The Shawshank Redemption appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This became a top-notch presentation.
Sharpness worked well. No issues with softness materialized, as the movie boasted solid accuracy from start to finish.
I saw no signs with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. With a natural layer of grain, I suspected no issues with noise reduction, and the movie lacked print flaws.
Colors weren't much of an issue for Shawshank, as the blue-gray prison environment didn't exactly suggest "Technicolor spectacular". Muted though they were, the hues seemed consistently solid and accurate. The disc’s HDR gave the occasional examples of brighter tones extra life, and even the dingy blues felt more lifelike.
Black levels appeared good and shadow detail felt concise. HDR brought extra punch to contrast and whites. The film looked as good as I could imagine.
In addition, the film's DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack worked fine for the story. It's a front-oriented mix, with a fairly active forward soundstage but little use of the rears. Some filler music here, some ambient effects there - that's about the extent to which the rear speakers were used.
By comparison, the front channels received better delineation. All three speakers offered a lot of information, and it's fairly well integrated, although the mix sometimes seemed a bit too "speaker specific." Nonetheless, it broadened the environment nicely.
Audio quality appeared positive. Speech was acceptably natural, with good intelligibility and no issues connected to edginess. Music came across as reasonably lively and bright, with pretty positive range.
Effects stayed subdued throughout the film. They were accurate and concise; they didn’t pack much of a punch, but they were clean and distinctive. Not a lot occurred here to make the audio stand out from the crowd, but the soundtrack seemed more than satisfying for this sort of film.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? Though the 4K substituted DTS-HD MA for the Blu-ray’s Dolby TrueHD, both seemed similar. The DTS-HD track came mastered at a louder level, but when adjusted for volume, the two came across as pretty much identical.
Visuals became a different matter. Though the BD I reviewed came from a 2014 reissue, it offered the same disc that Warner originally issued in 2008, and as of 2021, it showed its age.
This meant the 4K brought stronger delineation, colors and blacks. Also, the 4K lost the BD’s mild print flaws, edge haloes and noise reduction. While the BD remained watchable, it didn’t compare to this excellent 4K.
One other note: while the Blu-ray mildly cropped the image to 1.78:1, the 4K restored it to true 1.85:1. This didn’t create a major change in framing, of course, but it’s still nice to see the actual 1.85:1.
On the 4K disc, we get a running, screen-specific audio commentary from director Frank Darabont. At its start, Darabont warns us that he’s a commentary virgin so we need to be gentle. He needn’t have added that caveat, as he offers a fine discussion in his initial commentary.
Very animated from start to finish, Darabont covers many topics. He gets into his initial interest in the flick and bringing it to the screen, the cast and working with them, locations and sets, variations between the movie and the book, the score and general visual design, and many anecdotes from the shoot.
Plenty of great stories pop up like his escapades with the ASPCA representative. He also tosses out a funny tale about an agent who clearly hadn’t read the script, since she wanted Darabont to cast her supermodel client (Cindy Crawford?) as Rita Hayworth.
Darabont makes sure we understand why the disc includes no deleted scenes. Darabont talks too much about the sets – we get the point quickly and he doesn’t need to belabor this – but I still really like this chatty and informative piece.
The rest of the extras appear on the included Blu-ray Disc, where we find a 31-minute, one-second documentary entitled Hope Springs Eternal: A Look Back at The Shawshank Redemption.
It mixes movie shots, archival materials, and new interviews. We hear from Darabont, producer Niki Marvin, author Stephen King, production designer Terence Marsh, composer Thomas Newman, USC Professor Dr. Drew Casper, and actors Clancy Brown, Tim Robbins, Gil Bellows, James Whitmore, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Mark Rolston, David Proval and Morgan Freeman.
They talk about adapting the story, the cast and the characters, sets, locations and the visual design, impressions of certain scenes and anecdotes, changes between the original story and the movie, the score, and general impressions of the flick. Inevitably, more than a little information repeats from Darabont’s commentary, but a decent mix of new topics crop up in this reasonably lively and insightful piece.
We follow this with another retrospective called Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature. It runs 48 minutes, 17 seconds and tries to answer “what the hell is so great” about the movie. This includes comments from Robbins, Freeman, Darabont, Marvin, Sadler, Gunton, Marsh, writer/friend David J. Schow, film critic John Patterson, executive producer Liz Glotzer, film critic and broadcaster James King, Mansfield Reformatory tour guide Jan Demyan, former inmate Mark Malott and Michael Marecz, former warden Dennis Baker, Mansfield OH news anchor Jane Imbody, Warner Home Video rep Brian Jamieson, IMDB founder Col Needham, and Hollywoodjesus.com operator David Bruce.
As with the prior program, “Feature” covers the short story and its adaptation, casting and characters, locations and sets, issues related to the ending, the movie’s initial public reception and its subsequent popularity.
During much of the program, you’ll hear a lot of material repeated from the commentary and “Eternal”. Where “Feature” becomes different connects to its material about the film’s afterlife.
We get a good feel for why the movie’s endured in the public mind. We do find too much redundant material, but “Feature” nonetheless presents enough unique insights to make it worthwhile.
Next we go to an episode of the Charlie Rose Show with Darabont, Freeman and Robbins. It lasts 42 minutes, 21 seconds as it presents all three men together with Rose at a roundtable discussion.
Shot in 2004, it goes over the production basics and also examines the film’s themes and legacy. A fair amount of repeated information appears here, but I really like the format, as it’s great to get the three main participants in the flick all together.
In addition, they get into the substance of the film well, as they nicely delve into the characters and themes. It’s another useful program.
For something different, we get The SharkTank Redemption. A parody set in a theatrical agency, it pokes fun at the business as it equates that job to being in prison.
At 24 minutes, 46 seconds, it’s too long and not exactly hilarious, but it’s fairly clever and amusing. The casting of Morgan Freeman’s son as Fred Redding adds a nice spark to it.
In the Stills Gallery, we find five subdomains, each of which appears as a filmed piece: “Tim Robbins” (64 seconds), “Morgan Freeman” (0:48), “Supporting Cast” (2:00), “Tim & Morgan” (0:32), and “Behind the Scenes” (3:00). I don’t like the format, and the photos themselves tend to be fairly bland.
Storyboards cover two scenes. Presented as filmed clips like the photos, we see “New Fish Arrive”(4:00) and “Bogs Takes a Fall” (4:31). I’d prefer to watch these in stillframe format, but the moving presentation works better for the storyboards than for the photos. “Bogs” is especially interesting since it shows elements cut from the finished sequence.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with Shawshank Collectibles (1:22), a clip that looks at some pieces of merchandise connected to the movie. All available at a collector’s site, this is little more than an advertisement.
The Shawshank Redemption will surely find its place in many homes just because it's such a good film. While it doesn't deserve the hallowed status it now seems to enjoy, it's definitely an excellent movie and is one that happily avoided the obscurity that normally would have befallen it. The 4K UHD provides excellent picture and appropriate audio along with an informative set of supplements. This becomes the definitive release for this film.
To rate this film, visit the 2004 review of THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION