The Sting appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. At least partially due to the source, this became a decent but inconsistent image.
Sharpness usually worked fine, as the majority of the film brought appealing delineation. Some softness popped up at times, however, a factor exacerbated by some mild edge haloes.
Light shimmering also popped up at times – mainly due to checked clothes - but no jagged edges appeared. Grain felt fairly natural, so while I couldn’t rule out noise reduction, at least it seemed clear the image didn’t get scrubbed too heavily. In terms of print flaws, I saw a smattering of small specks but nothing much.
Despite the low-key production design that matched the film’s Depression era, colors generally looked bright and vivid and offered some of the high points of the image. Though much of the image emphasized a sepia feel, other hues seemed well-saturated and lacked noise or smearing.
Black levels were also quite good, and shadow detail usually appeared appropriately opaque. This won’t be regarded as a demo image – and it could demonstrate improvements – but the movie usually looked reasonably fine.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The Sting opened up the image in a modest way. Music demonstrated decent stereo imaging, and atmospheric scenes got a boost.
Usually we heard audio from the sides for shots with street life such as cars or trains. The gambling dens also showed some extra breadth.
The mix didn’t go nuts, though, as it stayed reasonably true to its single-channel roots. Surrounds added some light reinforcement of the elements but not much else, so you’ll be excused if you don’t even notice their presence.
The quality of the audio was solid. Dialogue usually integrated well with the picture and sounded relatively natural and intelligible. Effects reasonably realistic and lacked much distortion.
Scott Joplin's music came across terrifically well; the ragtime songs sounded clear and rich, with a little bit of nice bass tossed into the mix. For material from an older source, The Sting sounded pretty good.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the Legacy Series DVD from 2005? The lossless audio offered a bit more range, though the limited nature of the source meant we didn’t find a major improvement.
Visuals also demonstrated the drawbacks of the original, but the Blu-ray looked better defined, cleaner and brighter than the DVD. This turned into a satisfying step up in quality.
One negative: the Blu-ray dropped the movie’s original monaural soundtrack. It appeared on the DVD and should’ve popped up here as well.
The Blu-ray repeats the Legacy Series DVD’s extras and adds a few more. From that 2005 DVD, a documentary called The Art of The Sting lasts 56 minutes, 14 seconds as it presents remarks from writer David Ward, musical adapter Marvin Hamlisch, and actors Robert Redford, Ray Walston, Paul Newman, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan, and Dimitra Arliss.
We learn about the origins of the movie and Ward’s writing of it, assembling a cast and crew, the film’s music, recreating the Depression-era setting and the use of slang, the director’s style, the actors’ work and their interactions, the story and its complications, and general thoughts. That latter topic means the show degrades into a praise-fest at the end, especially about the greatness of director George Roy Hill.
Until that point, it works awfully well. We get a decent sense of the way the production functioned, but better yet, we hear many great stories from the participants about approaches to characters, Hill’s recommendations, and nuts and bolts like the use of music. The show offers many insightful and interesting moments to turn into a winning documentary.
Under the banner of 100 Years of Universal, we find three featurettes. “Restoring the Classics” goes for nine minutes, 13 seconds and offers statements from Universal Studios Vault Services VP of Image Assets/Preservation Bob O’Neil, Universal Studios Technical Services VP Peter Schade, Kodak Pro-Tek Media Preservation VP of Preservation Services Rick Utley, Universal Studios Digital Services engineer Henry Ball, Universal Studios Technical Services mastering supervisor Phil Defibaugh, Universal Studios Technical Services mastering supervisor Ken Tom, and Universal Studios Technical Services supervising sound editor John Edell.
“Restoring” covers all the procedures used to bring Sting and other movies to Blu-ray. It’s a reasonably informative take on the subject.
“The ‘70s” goes for 11 minutes, one second as it provides notes from filmmakers Peter Berg, Steven Spielberg, John Landis, Peyton Reed, Amy Heckerling, Ron Howard, Judd Apatow, Hal Needham, Ivan Reitman, and Stephen Daldry, writers David S. Ward and Bob Gale, former Universal executive Edgar Bronfman, Jr., journalist Geoff Boecher, and actors Russell Crowe, Ted Danson, Paul Rudd, Dermot Mulroney, Danny DeVito, and John Krasinski.
In “The Lot”, we get a nine-minute, 25-second piece in which we hear from Spielberg, Rudd, Reed, Reitman, Berg, Landis, Howard, filmmakers Michael Mann, Phil Alden Robinson, and John Carpenter, NBC Universal Archives and Collections director Jeff Pirtle, Universal Studios Hollywood tour guide Molly Orr, and actors Dan Aykroyd and Meryl Streep.
“’70s” discusses The Sting, American Graffiti, The Jerk, Smokey and the Bandit, National Lampoon’s Animal House, and Jaws. “The Lot” takes us around the Universal Studios locations and tells us a little about movies made there.
As noted, we hear a little about Sting in “’70s”, and some brief snippets appear in “Lot” as well. Despite the featurettes’ essential disconnect from Bandit, they’re both pretty fun. While they aim to promote the greatness that is Universal, they’re still light and likable.
We also get the flick’s theatrical trailer, though it was created for a post-Oscars reissue. A second disc provides a DVD copy of the movie with “Art” and the trailer but none of the “100 Years” featurettes.
The Sting delivers a solidly entertaining little film. It aspires to be nothing more than a consistently compelling and delightful movie and it succeeds on all counts. The Blu-ray offers largely satisfactory picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. This never turns into a great release, but it offers the strongest version of the film on home video to date.
To rate this film, visit the prior review of THE STING