The Petrified Forest appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a consistently satisfying presentation.
Sharpness worked well. Only a smidgen of softness materialized, and when it did so, it seemed to reflect the original photography. The majority of the film showed solid delineation and accuracy. I noticed virtually no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement was absent. With a nice layer of grain, I witnessed no indications of intrusive noise reduction.
Blacks looked tight and deep, and contrast seemed solid. The movie exhibited a nicely silver sheen that depicted the black and white photography well. Print flaws were a non-factor, as the movie suffered from nary a speck, mark or other defect. This was a strong representation of the source material.
In addition, The Petrified Forest presented a more-than-adequate DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack. Nothing about the audio excelled, but it seemed solid for its age. Speech demonstrated pretty positive clarity and appeared surprisingly natural. Some lines were slightly edgy, but the dialogue didn’t seem as thin and shrill as I expected. Effects were acceptably clean and accurate; they didn’t demonstrate much range, but they lacked distortion and were fairly concise.
Music seemed similarly restricted but sounded fine for its age. The songs were reasonably full and replicated the source material acceptably. Hiss appeared through the movie, but it lacked other source flaws like pops or clicks. Ultimately, Forest provided a fine track for a flick from 1936.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original 2005 DVD? Audio was similar; the lossless mix here might’ve been a little clearer but not much. However, the visuals showed a notable upgrade, as the Blu-ray cleaned up various print flaws and seemed better defined and smoother. This was a solid step up in quality.
We get the DVD’s extras here and we begin with an audio commentary from Bogart biographer Eric Lax. He presents a running, screen-specific chat heavy on details about the various participants during its first half.
Occasionally we learn a bit about the production of Forest itself, but notes about the cast and crew dominate. At times these come across as annotated filmographies, but some parts dig into the folks more deeply. Given Lax’s background, that’s especially true for Bogart, as the biographer tells us more about that actor compared to the others.
Matters change during the track’s second half. During that span, Lax gets into a synopsis of the evolution of Warner Bros. and many specifics of how Forest came to the screen. He balances out a mix of issues well and makes this a uniformly enjoyable and informative commentary.
A creative and fun addition to the set, Warner Night at the Movies attempts to replicate the cinematic experience circa 1936. As explained via a three-minute and 14-second introduction from Leonard Maltin, this feature includes a trailer for Bullets or Ballots - a flick from the same era as Forest - plus a period newsreel, a cartoon called Coo Coo Nut Grove and a live-action musical short entitled Rhythmitis.
These are the kinds of pieces that might have preceded a theatrical showing of Forest, so if you activate this feature, you get an attempt to duplicate a night at the cinema. I like this program and think it’s quite clever. Use the “Play All” option to run each of these features and then automatically launch into Forest.
In addition to the film’s trailer, the disc includes a modern featurette called The Petrified Forest: Menace in the Desert. This 15-minute and 50-second piece melds movie snippets, archival materials, and interviews. We get remarks from Lax, filmmaker/film historian Alain Silver, author Mark A. Vieira, author/film professor Robert Sklar, author/film critic Andrew Sarris, and film professor Dr. Drew Casper.
The participants discuss Bogart’s need for a success on the screen and his work in Forest, the film’s use of the western myth and the gangster genre, the early signs of film noir and the movie’s staging, and its ending and legacy. Some information repeats from the commentary, but because it mostly stays with an interpretation of the performances and themes, that doesn’t happen too often. Instead, it digs beneath the surface of the production with good insight. This allows it to compliment the commentary and create a good examination of the flick.
Finally, the extras end with a January 7, 1940 Gulf Screen Theater Radio Broadcast. This 28-minute and 58-second program features a performance of Forest that uses actors Tyrone Power as Alan, Joan Bennett as Gabrielle, and Bogart as Mantee. This presents a very abbreviated version of the tale; it loses a number of characters and moves at a ridiculously fast pace. Still, it’s an interesting historical curiosity. Make sure to stick around to the end; the program concludes with a weird quiz show that involves the actors.
While its stars would all go on to greater glory in later endeavors, The Petrified Forest provides a satisfying flick. It meshes the romantic and gangster genres to create a lively and involving character drama. The Blu-ray presents terrific picture quality along with more than acceptable audio and a nice roster of supplements. I like the film and think the Blu-ray reproduces it about as well as I could imagine.
Note that The Petrified Forest can be purchased on its own or as part of a four-film “Ultimate Gangsters Collection”. That package also includes Little Caesar, The Public Enemy and White Heat. With a list price of $50, the “Collection” costs $30 less than the roughly $80 MSRP of the four individual Blu-rays and comes with additional bonuses.
To rate this film visit the original review of THE PETRIFIED FOREST