The Verdict appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Much of the time, the film presented a pretty solid picture, but some flaws made it less satisfying than it could have been.
The main culprit stemmed from edge enhancement. That issue appeared very frequently throughout the film. The levels of EE never appeared horrific, but the issue seemed easily noticeable most of the time. Newman frequently wore a black coat, and that garment made the haloes easy to see.
Despite the EE, sharpness usually appeared quite good. Most of the movie came across as nicely detailed and accurate. Occasionally, wide shots demonstrated moderate softness, but the film mainly looked distinct and well defined. I saw no issues related to jagged edges or moiré effects.
Print flaws presented moderate concerns. Some light grain showed up through the movie but didn’t seem excessive. However, I did notice occasional examples of grit, nicks and blotches, and I saw more than a few instances of speckles. The image didn’t look terribly dirty, but it definitely could have appeared cleaner.
Although The Verdict featured a muted palette, the DVD replicated the film’s colors well. Despite the low-key tones, the hues appeared nicely rich and warm. I saw no concerns related to bleeding, noise, or other issues, as the colors came across as very solid. Black levels also seemed deep and dense, while shadow detail usually appeared appropriately clear without excessive opacity. Some of the interiors looked a little drab, but low-light situations generally came across as accurate. Ultimately, many parts of The Verdict appeared quite good, but between the edge enhancement and the print flaws, the image didn’t merit a grade above a “C+”.
The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of The Verdict seemed serviceable but unspectacular. Most of the soundfield remained fairly heavily oriented toward the front spectrum. Music offered a modest aspect of the track, but it showed decent stereo spread. Although the score failed to deliver strong delineation of instruments, it seemed to blend together well and created a good sense of presence.
Effects played a fairly modest role in The Verdict. Within the forward realm, they presented a decent sense of ambience but didn’t do much more than that. The surrounds kicked in sporadically. During the early parts of the film, the rear speakers added almost nothing, but later they occasionally provided information. The material seemed inconsistent; for example, some street scenes created general atmosphere, while others didn’t. I felt the surround usage came across as a little artificial, but it appeared acceptable for its era.
Audio quality appeared fine. Dialogue sounded a little thin given its age, but speech usually was fairly natural and warm, and I noticed no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music seemed a little muted, but that fit the low-key score, and those parts appeared reasonably distinct and full. Effects also played a minor role in the film. Other than the processed-sounding surround elements, those aspects came across as acceptably distinct and accurate. The Verdict offered a lackluster soundtrack, but it seemed good for a 20-year-old film.
The DVD release of The Verdict includes a few supplements, starting with an audio commentary with director Sidney Lumet. The case indicates that Paul Newman also appears in the commentary. While technically correct, that’s really a joke. We hear nothing from Newman until almost the end of the movie. We get literally about two minutes of fairly bland and generic material from the actor and that ends his participation. For Fox to state that The Verdict includes a commentary from Newman borders on false advertising; you definitely shouldn’t buy this DVD with the hope that you’ll learn anything from the actor.
Not that you’ll get much from Lumet either, though he certainly contributes a great deal more information during his running, screen-specific track. On the positive side, Lumet gives us some basic background about the project and also briefly remarks upon the novel. More significantly, he discusses the methods used via set design, color palette, and other elements to convey a certain mood and tone.
Those elements seem good, but unfortunately, you must sit through many empty spaces to get to them. Lumet goes silent for much of the commentary, and that becomes very frustrating. At times, Lumet contributes some useful material, but the sparse nature of his interaction makes it a below average piece as a whole.
After the commentary, we find just a few minor components. The disc provides a featurette. This eight-minute and 40-second piece mainly promotes the film. It includes some shots from the set, film clips, and interview snippets with Lumet, author Barry Reed, producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown and actors Newman, Jack Warden, and James Mason. Though the piece offers some good behind the scenes images, overall it exists to promote the film. As such, it lacks much substance.
We get a small Behind the Scenes Gallery as well. This includes a whopping eight photos taken on the set, and it doesn’t do much for me. Lastly, the DVD provides trailers for a number of Newman flicks. We find ads for The Verdict, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Hombre and The Hustler.
As a whole, I felt The Verdict presents a good but not great film. The story has promise, and the actors make it work, but the execution of the plot seems flat and melodramatic much of the time. Still, it works well enough to offer an enjoyable experience. The DVD provides watchable but flawed visuals along with adequate audio and a minor roster of extras led by an iffy audio commentary. Paul Newman fans will definitely want to see The Verdict, as he and the other actors do nicely in it, but otherwise, the movie seems passable at best.