Gilda appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1; due to those dimensions, the image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a good but not great transfer.
Sharpness appeared fine throughout the movie. At most, mild softness interfered on a couple of occasions, but these examples were rare and the film looked reasonably crisp and detailed. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no significant concerns, and edge haloes were absent.
Black levels seemed fairly deep and rich, and contrast looked good most of the time. I saw a couple of excessively bright shots, but those weren’t a real issue, and I sensed that they reflected the source. Low-light shots offered nice clarity.
Print flaws were a mild distraction. I saw a smattering of small specks as well as a few minor streaks/blemishes and a gate hair or two. These didn’t seem dominant, though I thought the movie came with more defects than I expected, as so many 2016 transfers of old films lack any problems. In the end, this was still a good image for a 70-year-old release.
The film boasted a relatively strong Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack as well. Dialogue always appeared crisp and distinct, with no concerns related to intelligibility. Actually, the speech sounded surprisingly clear for a film of this vintage; the lines were fairly natural and lacked much of the coldness generally found in recordings from this era.
Music and effects displayed similar characteristics. The track lacked any real dynamic range and seemed flat in that way, but the different components came across as clean and accurate for the most part, without any noticeable distortion. Background noise seemed mild at worst. The mix merited an age-related “B”.
How does this Criterion release compare to those of the prior DVD from 2010? I thought the Criterion version came with slightly cleaner audio and mildly stronger visuals. However, this wasn’t a big upgrade – the two discs largely seemed similar.
The Criterion version mixes old and new extras, and we start with an audio commentary from film critic Richard Schickel. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at cast and crew, story/character topics, themes and interpretation, and a few connected subjects.
Maybe Schickel's recorded a good commentary at some point in his career, but if so, I can't recall it. Instead, I remember a bunch of tracks like this one: dull, tedious explorations of... not much. Dead air abounds, and even when Schickel speaks, he doesn’t tell us much of interest. Other than some decent thematic thoughts and a few notes about Hayworth’s career, this is a dud. I think you can skip it and not risk missing much.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a featurette called Martin Scorsese and Baz Luhrmann on Gilda. It runs 16 minutes, four seconds and includes comments from those two filmmakers. They discuss aspects of the film and Rita Hayworth’s career.
Of the two, Luhrmman proves to be the more engaging. He offers an insightful chat about hair and costume topics and also provides a better account of the film’s impact. Scorsese throws in some good notes as well, but Luhrmann does the heavy lifting and makes this a useful piece.
New to the Criterion DVD, we find a 1964 episode of Hollywood and the Stars called The Odyssey of Rita Hayworth. It lasts 25 minutes, nine seconds and provides a basic biography of Hayworth, accompanied by comments from the actress herself. This never becomes an especially insightful piece – after all, it’s essentially TV fluff – but it gives us an acceptable overview along with plenty of clips from Hayworth’s filns.
Under Eddie Muller, we discover a new 22-minute, 12-second chat with the film noir historian. He discusses some production notes as well as character/thematic interpretation. I think Muller pushes the film’s alleged homosexual overtones too strongly, but he still offers a fairly interesting chat.
Finally, we get a foldout booklet. On one side, this provides an essay from film critic Sheila O’Malley, while the other side shows a poster of Rita Hayworth. It offers a nice complement to the set.
Rita Hayworth was one of the all-time great bombshells, and she showed why she attained this status via her vivid and exciting performance in 1946's Gilda. The movie offers a lackluster plot but benefits from crisp pacing and solid acting; those elements make the movie worth watching. The DVD provides generally positive picture and audio along with a mediocre set of supplements. I like Gilda and think this becomes the best DVD representation of it, but not by a large margin, as the prior disc was nearly as good.
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