The Snake Pit appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie occasionally showed its age, but it mainly presented a nice picture.
Sharpness seemed very good. Almost no intrusive softness appeared at any time during the movie. Instead, it looked nicely detailed and well defined. I witnessed no concerns related to jagged edges or shimmering, and only a smidgen of edge enhancement occurred.
As for print flaws, they were fairly minor. Occasional marks, spots, and grit showed up, but these occurred relatively infrequently. Overall, the image remained generally clean and fresh. Black levels seemed nicely deep and dense, and shadows mostly appeared distinctive. A few nighttime shots were slightly opaque, but those instances seemed rare. Instead, most of the dark shots looked reasonably clear and appropriately defined. Given the film’s age, the transfer for The Snake Pit seemed more than satisfying.
Similar sentiments greeted the remixed stereo soundtrack of The Snake Pit. The stereo imaging seemed like nothing more than glorified monaural for the most part. The vast majority of the audio remained mostly anchored in the center. Some light spread of music and effects moved to the sides and rears. Speech occasionally sounded somewhat unfocused and slightly bled to the sides. Otherwise, the audio seemed mainly concentrated in the middle.
While many of these remixes suffer from a terrible sense of reverb, only a little of that appeared during the stereo track for Pit. However, the track mostly remained acceptably natural, and the echo didn’t interfere with the mix too badly. For the most part, speech sounded reasonably natural and distinct. The lines showed a little edge at times, and the reverb made the material a little tinnier than I’d like, but dialogue still appeared fine. Effects and music were fairly clear and well-defined for their age, and the score presented pretty solid bass at times. Some light hum and background noise cropped up at times, but these remained very modest.
Although the movie’s stereo track seemed unobjectionable, it also was pointless to me, and I preferred the original monaural mix. Really, the two came across as very similar, though the mono version lacked the light reverb of the stereo one. Of course, it also failed to demonstrate the modest side and surround spread that occasionally appeared in the multi-channel edition.
In general, the mono track sounded moderately more natural than the stereo one. Dialogue came across as relatively warm and crisp. Some edge still appeared, but the reverb of the stereo mix exacerbated that issue, whereas the mono one diminished the concern somewhat. Music and effects also benefited from the minor increase in depth and clarity found without the extra echo. Both tracks featured similar levels of light background noise. While I gave the stereo mix a “B-“, the mono one earned a slightly higher “B”.
As with all Fox Studio Classics DVDs, The Snake Pit includes an audio commentary. Here we hear from film historian and author Aubrey Solomon, who presents a running, screen-specific piece. I usually enjoy commentaries from film historians, but Solomon fails to make this a very engaging chat.
When he talks, Solomon provides some good information. He talks about the origins of the story, its path to the screen, the cast and filmmakers, differences between the novel and the movie, production elements, and the flick’s reception within its era. These bits seem interesting when they appear. Unfortunately, quite a lot of the movie passes with no remarks at all. Solomon pops up sporadically and leaves lots of dead air. That becomes a significant flaw that means the commentary never turns into something consistently involving.
Five Movietone News segments appear next. We find “NY Film Critics Honor Olivia de Havilland” (62 seconds), “National Magazines Makes Film Awards” (61 seconds), “Showmen Honor The Snake Pit” (39 seconds), “Special Film Award Is Presented for The Snake Pit” (76 seconds), and “Motion Picture Academy Awards Film ‘Oscars’” (44 seconds). These offer a minor look at various award presentations and are slightly fun for historical reasons, but nothing special appears.
We get a collection of ads. The disc includes the theatrical trailer for Pit as well as promos for other Studio Classics. That domain contains promos for All About Eve, Gentleman’s Agreement, The Song of Bernadette, and The Three Faces of Eve.
In the Still Gallery we get 46 images. These all offer candid shots from the set. Most of these collections tend to be more promotional, but this batch seems more informative and interesting than usual.
Too bad The Snake Pit itself seems like something of a dud. It offers a decent snapshot of psychiatric care circa the late Forties, but it fails to create an engaging story or a coherent presentation. The DVD offers very good picture with decent sound and some minor extras that include a spotty audio commentary. It seems like a reasonably good DVD overall, but I can’t recommend this silly movie to folks who don’t already know they like it.