots demonstrated solid clarity and definition, with no issues connected to excessive opacity. Mild print flaws cropped up through the film, but they remained acceptably modest for a 50-year-old flick. I noticed occasional examples of specks, grit and spots, but overall the image was reasonably clean. I fluctuated between a “B” and a “B-“ but went with the higher grade simply because so much of the flick looked strong.
Diary presented a relatively good Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack. Not surprisingly, the soundfield remained strongly rooted in the forward channels. Much of the audio remained essentially monaural. Music demonstrated decent stereo imaging in the front, and occasional examples of effects emanated from the side speakers. However, those examples were fairly infrequent, as the soundscape didn’t do much to broaden its horizons. Bells and explosions dominated the side material. Surround usage tended toward general reinforcement of the front channels and added little. Given the limited scope of the action in Frank, however, one can’t fault the sound design for these restrictions.
Audio quality appeared fine for a movie of this vintage. Speech occasionally demonstrated some edginess, especially when dialogue competed with other elements; one scene in which many bombs fell demonstrated some of the roughest talking. Still, most of the lines were nicely crisp and reasonably natural. I noticed no problems with intelligibility. As usual for a flick of this vintage, music sounded somewhat thin and constricted, but the score was somewhat broader and better defined than the average movie of the era. Dynamic range failed to impress strongly but still worked out well.
Effects also seemed somewhat tinny in general. Some louder elements like trucks and explosions manifested decent low-end, however, and the effects usually were acceptably detailed. Distortion mainly affected explosions, which came across as moderately rough. A little hiss appeared at times, but the biggest distraction came from a light hum that cropped up through much of the film. That never became terribly intrusive, but it remained a minor nuisance and led me to lower my grade a little. Nonetheless, Frank earned a somewhat above-average “B-“ for its audio.
This edition of Diary also provides a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Don’t expect this remix to surpass the original track. Indeed, it comes with most of the same flaws but suffers from additional problems. The 5.1 mix tended to be muted and lifeless. It sounded like someone overutilized noise reduction techniques and turned the track into a dull, flat experience. The 4.0 mix isn’t great, but it’s the better option here.
How did this “50th Anniversary” release of Diary compare to the prior DVD? I felt that both audio and picture seemed virtually identical between the two – at least in terms of overall quality. When I compared the old DVD to the 50th Anniversary one, I could tell that both offered different transfers, but neither seemed superior to the other. Both presented the same strengths and weaknesses.
The 50th Anniversary release mostly includes new supplements. The only returning component is an audio commentary from actor Millie Perkins and associate producer George Stevens Jr., the son of the producer/director. They sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. In general, they create a useful discussion.
Stevens and Perkins go over quite a few topics. For instance, we hear about casting, the atmosphere on the set, the reasons for the use of Cinemascope and black and white photography, locations, and adapting the original material. In the early parts of the flick, Stevens talks the most, but Perkins soon warms up to the task and offers a lot of good personal observations. The pair go silent more often than I’d like, but given the film’s extended length, I don’t regard these gaps as a terrible issue. Overall, the commentary seems engaging and informative.
As we move to Side Two, we find a mix of featurettes. George Stevens in WWII runs seven minutes, 40 seconds. It includes notes from Stevens, Jr., as he discusses his father’s work as a filmmaker during the war; we also get a few comments from actor Diane Baker. The notes are fine, but the footage becomes the highlight of this interesting little piece.
During the 25-minute and four-second The Making of The Diary of Anne Frank: A Son’s Memories, George Stevens, Jr. again comes to the forefront. He talks about his experiences during the production of Diary and other aspects of the film’s creation. Some of this info repeats from the commentary, but Stevens still manages to provide a lot of good material here.
We get more from the actors in The Diary of Anne Frank: Memories from Millie Perkins and Diane Baker. This piece lasts 25 minutes, 53 seconds as actors Perkins and Baker discuss how they got their roles as well as their characters and aspects of their experiences during the production. More interesting tidbits emerge in this enjoyable program.
Another performer shows up for the six-minute and 59-second Shelley Winters and The Diary of Anne Frank. In this interview from 1983, Winters discusses working with George Stevens and shooting the film. Stevens remains the main focus of the piece, so don’t expect a broad range of Diary memories from Winters. Still, she gives us a good perspective in this short but informative clip.
We look at audio during The Sound and Music of The Diary of Anne Frank. It goes for seven minutes, 54 seconds and features Stevens, Jr., as well as composer Alfred Newman’s sons Thomas and David Newman. As expected, we get info about the movie’s score and its use of sound effects. The observations about the music become the most useful aspects of this reasonably interesting piece.
The Diary of Anne Frank: Correspondence lasts 13 minutes, 12 seconds, and features the ubiquitous Stevens, Jr., as he reads letters connected to the production of Diary. These are pretty cool to hear, as they offer an intriguing first-person perspective on the production.
Finally, Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman fills 14 minutes, six seconds with comments from the Fox Filmed Entertainment CEO as he discusses the source material and its move to the big screen as well as some aspects of the production. We’ve essentially heard all of this info elsewhere, so “Legacy” doesn’t add much to the package.
Two Galleries finish the set. We get an “Interactive Pressbook” (14 screens) and a “Behind-the-Scenes Gallery” (55 screens). Both are interesting. I like the fact the “Pressbook” allows us to zoom in and more closely examine some elements, and the other gallery includes a lot of interesting shots from the set.
Does the 50th Anniversary release lose anything from the prior DVD? Yup – and it loses a lot of material. It drops a very good 90-minute documentary, a few other featurettes, screen tests, newsreels, more photos, and trailers. Why drop all these components? I don’t know, but they should’ve been included here as well.
The Diary of Anne Frank takes on an important subject but only provides an occasionally effective examination. While the movie clearly has some terrific moments, it also falls flat at times and seems too erratic to be a thorough winner. The DVD offers generally positive picture and sound plus a nice set of extras. Enough of Diary works for me to recommend it to those with an interest in the subject, but it remains a moderate disappointment.
And this “50th Anniversary Edition” DVD comes as a letdown as well. It provides picture and sound that are on a par with what we found on the prior disc, but it omits most of that set’s supplements. While this release’s exclusives are interesting, they don’t substitute for the elements found on the original disc. Completists will want to own both, but if you just desire one Diary, I’d recommend the old version of the 50th Anniversary Edition.
To rate this film visit Fox Studio Classics review of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK