It Happened One Night appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Given the age of the film, I found this to become an impressive transfer.
Sharpness usually looked good. Some softness seemed to result from the style of photography; Capra appeared especially fond of spotlighting Colbert with some mild "glamour shot" lighting. Otherwise, the movie mostly boasted good clarity and definition. I noticed no issues with shimmering or jagged edges, and neither edge haloes nor digital noise reduction impacted this natural presentation.
Source flaws caused no problems. Grain remained appropriate, and I noticed no obvious distractions from specks, marks or other defects. Black levels seemed dark and tight, and shadows displayed nice smoothness and clarity. Fans will feel delighted with this excellent presentation.
Another pleasant surprise came from the LPCM monaural audio of It Happened One Night. The film came out during the relative infancy of sound movies and I expected it to sound harsh and scratchy. However, it's actually a clean and accurate soundtrack. Distortion - which plagued more old mixes than anything else - was virtually nonexistent, even when characters shouted.
Dialogue lacked warmth but seemed clear and intelligible. The lines sounded quite natural for such an old movie. Effects and music - of which we heard little - sounded fine. Many old soundtracks suffered from much tape hiss and popping, but background noise was refreshingly absent. This was about as good as a track from 1934 could sound.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the of the 2006 DVD? Audio was similar, as there wasn’t a lot of range to milk from an 80-year-old recording. However, visuals showed clear improvements in accuracy, clarity and cleanliness. I liked the prior DVD but it didn’t compare to the stunning Blu-ray.
The Criterion set mixes old and new extras. In an 11-minute, 16-second piece called Frank Capra Jr. Remembers...It Happened One Night, we get notes from the director’s son. This program intercuts interview shots of Capra with scenes from the film and other photos as he talks about the movie. Capra discusses the project’s origins and development, cast, characters and performances, sets, the tight schedule and related challenges, and the flick’s success. "Remembers" isn't a great program, but if provides some useful information.
Screwball Comedy? brings us a 2014 piece with film critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate. It goes for 38 minutes, 36 seconds and includes their thoughts about the “screwball comedy” genre as well as aspects of Night and its creators. I’d like a stronger connection between Night and the genre but this still becomes a pretty insightful chat.
From 1921, Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House lasts 12 minutes, three seconds and brings us a silent film directed by Frank Capra. Based on a Rudyard Kipling story, it offers Capra’s directorial debut. That status makes it noteworthy; I don’t find it to be especially entertaining, but it’s great to see.
Created in 1997, Frank Capra’s American Dream fills one hour, 36 minutes and two seconds. Hosted by Ron Howard, we get info from Frank Capra Jr., filmmakers Martin Scorsese, John Milius, Robert Altman, Garry Marshall, Marshall Herskovitz, Bill Duke, Oliver Stone, Amy Heckerling, Edward Zwick, Arthur Hiller, and Andre de Toth, producer Tom Capra, sound technician/director Edward Bernds, cinematographer Allen Daviau, film historian Jeanine Basinger, film critic Richard Schickel, Capra biographer Joseph McBride, Harry Cohn biographer Bob Thomas, and actors Michael Keaton, Richard Dreyfuss, Angela Lansbury, Peter Falk, Fay Wray, and Jane Wyatt.
“Dream” offers a basic biography of Capra, as it covers aspects of his life and movie career. At no time does “Dream” tamper with the traditional formula, but that’s fine with me. It covers Capra in a likable, reasonably informative manner that keeps us with it as it goes.
In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we get a 1982 program called AFI’s Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Frank Capra. In this 59-minute, 11-second special, we find a celebration hosted by James Stewart that also includes tributes from Charlton Heston, Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert, Bob Hope, Peter Falk, Lionel Stander, Jack Lemmon, Burgess Meredith, Hal Linden, Fred MacMurray, Steve Martin, Telly Savalas, Bette Midler, Richard Benjamin, Art Buchwald, Donna Reed, and George Stevens Jr. Capra himself also speaks.
Do we learn anything substantial about Capra or his life here? No – we find a smattering of details, but we already got better thoughts on biographical subjects in “Dream”. Nonetheless, “Tribute” delivers a horde of stars and it’s simply fun to see all of them gathered for this occasion.
The package concludes with a 16-page foldout booklet. In it, we find an essay from classic film blogger Farran Smith Nehme as well as photos and credits. The text completes the set in a satisfying manner.
Does this package lose anything from the prior DVDs? Yes – it drops an audio commentary from Frank Capra Jr; as well as a 1939 radio adaptation of the film. I don’t really miss the commentary, as it seemed pretty dull, but the absence of the radio show disappoints.
Although I don’t find It Happened One Night to offer peak level Capra, it gives us an enjoyable romantic comedy. With delightful performances from its leads and a crisp script, the movie amuses and charms us. The Blu-ray comes with excellent picture as well as good audio and a nice roster of bomis materials. Fans of classic cinema will find themselves delighted by this terrific release.
To rate this film, visit the 2007 Review of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT