Mr. Smith Goes to Washington appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This new transfer looked pretty positive.
Sharpness seemed quite good. A little softness popped up at times, mostly due to some dodgy source elements, I believe; for instance, a shot of one of Jeff’s young supporters looked oddly blurry. Nonetheless, the majority of the flick demonstrated nice clarity and accuracy.
I saw no issues with jaggies or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. With natural grain, I didn’t suspect overuse of digital noise reduction – and that was especially true given the heavy grain in process shots like Jeff and crew at the DC train station.
Print flaws were minor. Transition shots could show some light defects, but they were negligible. A bit of flickering appeared at times as well; check out some of the moments at the Lincoln Memorial. Otherwise I saw a handful of small specks but nothing significant.
Blacks looked strong. The movie came with dark tones and solid contrast throughout the experience. Shadows seemed smooth and concise, without excessive thickness. While not quite as strong as the best transfers of 1930s movies, Smith nonetheless looked very good.
I don't expect a whole lot from a 75-year-old soundtrack, but the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio worked pretty well. Dialogue seemed intelligible and showed good definition despite some inevitable thinness. Effects didn’t play a huge role, but they gave us reasonable accuracy.
Music favored the treble side of the coin, but the score had decent pep and fullness. No issues with background noise or problems materialized. Nothing here made me forget the audio’s age, but the track held up nicely given its elderly vintage.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2006 “Premiere Collection” DVD? Audio sounded smoother and more dynamic, while visuals were cleaner, more accurate and more natural. Everything about the Blu-ray greatly improved on the mediocre DVD.
The Blu-ray brings over most of the DVD’s extras and adds some new ones as well. First up is a running, screen-specific audio commentary from director’s son Frank Capra Jr. He discusses how family tragedy prompted his father to launch this project as well as aspects of its development. We hear about research in DC, sets and locations, cast, characters and performances, other production notes, the film’s impact and reactions to it.
Capra’s commentary for It Happened One Night stunk, but this track proves fairly successful. Capra gets into many interesting issues such as Jean Arthur’s negative reputation on the set. A moderate amount of dead air mars the piece – especially during the film’s third act - but at least it boasts good content overall.
We get more of the same during Frank Capra Jr. Remembers... Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. This eleven-minute, 51-second piece seems somewhat superfluous since it could have been easily integrated into the commentary. The younger Capra discusses his father’s interest in the story and its themes, cast, characters and performances, and the film’s enduring appeal.
The content doesn't duplicate much of that heard during the commentary, but it still seems like a waste of video space; they easily could have spliced his statements into the commentary track and not bothered with this. “Remembers” is decent on its own, however.
In addition to two trailers, 1997’s Frank Capra’s American Dream fills one hour, 49 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.
Under the banner Conversations with Frank Capra Jr., we find “The Golden Years” (17:53) and “A Family History” (25:56). In these, Capra Jr. discusses aspects of his father’s life and career. “Years” seems pretty general and banal, but “History” works surprisingly well, as the junior Capra provides a mix of good tales about his dad.
Frank Capra: Collaboration takes up 19 minutes, 20 seconds with comments from Capra Jr., Columbia University Associate Professor of Film Richard Pena, Wesleyan University Frank Capra Archives curator Jeanine Basinger, and producer/director Kenneth Bowser. As implied by the title, the featurette looks at those who worked with Capra in his films. So much of the disc’s material focuses on the director to the exclusion of all else, so it’s nice to learn more about others who helped make these classics.
Next comes the 13-minute, five-second The Frank Capra I Knew. In this, Basinger discusses Capra and her work with his Archives. Like the other shows on the disc, Basinger’s notes tend toward the glowing side of the street, but I like her perspective and think she throws out some decent insights.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington remains a compelling and entertaining movie. Though not perfect, the film entertains and proves to be a stirring morality tale. The Blu-ray delivers good picture and audio as well as a mostly informative set of supplements. I recommend this very nice release of an engaging movie.
To rate this film, visit the 2006 DVD review of MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON