Misery appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This disc boasted a surprisingly strong transfer.
Sharpness excelled. Through the whole film, it displayed positive definition and accuracy. Even wide shots remained tight and stable through the flick. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and edge enhancement remained absent. As for source flaws, the occasional speck or mark cropped up, but these were quite infrequent and created few distractions.
I didn’t anticipate a vivid palette from Misery, and the colors followed suit. Despite those expectations, I thought the hues looked perfectly fine. They remained appropriately subdued but still demonstrated solid clarity and delineation. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows showed nice smoothness and definition. Only the smattering of source flaws kept this one from “A”-level, as it looked very good.
Don’t expect a lot from the low-key DTS-HD MA.1 soundtrack of Misery, though it suited the material just fine. The soundfield appeared somewhat restricted. The forward speakers offered a decent spectrum in which we heard ambient audio from the sides. It remained gentle at most times, though some useful sound could pop up here or there.
However, I thought things tended to be a little too “speaker-specfic”, as a few elements were too localized for my liking. The surrounds mainly provided reinforcement of the forward speakers. Music and some effects appeared from the rears – a thunderstorm proved pretty active, and the opening car crash was fairly impressive - but this was usually a front-oriented soundtrack.
The quality was positive. Dialogue always sounded crisp and natural, and I discerned no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects were clear and clean without any distortion, and they also demonstrated reasonable dimensionality. Through the film, the music appeared well rendered. Nothing much happened here, but the audio was acceptable.
How did the picture and audio of this Special Edition compare to those of the 2007 Special Edition DVD? In terms of sound, the two remained pretty similar. I thought the Blu-ray’s DTS track was a little more engrossing than the DVD’s DD mix. It wasn’t a huge difference, but the Blu-ray seemed a bit more dynamic and involving, so I bumped up its grade to a “B-“ from the DVD’s “C+”.
Both the Blu-ray and the DVD got “B+” marks for their visuals, but that didn’t mean they looked the same. The DVD looked great considering its format’s limitations, but the Blu-ray added greater definition. It really offered fine visuals, as only those nagging print defects kept it at a “B+”. The DVD was good, but the Blu-ray was better.
You’ll find no extras on the Blu-ray itself, as the package simply includes the aforementioned 2007 SE DVD to account for its supplements. It starts with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Rob Reiner, who provides a running, screen-specific chat. He discusses his affinity for the material and how he came onto the project, the flick’s tone and challenges directing his first thriller, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, score, and a few other production nuts and bolts.
Reiner commentaries tend to be spotty, and that trend continues here. When Reiner speaks, he offers good information and proves engaging; that’s a leap up from his often dull chats in the past. However, Reiner goes silent too much of the time and leaves lots of dead air. Those gaps aren’t sufficient to ruin the commentary, but they make it more erratic than I’d like. Still, Reiner provides enough useful material to make this one worth a listen; just expect many parts of it to drag.
For the second commentary, we hear from screenwriter William Goldman. He also provides a running, screen-specific discussion that looks at the script and the source novel’s adaptation, cast and performances, and some other issues.
While dead air creates problems during Reiner’s track, it’s even more of a concern here. Goldman simply doesn’t have a ton to say. When he comes up with remarks, he’s occasionally insightful. He gives us intriguing thoughts about casting and his writing methods as well as his anger about a change to a major scene.
However, Goldman lacks much recall when it comes to changes from the book; he can rarely remember what came from the novel and what he invented. He also often just remarks about how good various scenes are. Goldman does give us a smattering of interesting details, but don’t expect a lot of them.
By the way, it’s clear that both commentaries were recorded years before the DVD’s 2007 release date. Reiner refers to the then-recent death of actor Richard Farnsworth, who passed in 2000. Goldman also comments that it’s been about 13 years since the movie’s 1989 shoot. Why’d MGM sit on this special edition for so long? I have no idea.
Next comes a documentary called Misery Loves Company. This 29-minute and 52-second show mixes movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from Reiner, Goldman, director of photography Barry Sonnenfeld, and actors Frances Sternhagen, Kathy Bates, and James Caan. The show examines the novel’s adaptation and various story elements, cast, characters and performances, cinematography and editing, and the film’s legacy.
After the erratic nature of the commentaries, the tightness of “Company” comes as a relief. Naturally, some of the information repeats from those audio tracks, but plenty of new material crops up here, and the additional perspectives help. This turns into a brisk and interesting piece.
For a look at the flick’s music, we go to the 14-minute and 28-second Marc Shaiman’s Musical Misery Tour. It includes remarks from composer Shaiman as he discusses his score for the film. Shaiman gives us an informative look at his work on the flick and his take on movie work in general.
The following featurettes examine real-life topics referenced in Misery. Diagnosing Annie Wilkes goes for eight minutes, 47 seconds and presents comments from forensic psychologist Reid Meloy. He discusses the Wilkes character and provides info about the psychiatric classifications for which she qualifies. Of course, he has to “dumb down” a lot of the material, but Meloy nonetheless gives us a decent view of the character’s underlying problems.
The next four shows take on stalking. We find Advice for the Stalked (4:57), Profile of a Stalker (6:17), Celebrity Stalkers (5:07) and Anti-Stalking Law (2:22). Across these we hear from Meloy, Omega Threat Management Group’s John C. Lane, and LA prosecutor Rhonda Saunders. We get thoughts about stalkers and how those impacted by them can deal with them. Some of the clips are better than others, but they provide an involving examination of the unnerving world of stalking.
Finally, we get two trailers. We find the “Original Theatrical Trailer” and the “Original Season’s Greetings Trailer”.
I don’t know if Misery is the best adaptation of a Stephen King horror novel, but it resides high on that list. A simple but chilling tale, this one benefits from excellent acting and concise storytelling. The Blu-ray offers surprisingly good visuals along with decent audio and an erratic but often informative collection of extras.
If you don’t own Misery on DVD, definitely get this Blu-ray release. Even if you don’t currently have a Blu-ray player, it includes the 2007 SE DVD, so you can watch it until you upgrade. Fans with Blu-ray capabilities who do have the 2007 disc should also grab the Blu-ray, as it offers a nice visual improvement.
To rate this film, visit the Widescreen Edition review of MISERY