The War of the Roses appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Films shot in 1989 often looked pretty crummy, and War suffered from some of those issues, but it worked fairly well within the constraints of its origins.
For the most part, sharpness seemed fine. Occasional examples of softness materialized, but these appeared largely a by-product of the film’s slightly mushy photographic style and that ugly film stock; I think the filmmakers desired a slightly soft feel. Whatever signs of iffy definition occurred, they weren’t extreme, so most of the flick delivered decent to good delineation. No issues with jaggies or shimmering appeared, and I discerned no edge haloes. Print flaws also remained absent, and we got a natural layer of grain.
The palette of War favored muted tones, which made sense given its dark theme. Deep reds and browns dominated and seemed fine. They never popped off the screen, but they weren’t intended to do so; the colors were acceptable for the film’s production design. Blacks were a little inky but usually acceptable, and shadows seemed decent; some low-light elements were a bit murky, but those weren’t a major issue. Though never a particularly attractive image, I blamed the source for that.
I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of War was decent but unremarkable. That was to be expected from a character-oriented film, and the mix opened matters up only sporadically. The audio concentrated on the front. The score usually demonstrated solid stereo imaging, and the rest of the mix showed decent ambience. A few scenes with “action” – a house fire, a car crash – opened matters up a bit more, but this was usually a pretty laid-back soundscape.
Audio quality was reasonably good, though the mix occasionally showed its age. Speech was acceptably natural; lines could be a little thin, but the dialogue was usually pretty concise.
Music worked fine, as the score offered decent depth and range. Effects didn’t play a huge role, and they occasionally seemed a bit tinny. However, they mostly sounded clear and accurate. This was a restrained soundtrack that seemed fairly average for its era and the film’s ambitions.
Part of Fox’s new “Filmmakers Signature Series”, the disc opens with an Introduction from director/actor Danny DeVito. He pops out of the opening Fox logo to provide an overview of the disc. It’s an insubstantial but fun way to begin.
DeVito reappears to give us an audio commentary. Originally recorded for an old laserdisc, he delivers a running, screen-specific look at music and the opening credits, sets and locations, cast and performances, photography, stunts, editing, deleted scenes and some other areas.
Despite a few sags, DeVito offers a generally strong commentary. He covers a nice variety of subjects and doesn’t indulge in too much of the usual happy talk; heck, even when he does, he tells himself to shut up! DeVito goes over all of the expected topics and throws in enough entertaining stories that this becomes an enjoyable, informative chat.
Two featurettes follow. Revisiting The War of the Roses goes for 28 minutes, 55 seconds and includes notes from DeVito and producer James L. Brooks, as both sit together for a chat – and watch some of the movie along the way. That makes it an alternate mini-commentary, as they discuss the usual mix of production topics as well as their relationship. This isn’t the greatest conversation I’ve encountered – and Brooks hay have the most annoying laugh I’ve ever heard – but the program’s generally worthwhile.
During the nine-minute, 11-second The Music of War of the Roses, we hear from DeVito and composer David Newman. This one plops the pair in the same screening room used for “Revisiting” as they discuss the film’s score and aspects of Newman’s career. “Music” provides another good little piece.
A Deleted Scenes Montage fills 23 minutes, 22 seconds. DeVito discusses the rationale behind the film’s edits and then we see 18 cut clips – I think; the way the piece progresses, it can be tough to tell where one ends and another begins. Most offer short snippets/extensions, though some intriguing pieces appear; we see more of young Barbara, and another thread shows how Barbara sabotaged Oliver’s beloved orchids. There’s nothing here I could claim should’ve made the final flick – it’s already too long – but some of the elements are interesting.
In addition to four Trailers and six TV Spots, we get some stillframe materials. A Production Gallery shows 116 photos; it mixes shots from the set and movie images. It’s a nice collection, and I like the fact that it follows the production in the order of the story’s events. We also get a Script for War. This covers the entire original screenplay, so we find deleted scenes in addition to those that made the final film. The format can be awkward – it uses a whole lot of frames and lacks any kind of indexing – but it’s still cool to see the whole screenplay.
Finally, the package includes a 28-page Booklet. It offers some production notes as well as cast/crew biographies. DVD/Blu-ray booklets are a dying breed, so it’s nice to find one here – especially when the booklet is as high-quality as this one.
As a black comedy, The War of the Roses provides an intermittently effective affair. It really only soars during its third act, as the first 80 minutes or so lack consistency. Still, there’s decent entertainment value here. The Blu-ray provides erratic but generally satisfying picture and audio along with a pretty nice selection of bonus materials. Neither the film nor the Blu-ray excel, but both work well overall.