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Clarence Brown
Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Donald Crisp
Writing Credits:
Theodore Reeves, Helen Deutsch

A jaded former jockey helps a young girl prepare a wild but gifted horse for England's Grand National Sweepstakes.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 124 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 11/16/2021

• Trailer


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National Velvet [Blu-Ray] (1944)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 20, 2022)

Elizabeth Taylor’s film career started with 1942’s There’s One Born Every Minute, a project shot around the time she turned 10 years old. 1944’s National Velvet acted as Taylor’s fifth movie, and it became a major critical and financial success, one that launched her toward the legendary status she would later achieve.

Set in England circa the late 1920s, 12-year-old Velvet Brown (Taylor) wins a horse in a raffle. She names him “The Pie” and struggles to tame the rambunctious equine.

Into this setting steps Mi Taylor (Mickey Rooney), a drifter who used to work as a jockey. With Mi’s help, Velvet preps Pie for the Grand National, England’s most important horse race.

As a kid in the 1970s, I knew of Velvet, though mainly due to its perpetual popularity as a novel. Not that I ever read it, as the book mainly appealed to the girls at my elementary school.

With grade school-age boys, nothing acts as a “kiss of death” for a book like the idea that it’s meant for females. As such, I neither read the text nor saw the movie back then – not that one could easily view a decades-old film back in those pre-VCR days.

At the grand old age of 54, this makes the Blu-ray of Velvet my initial exposure to the tale. Apparently my adolescent impressions of the story were accurate, as this really does come across as a tale meant mainly for young girls.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. Different audiences deserve their own movies, and I appreciate that Velvet gives the adolescent female crowd a story to enjoy.

However, as a middle-aged man, I find it more difficult to embrace Velvet. Though not without its charms, the movie seems slow and without much real drama.

The target audience won’t mind. They’ll feel enchanted with their ability to live out the fantasy that a) they’ll own their own horse, and b) that they’ll bond with said equine and get to ride him to fame and fortune.

Velvet pours on sputtering batches of melodrama, none of which seem likely to provoke much of a reaction beyond that youthful target audience. When the Pie takes ill, do we really fear that he’ll die?

Of course not, but younger viewers probably will encounter a greater sense of anxiety. In any case, Velvet glosses over these darker moments pretty quickly, so they don’t give viewers a lot of time to fret.

Most of Velvet revolves around the giddy “girl and her beloved horse” motif, with a subplot related to Mi’s redemption. The movie doesn’t dig into his character too deeply, and with the ever-chipper Rooney in the role, we never fear that he’ll do the wrong thing anyway.

Taylor proves fairly charming as our lead. Velvet provides a role that easily could turn irritating and grating, but Taylor radiates enough warmth to make her character likable.

We also find Angela Lansbury in her second movie. Then 18, Lansbury plays Velvet’s sister – and proves wholly unconvincing, as Lansbury always looked much older than her age. She portrays a schoolgirl who looks like she’s pushing 40.

On the negative side, Jackie Jenkins portrays Velvet’s six-year-old brother and plays him like an annoying cutesy kid. Actually, “cutesy” might overstate his impact, as Jenkins was a fairly homely child, but the role of Donald Brown exists just for precocious comic relief, and Jenkins makes the character too obnoxious.

I appreciate the gentle nature of National Velvet but can’t connect to the material. The movie seems too slow and too devoid of real drama to keep me occupied across its 124 minutes.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus D-

National Velvet appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an excellent presentation, especially given the film’s age.

In terms of sharpness, the movie consistently demonstrated nice delineation. Nary a sliver of softness emerged, so the flick looked concise and accurate.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and no edge enhancement became apparent. Grain remained appropriate, and no specks, marks or other defects showed up at any time in this fresh presentation.

Colors were strong. Within the movie’s earthy palette, the Technicolor hues tended to be vivid and full.

Blacks seemed deep and dense without too much heaviness. Shadow detail worked similarly well, as dimly-lit shots were appropriately clear and thick. I found nothing about which to complain here and thought the Blu-ray brought the movie to life in a terrific manner.

The DTS-HD MA monaural audio of Velvet appeared fine for its era, and speech was more than adequate. The lines showed age-related thinness, but they were always perfectly intelligible and without edginess.

Effects became a minor aspect of the track, and they resembled the dialogue. Those elements lacked much depth but they were without notable problems.

Music was acceptable for its age, as the songs and score tended to be a bit tinny. There wasn’t much range to the music, but again, that stemmed from the limitations of the very old source. This became a perfectly solid mix for its vintage.

The disc includes the film’s trailer but it includes no other extras.

With National Velvet, we greet the film that formally inaugurated the legendary career of Elizabeth Taylor. While the movie boasts some unassuming charms, it lacks much drama and runs too long to really occupy the viewer. The Blu-ray offers excellent visuals and appropriate audio, but it lacks bonus features. The film offers a professional affair but not one that does much for me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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