Laura appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not flawless, the image impressed.
Sharpness appeared strong. A few shots showed a little softness, but those remained infrequent, so the majority of the flick looked accurate and tight. I noticed no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes were absent. The movie showed light grain and didn’t suffer from prominent print flaws; I saw a speck or two but nothing more.
Black levels pretty deep and firm, and contrast usually worked fine. Some shots could come across as a little bright, but I didn’t think these created notable distractions. Shadows were smooth and clear. I vacillated between a “B” and a “B+” but went with the higher grade due to the film’s age and general attractiveness.
The DTS-HD MA monaural audio seemed fine for its age but not better than that. Speech was the main distraction, as the lines tended to be somewhat brittle; they remained intelligible but tended toward the edgy side.
Effects didn’t have much to do – this was a chatty flick – but they appeared fine, as they showed adequate clarity and accuracy. On occasion, music sounded a smidgen wobbly, but the score was usually fairly open and concise. While nothing here impressed, the audio was acceptable given the film’s era.
How did this Blu-ray compare to the prior DVD from 2005? Audio was a wash, as both tracks had their pros and cons that came out about equal. Visuals showed more obvious improvements, though, as the Blu-ray was tighter, cleaner and more impressive.
We get all of the DVD’s extras, and these start with two cuts of the film. We find the theatrical release (1:27:06) and an extended version (1:28:09). One extra scene creates the different; it shows Lydecker’s influence on a young Laura. It’s a good sequence since it adds to our understanding of both characters, but I’m happy we also get the chance to watch the movie without it.
Next we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from composer David Raksin and film historian Jeanine Basinger. Both sit separately to provide their own running, screen-specific discussions that get edited together. A veteran of many similar tracks, Basinger provides the lion’s share of the conversation. She goes over the basics such as notes about the cast and crew, film interpretation, and some specifics about the movie’s creation like script issues, editing, and the music.
Raksin chimes in periodically with details about his own work, some of which prove quite illuminating. For example, the composer tells us how personal heartache prompted some of his material. Occasional lulls mar the commentary and it never becomes terribly involving, but it gets into the basics well and seems reasonably useful.
For the other commentary, we hear from film historian Rudy Behlmer. Another veteran of this sort of track, Behlmer offers his own running, screen-specific chat. Behlmer commentaries are money in the bank, and he provides another good one for Laura.
Behlmer starts with the genesis of the book and notes about author Vera Caspary. He talks about her writing, attempts to create a stage version of Laura, and its eventual move toward the big screen. We then learn the story’s slow progress in that direction, various attempts to get a director as well as the failed use of Rouben Mamoulian and the hiring of Otto Preminger. Behlmer follows the casting and various production issues like set design and score. He tosses out many notes about the film’s creation along with occasional biographical information about participants.
I worried that Behlmer’s track would become redundant after Basinger’s chat. Although he does repeat a few tidbits, the vast majority of his information remains unique to his commentary.
As always, Behlmer keeps things tight and involving. Despite a few lulls, the track usually moves at a good pace, and Behlmer tells us many valuable notes. This is a fine commentary that proves extremely useful.
After this we discover two separate episodes of A&E’s Biography series. Gene Tierney: A Shattered Portrait goes for 44 minutes and nine seconds and includes the usual mix of film clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Basinger, Raksin, sister Pat Byrne, daughter Christina Cassini, actor Richard Widmark, stand-in Kay Adell Stork, and former husband Oleg Cassini. The show follows Tierney’s early life and family problems, her quick path to success on Broadway and in Hollywood, romances and personal concerns, career highs and lows, family tragedies and her own mental problems,
Like all of the Biography episodes, “Angel” follows its subject’s ups and downs. Sometimes it feels like the series’ producers stress the negatives too strongly in an attempt to “spice up” the proceedings. In this case, however, the dark moments don’t seem forced, as Tierney clearly went through many bad times. We learn of all the pressure put on the actress by her father. Mental illness mars her career and other negatives dominate much of her life. The program balances the good and bad sides well and offers a solid portrait of the actress.
Vincent Price: The Versatile Villain runs 44 minutes, three seconds and uses the same format as “Portrait”. Here we get remarks from biographer Lucy Chase Williams, daughter Victoria Price, director Roger Corman, and actors Norman Lloyd, Hazel Court, Roddy McDowall, Jane Russell and Dennis Hopper. The program covers Price’s early life and interests in art and travel as well as acting, his progression in his chosen career and his personal life, successes on the screen and his lifelong pursuit of fine art, and the development of various areas.
Unlike the Tierney program, “Villain” comes with virtually no scandal or dirt. Apparently, Price’s two divorces were as scandalous as things got, and neither offered any intrigue. This comes as a relief after the rollercoaster of “Angel”, as it’s nice to see a big star with a relentlessly normal life.
Granted, it does make “Villain” a little dull at times; I hate to admit it, but a star’s mental illness is a lot more interesting than his art collection. Still, this offers a nice take on Price’s life and career, and it’s fun to see clips from his commercials and other non-film efforts.
A new addition to the Blu-ray, a featurette called The Obsession goes for 12 minutes, 36 seconds and provides notes from film historians James Ursin and Alain Silver, filmmaker Carl Franklin, USC film professor Dr. Drew Casper, and composer/film music historian John Gordon. They give us thoughts about the noir genre as well as a quick dissection of
We can view to it with or without commentary from Behlmer, as he briefly tells us why Fox insisted the filmmakers cut the sequence. Note that Behlmer only speaks at the start of the clip, so don’t expect to hear much from him.