A Night at the Opera appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Although it came with a few anomalies, Opera mostly offered a nice picture.
Sharpness seemed quite good. Occasionally, I felt some shots felt a bit indistinct, but those instances failed to occur frequently.
In general, the movie looked well-defined and concise. I saw no concerns with jagged edges or moirť effects, and I also detected no signs of edge haloes.
Black levels appeared pretty firm and distinctive. The dark tones looked consistently deep, and contrast was nicely presented. A few low-light shots seemed slightly dense, but mostly the shadows came across as accurately depicted.
Grain felt natural, and the image lacked specks, marks or other overt flaws. Occasional frame jumps occurred, and a short segment that leads to the dining room scene early in the film got lost ages ago.
These issues have been with Opera for years and seem unavoidable. Despite these concerns, this becomes a largely satisfying presentation.
I also thought the movieís DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack held up well over the last 86 years. Dialogue occasionally felt edgy, but the lines were mostly concise, albeit not especially natural.
Music showed reasonable range, and effects offered appropriate clarity, without prominent distortion. Given the age of the mix, it sounded fine.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD version? Audio seemed clearer and more dynamic, though the limitations of the source remained, of course.
Visuals looked better defined, cleaner and more natural. Expect a major upgrade.
The Blu-ray replicates the DVDís extras, and we start with an audio commentary with film historian Leonard Maltin. He offers a running, screen-specific piece that starts out really well.
Maltin gets into topics connected to the development of the film, some material that was edited during World War II, the cast and participants, the historical context, comparisons to other Marx flicks, the style of director Sam Wood and problems there, and other issues.
For the first act or so, Maltin tosses out lots of great information that helps fill out our understanding of the flick. For example, we hear that although the movie didnít start as a stage production, the Marx Brothers took a live version on the road to polish the material.
Unfortunately, Maltin starts to peter out around a third of the way through the movie, and for the final hour, we get only sporadic bouts of decent notes. Maltin goes silent much of the time and also occasionally provides little more than a description of the film. Enough good material appears here to make the commentary worth a listen, but donít expect much after the initial half-hour.
Next we get a program called Remarks on Marx. In this 34-minute piece, we hear comments from actor Dom DeLuise, director Robert B. Weide, writer Irving Brecher, comedy writer Anne Beatts, writer/director/actor Carl Reiner, film historian Robert Osborne, writer Larry Gelbart and actor Kitty Carlisle Hart.
They discuss the origins of the Marx nicknames, their comedic characteristics, their early work and comedic style, their arrival at MGM and their development there, some specifics about Opera and its participants, and various anecdotes.
The program provides a fairly concise examination of the topics, but it does become somewhat redundant when combined with the commentary. Not a ton of new information appears here, which makes it less useful than Iíd like.
Nonetheless, it moves briskly and seems generally entertaining. Itís also cool to hear from Carlisle, as itís nice to get the perspective and stories of someone actually involved in the production.
After this we find Groucho Marx on the Hy Gardner Show. In this five-minute, 23-second snippet, Groucho tells of the pranks he and his brothers played on producer Irving Thalberg. We hear the same stories elsewhere, but itís fun to get them from the source.
In addition to the filmís trailer, we follow this with three vintage shorts. The gentle comedic How to Sleep features Robert Benchley and runs 10 minutes, 40 seconds, while Sunday Night at the Trocadero presents a little light comedy and some music during its 20 minutes, 18 seconds. Los Angeles: Wonder City of the West spans eight minutes, 32 seconds and presents a travelogue.
None of these seem terribly entertaining, though the Benchley piece is infinitely better than the lame Trocadero. City also gives us a passable look at an LA long gone. In any case, the shorts round out the disc in a nice way since they give us a look at material from the era we might have seen along with the main attraction.
A Night at the Opera seems too inconsistent and slow to turn into a true success. However, the movie enjoys more than a few moments of comic brilliance, and those help make the dull spots more palatable. The Blu-ray presents pretty good picture and audio and a fairly decent set of extras. Ultimately, Opera is an inconsistent movie but one with more charms than flaws.
To rate this film, visit the original review of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA