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20TH CENTURY FOX

MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
Determined to live her life the way she wants, newly widowed Lucy Muir declines her straightlaced in-laws demand that she live with them and moves with her daughter to the seaside into a cottage haunted by the handsome, blustering Captain Gregg. A deal is struck between the two in the wee hours of the morning allowing Lucy to stay in the house and the captain to materialize only in the master bedroom. As they gradually get to know each other, Lucy's spunk and stubborness gains first the captain's grudging respect, then his heart. But when another man woos Lucy, both must face that her future lies with the living, not the in the spirit world.

Director:
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cast:
Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders, Edna Best, Vanessa Brown
Writing Credits:
Philip Dunne, based on the novel by R.A. Dick

MPAA:
Not Rated.

Academy Awards:
Nominated for Best Cinematography.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 1.0
French DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0
Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Dutch
Italian
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 12/3/2013

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Visual Effects Supervisor and Film Historian Greg Kimble and Head of the Bernard Herrmann Estate Christopher Husted
• Audio Commentary with Film Professor Jeanine Basinger and Joseph L. Mankiewicz Biographer Kenneth Geist
• Theatrical Trailer


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Ghost and Mrs. Muir [Blu-Ray] (1947)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 11, 2013)

Pop quiz: what was the first film to become adapted as a TV series? Lame reply: I have no idea. However, I am aware that before successes like M*A*S*H transferred to the small screen, we got a short-lived series based on 1947ís The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

For me, the TV show was my first experience with the tale, and I can recall that I was surprised to learn that a movie preceded the show. (I was probably also stunned to learn that Hoganís Heroes had a historical antecedent as well Ė ďThey based the show on a war???Ē)

When I reviewed the film version of M*A*S*H, I needed to combat my preconceived notions based on the series, no such issues affected my encounter with the original movie of Muir. Indeed, my memories of the show are exceedingly faint. I know it existed. I know I watched it a few times. End of recollections.

Set in London at the turn of the 20th century, Muir tells the take of Mrs. Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney), a widow whose husband died about a year earlier. She tells her mother-in-law Angelica (Isobel Elsom) and sister-in-law Eva (Victoria Horne) that she wants to leave their home and strike out on their own. A nasty pair, they donít like this idea, but Lucy takes off for Whitecliff-by-the-Sea anyway. She goes along with her young daughter Anna (Natalie Wood) and housekeeper Martha (Edna Best).

When Lucy gets to Whitecliff, she examines local abodes with real estate agent Mr. Coombe (Robert Coote), and she takes a shine to Gull Cottage. Coombe shies her away from it, but she insists that they inspect it. She loves it even though she quickly discovers the apparent presence of the ghost of the prior owner, Captain Gregg (Rex Harrison). Surprisingly, Lucy likes the idea of living with a spirit, so she takes the place despite the protests of Coombe.

Gregg tries to scare off the interlopers, but the increasingly assertive Lucy refuses to go so they come to an accord that will allow them to co-exist. Eventually Lucyís money supply threatens to run out, and she may lose the house. Gregg proposes that Lucy ghostwrite (ha!) his biography; she can make the money she needs from his tales.

They work on this and she eventually sells the book. At the publisherís office, she meets wily childrenís author Miles Fairley (George Sanders). Though Gregg previously encouraged Lucy to date, he always comes across as jealous when she shows even the slightest interest in living men, and her interactions with Fairley upset him. The rest of the movie follows the progress of this unusual love triangle and other elements.

Many of those aspects didnít progress like I expected, and Muir offered a number of unanticipated things. The first surprise I encountered in regard to Muir related to its director, as I had no idea noted filmmaker Joseph L. Mankiewicz made Muir. Oscar gold remained a couple of years in the future for Mankiewicz when he created Muir - he nabbed consecutive Best Director awards for 1949ís A Letter to Three Wives and 1950ís All About Eve - but it still felt like a shock that Mankiewicz would create this seemingly light fare.

Another surprise relayed to the depth and snap of Muir. For all intents and purposes, Muir qualifies as a ďchick flickĒ, but it maintains a lot of interest for folks not usually interested in that genre. When I first watched Muir, I did so right after I checked out 1957ís An Affair to Remember, one of the best-known chick flicks of all-time. I didnít care for that movie, as it suffered from all of the sappy and weepy tendencies of the genre.

Muir offered a very different case, as it presented a concise and rich affair that avoided the maudlin elements of Remember and other movies of that sort. That occurred largely due to the presence of Mankiewicz, a director who seemed to avoid mawkishness as much as possible. Muir lacks the bitter cynicism of Eve, but Mankiewicz keeps matters from becoming too sentimental. He infuses the material with a nice sense of pizzazz and zest that makes it work.

Harrison also helps create an unsentimental piece. Never exactly a subtle actor, Harrison barrels through the role, but that factor means that at least he doesnít become syrupy. This allows the movie to avoid the potential traps, and he displays a good chemistry with Tierney.

At first I questioned the casting of Sanders, as the part seemed a little too romantic for him. He was a sublimely acerbic actor who worked best in coolly dismissive parts. However, Sanders overcame my initial concerns as the role developed, and he ended up performing well. I would have expected someone more namby-pamby in this part, so itís a treat to get an actor as tart as Sanders.

As for the lead actress, she doesnít present a lot of spark in the role, but given the forceful personalities of the males in the cast, a somewhat milquetoast actress helped keep things in balance. Tierney allows the characterís assertiveness to grow naturally, and she certainly seems exceedingly lovely, but she remains a little bland.

One nice aspect of Muir stems from its progression, as the film doesnít develop along a totally predictable path. I donít want to discuss those elements since they may provide some spoilers, but the last act seemed more surprising than I expected. The ending worked extremely well, as it presented a lovely and touching conclusion to the flick.

Across the board, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir surprised me. I didnít think the same director who created the caustic All About Eve could make something with such a moving and gentle conclusion, and many other parts of the flick caught me off guard. Though it should have been nothing more than a slight romantic piffle, Muir overcomes its genre origins and offers a vivid and endearing piece.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B / Audio B- (stereo), B (mono) / Bonus B

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a consistently appealing presentation, though not one that dazzled.

Parts of the film came across as a little soft and ill defined. These examples were minor and may have related to cinematographic choices, but I still felt the movie couldíve shown a little better definition. Jagged edges and moirť effects created no concerns, though, and I witnessed no edge haloes. The image lacked obvious print flaws and seemed clean.

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 mild softness became the main reason I gave Muir a ďBĒ, but the film looked positive the vast majority of the time.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir presented both a remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 version and its original DTS-HD MA monaural audio. The 5.1 soundfield lacked much definition. Often the domain displayed broad mono; it spread the audio in a vague manner across the forward channels, but it failed to give us substantial accuracy or delineation. Music lacked obvious stereo definition; it filled the speakers but not in a concise way.

The presentation did enhance Harrisonís ghostly laugh, as the spread across the front was moderately effective, and it used the side/rear speakers to demonstrate the seaside setting reasonably well. The soundscape didnít do a lot but it added some breadth to the proceedings.

Audio quality appeared decent. Speech demonstrated a little too much reverb but generally remained acceptably distinct and intelligible. Effects were somewhat thin and tinny, but they sounded reasonably clean and accurate, and they didnít suffer from notable distortion. Bernard Herrmannís excellent score tended to be a little flat; it was acceptable but seemed somewhat lacking in range.

While the 5.1 track seemed fine on its own, I preferred the mono track. Speech still showed a little edginess, but the lines seemed warmer and more natural since they lacked the mild reverb of the 5.1 mix. Effects and music also displayed improved clarity and range; these werenít remarkable improvements, but I thought those elements appeared more distinctive here. Both tracks have their merits but Iíd opt for the mono mix.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio was clearer and more dynamic, while the visuals seemed cleaner, tighter and more film-like. This was a nice upgrade.

The Blu-ray includes some of the DVDís extras, and these start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from visual effects supervisor/film historian Greg 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 flickís content.

As for Husted, he concentrated mostly on score-related topics. He chatted about Herrmannís 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 didnít 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 Basingerís and didnít stand out as anything terribly remarkable. He told us some interesting elements such as Mankiewiczís reluctance to take on the movie, but he didnít delve into these topics with much substance.

Geistís discussion of Mankiewicz heard during All About Eve seemed much more compelling. A few too many empty spaces crop up as well, though these donít become frequent nuisances. Ultimately, the second commentary offered some decent moments but was fairly average as a whole.

The Blu-ray also includes the filmís trailer. It drops an A&E documentary about Rex Harrison, a still gallery and ads for other movies. Iím not shocked we lose the promos and the stills Ė many Blu-rays omit still frame options from DVDs Ė but I do feel surprised that the A&E show gets the boot. Perhaps some rights issues prevented its inclusion.

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 Blu-ray offered good picture, audio and bonus materials. Although the Blu-ray drops a few supplements from the DVD, its improvements in visual/sound quality make it a worthwhile upgrade.

To rate this film visit the Studio Classics review of THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main