The Ghost and Mrs. Muir 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 the most part, Muir presented a very good picture, though some moderate problems kept it from greatness.
Sharpness caused the majority of the concerns. Too much of the film came across as fairly soft and ill defined. This seemed exacerbated by some moderate edge enhancement that showed up through parts of the movie. While much of the flick looked good, the softness seemed a little heavy at times. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, though, and print flaws appeared pretty minor given the age of the film. I noticed occasional spots, specks, marks and a few hairs, but the movie generally appeared nicely clean and fresh.
Some flickering also occurred at times. As for contrast, the film looked a bit bright at times, but it usually seemed solid. Black levels came across as fairly deep and rich, and shadow detail looked nicely clear and concise. The moderate softness caused most of the reason I gave Muir a “B”, but the film looked quite lovely at times.
As with most of the releases in the Fox Studio Classics series, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir presented both a remixed stereo and the original monaural soundtracks. As with most of the releases in the Fox Studio Classics series, the mono mix seemed noticeably stronger than the stereo one did. The soundfield heard in the stereo version lacked much definition. Essentially the domain displayed broad mono; it spread the audio in a vague manner across the forward channels, but it failed to substantial accuracy or delineation. Speech appeared especially problematic, as lines tended to bleed across the speakers. The stereo presentation did enhance Harrison’s ghostly laugh, as the spread across the front was moderately effective.
Mostly the stereo track just offered a vague echo, though this didn’t seem as obnoxiously enforced as in some prior Studio Classics releases. Audio quality appeared fairly decent, at least. Speech demonstrated some edginess but generally remained acceptably distinct and intelligible. Effects were somewhat thin and tinny, but they sounded reasonably clean and accurate, and they different suffer from notable distortion. Bernard Herrmann’s excellent score also suffered from trebly tendencies, but these weren’t excessive, and the music seemed fairly rich given the age of the material.
The problematic delineation of the stereo spectrum and the somewhat excessive reverberation caused most of the problems related to this mix. Due to those reasons, I preferred the mono track. Speech still showed a little edginess, but it seemed a little warmer and more natural since it lacked the echo. Effects and music also displayed similar dynamics for both tracks, but the greater focus on the single-channel presentation and the absence of reverberation made the elements sound clearer and tighter. I didn’t notice the extreme difference between stereo and mono heard on some of the crummier remixes, but I still definitely preferred the mono mix for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.
For the “Studio Classics” release of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, we get a pretty decent package of supplements. These start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from visual effects supervisor and film historian Gregg Kimble and Bernard Herrmann historian Christopher Husted. Both men were recorded separately and their statements were edited together for this occasionally screen-specific track.
Altogether, the pair offered a nice look at Muir. Kimble dominated the piece and he covered a lot of ground. He discussed specifics about the production such as sets, locations, cinematography and other technical issues, and he also went into some film history as it related to the movie. For instance, he talked about the production code in place at the time and told us how that affected the flick’s content. As for Husted, he concentrated mostly on score-related topics. He chatted about Herrmann’s career and personality and also gave us some details about the way the music worked. All told, the pair combined to create an intriguing and stimulating discussion of Muir.
The second commentary involves film professor Jeanine Basinger and Joseph Mankiewicz biographer Kenneth Geist. As with the first track, both participants were recorded separately for this edited piece, but their remarks covered the flick in a running, scene-specific manner. Basinger dominated the commentary, especially during its first half; things became more equitable after that.
After the solid first commentary, this one seemed a little lackluster. Basinger went over a number of details related to the movie, with an emphasis on biographical details for the participants and story interpretation. Unfortunately, those latter elements tended to come across as little more than narration; Basinger didn’t present a great deal of incisive material about the tale. Although I expected Geist to focus mainly on Mankiewicz, he actually went over a mix of issues related to the flick. His remarks mostly blended in with Basinger’s and didn’t stand out as anything terribly remarkable. He told us some interesting elements such as Mankiewicz’s reluctance to take on the movie, but he didn’t delve into these topics with much substance. Geist’s discussion of Mankiewicz heard during All About Eve seemed much more compelling. A few too many empty spaces crop up as well, though these don’t become frequent nuisances. Ultimately, the second commentary offered some decent moments but was fairly average as a whole.
One interesting conflict between the two tracks related to the broken foot Gene Tierney suffered throughout the shoot. According to Kimble in the first commentary, she had it taken off early to complete her performance. However, in the second piece, Basinger states that Tierney did this under pressure. Basinger seems like the more believable source since her university houses Tierney’s memoirs, but since Basinger makes a couple of strange mistakes during her discussion, I don’t know which person to trust.
Next we find an episode of A&E’s Biography series called Rex Harrison: The Man Who Would Be King. In this 44-minute and seven-second program, we see clips from Harrison’s movies, archival materials, and modern interviews with actor Charlton Heston, author Roy Moseley, sons Noel and Carey Harrison, biographer Alexander Walker, former wife Elizabeth Harris, and producer Elliott Martin.
As one might expect from a show in the Biography series, “King” emphasizes general elements of Harrison’s life. It covers his childhood and moves through his career and personal life. The latter aspects provide the majority of “King”, as we learn a lot about his romances and dalliances. We get a fair amount of information about his stage and film work, but this doesn’t dominate the program. It suffers from a somewhat dry presentation, but “King” nonetheless provides a reasonably interesting examination of the actor.
A few minor extras round out the package. The DVD’s Still Gallery splits into five different areas. We get sections devoted to “Lobby Cards” (two images), “Posters” (two stills), “Publicity” (18 shots), “Set Stills” (89 photos), and “Production Stills” (44 pictures). The last one provides the best material, though all have their merits. The DVD’s producers should have combined the lobby cards and posters into one section, though; two different spots with only two shots apiece makes those parts tedious to access.
Lastly, some advertisements appear. In addition to the trailer for Muir, we find a section called Movie Classics. This includes promos for An Affair to Remember, All About Eve, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Gentleman’s Agreement, and How Green Was My Valley.
Not the average sentimental romance, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir provided a surprisingly likeable and entertaining affair. The flick avoided mushiness but managed a lot of zest and a sweet emotional element. The DVD presented good picture quality slightly marred by softness along with fairly clear and accurate sound plus a nice set of supplements. An enchanting and well-executed film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir comes with my recommendation.