Sergeant York appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray disc. Expect a high-quality presentation.
Sharpness was pretty solid. Occasional shots came across as a bit soft and indistinct, but those instances didn’t present frequent problems.
Instead, the movie offered well-defined elements most of the time. I suspect most of the “softness” came from technques used to “deage” Gary Cooper and hide the fact he was too old for the part.
Jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns, and edge haloes remained absent. With natural grain, digital noise reduction seemed non-problematic, and print flaws failed to mar the proceedings.
Blacks were nice and deep, while shadows were clear. Overall, the film presented an attractive image that held up nicely over nearly 80 years.
Once I factored in the flick’s age, I noticed no significant issues with the DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Sergeant York. Speech seemed a little reedy at times, but I didn’t think the lines were problematic, as dialogue seemed easily intelligible and without concerns.
Music appeared clear, though the score lacked heft, as effects were clean and concise. They also failed to demonstrate much range, but they were acceptably accurate and lacked distortion.
A few military scenes boasted pretty nice bass within explosions, though. No problems with source flaws marred the presentation. Again, the track wasn’t special, but it was fine for a product of its era.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2006? The lossless audio seemed a bit warmer and clearer, while visuals looked better defined, tighter and smoother. Especially in terms of picture quality, the Blu-ray became a nice upgrade.
As we move to the extras, we open with an audio commentary from film historian Jeannine Basinger. She offers a running, screen-specific discussion that brings a solid overview of necessary issues.
Basinger chats about the era in which York was made and historical elements in the film, realism and research, cast and crew, various filmmaking nuts and bolts, challenges related to the biographical side of things, the project’s development, and some story interpretation.
Across the board, Basinger provides a terrific chat. She provides a rich discussion of the movie’s production and the historical elements, and she manages to mesh these elements together well. Basinger manages to give us a very useful commentary that consistently informs and entertains.
Next we find a couple of vintage shorts that include Porky’s Preview (6:50) and Lions for Sale (9:00). The first delivers a Porky Pig cartoon during which he runs his own movie theater that screens a “self-animated” reel. It’s amusing in its intentional crudeness.
Sale spotlights the beasts at a California “lion farm”. It attempts comedy via its commentary but doesn’t succeed. At least it offers an interesting glimpse of lion training, though I feel bad for the critters since they spend so much time in tiny cages.
In addition to a re-issue trailer, the disc ends with Sergeant York: Of God and Country. Narrated by Liam Neeson, it runs 38 minutes, 59 seconds as it offers notes from authors Michael Birdwell and MZ Ribalow, actors June Lockhart and Joan Leslie, Gary Cooper’s daughter Maria, and film historian Robert Osborne.
The show offers a quick biography of Alvin York but quickly gets into all the complications related to attempts to bring his story to the screen, so we hear lots about York’s restrictions and requirements. From there we go through casting, war-related issues of the era and script development, performances, characters and realism, shooting topics and production problems.
After that we learn about Alvin York’s anti-Nazi campaign and its impact, other political controversies, the movie’s themes and storytelling elements, and post-release reactions to the film.
“Country” gets a little goopy in its middle portions as it ladles praise on folks involved. However, it manages to create a fairly provocative and informative piece nonetheless.
Note that the Blu-ray drops a documentary called “Gary Cooper: American Legend” as well as trailers for a bunch of Cooper movies. Though “Legend” seemed mediocre, it’s still too bad it doesn’t reappear here.
Sergeant York takes an interesting story and character but fails to move them to the screen with much heart or flair. Marred by an awkward performance from Gary Cooper, the flick never manages to turn into anything particularly memorable. The Blu-ray presents solid picture, era-appropriate audio and bonus materials highlighted by an excellent commentary. This turns into a pretty nice package for a surprisingly ineffective movie.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of SERGEANT YORK