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MOVIE INFO

Director:
William Wyler
Cast:
Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Flora Robson, Donald Crisp, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Hugh Williams
Writing Credits:
Emily BrontŽ (novel), Charles MacArthur, Ben Hecht

Synopsis:
One of the most compelling tragic romances ever captured on film, Wuthering Heights is an exquisite tale of doomed love and miscalculated intentions.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Monaural
Subtitles:
None
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 12/3/1997

Bonus:
• Interview with Geraldine Fitzgerald
• Cast bio
• Original theatrical trailer


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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

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Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 13, 2005)

Hollywood sure likes to make new versions of the same old stuff, donít they? Classic books remain a big target, and few sources demonstrate that tendency as well as Wuthering Heights. Based on the 1847 Emily Bronte novel, as far as I can tell, itís been filmed a whopping nine times, whether for the big screen or TV.

The 1939 edition of Heights seems to earn the most praise. Indeed, it earned a nomination for Best Picture that year. However, I didnít care for it. I don't know if I'd like the other versions more, but I have to say that this edition of Wuthering Heights did little for me; I found it to be a fairly stale, unaffecting film.

While I never read the novel, I couldn't help but feel that the movie offered a very shortened "Cliffs Notes" telling of the tale. It seems as though we zip through the story, and little happens for any logical reason; events occur out of nowhere, and the characters react without much apparent logic. It all appears very capricious to me.

The execution of the story seems okay but not special. Laurence Olivier may be a legend, but his work here did little for me, and Merle Oberon makes for a pretty but unmemorable presence. This edition of Wuthering Heights certainly isn't a bad film, but it simply left me cold.


The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio D/ Bonus D+

Wuthering Heights appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; because of those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although it appeared that the source material was fairly good, the picture itself nonetheless had some serious problems that greatly marred the end result.

Sharpness generally looked decent, with most scenes seeming fairly crisp and defined. Some scenes appeared a bit soft - especially more distant shots - but these were infrequent. I noticed no signs of moirť effects or jagged edges. The print itself seemed worn but not terribly so. Speckling occurred periodically, thin vertical lines were more frequent nuisances, and on rare occasions, I saw some more substantial flaws such as a big black mark circle during one late scene. Still, the print quality seemed relatively good for the film's age.

Black levels consistently appeared very strong, with some wonderfully rich and deep tones; every once in a while a scene would seem overly bright, but for the most part, contrast was good. Shadow detail appeared fine as well, with no tendencies toward overly opaque scenes.

At this point, you may be wondering why I gave this picture - one that's earned pretty favorable comments so far - such a low rating. One word: artifacts. This DVD crawled with digital artifacts. At least I think they're artifacts; to be frank, it can be very tough to discern the difference between digital artifacts and grain. However, I've watched so many old movies recently that I think I've gotten good at figuring which is which, and Heights looked like it was plagued with artifacts.

Although the many dark scenes obscured them to a degree, these artifacts marred virtually every scene in the film. The screen simply looked inundated with these hundreds of tiny spots, and it really took away from the image. It's a terrible shame because the transfer otherwise looked pretty good, but the poor mastering made the ultimate appearance of Heights relatively poor.

Even worse was the film's monaural audio. All I really want from a 60-plus-year-old soundtrack is consistently intelligible and fairly natural speech plus an absence of distortion, but that didn't happen during Wuthering Heights. Dialogue sounded harsh and edgy and often came across as distorted. I could usually make out what the actors said, but I had to replay a number of segments, often with the aid of subtitles. Music and effects showed the same shrill quality. Background noise - hiss and pops, mainly - wasn't terrible but it's often quite noticeable. I've heard worse soundtracks, but not many; even for its age, it's a weak mix.

Heights offers a few supplements, but only one is worth note. A nine-minute interview with actress Geraldine Fitzgerald appears. It's unclear when this was recorded - though clearly late in her life - but she provides some very lucid and compelling details of her participation in the film. Best of all is the fact that she's not shy about relating some stories that may not seem complimentary toward the other actors and the director; she doesn't slam them, but she offers her honest viewpoint, which I appreciated. I don't require interviewees to provide "dirt" but too many of these retrospective programs stick solely to extremely positive comments, with no signs of anything other than complete perfection. Fitzgerald makes it clear that she had some differences with others, and that factors makes her positive comments - which dominate the interview - all the more believable.

In addition to the Fitzgerald interview, we get the original theatrical trailer plus some pretty good biographies of four of the actors (Olivier, Oberon, David Niven and Fitzgerald) and director William Wyler. I don't know if the package includes a booklet, since I rented my copy from Netflix and they don't forward those kinds of materials.

Despite its status as a Best Picture nominee, Wuthering Heights seems less than terrific. It offers a tolerable but lackluster film. Though not totally atrocious, the DVD presents the movie in a fairly weak manner; picture and sound display distinct flaws, and only a few minor extras. Fans of the material may want to give Heights a look, but I canít recommend the film beyond that.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7142 Stars Number of Votes: 21
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