Warner Brothers has really been cranking up the blu-ray presses of late, and today is no exception. With Awards season upon us, they’ve released three new films to the format, with the common thread being they are all Best Picture Winners. Two of the three are what would be in the Classic realm, and one of them we’ve already looked at separately- though not on blu-ray, of course. So this time we will focus more on the new releases as opposed to the films themselves.
First, is the epic Grand Hotel from 1932. As the original all-star soap opera, it is a film which has been often imitated and remade in various forms. One can even make the claim that it launched the disaster genre. Never before had such talent been put together in one film. Here we have Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, and John and Lionel Barrymore. The film is, as noted, basically a soap opera with several plot lines weaving throughout. What makes the movie great- outside of the all star cast, is the simple fact that they don’t make movies like Grand Hotel any longer. Here there are no dramatic explosions or action sequences but for sheer drama it is hard to do better.
Warner’s new blu-ray release is strong and again shows their commitment to providing quality films in HD without lackluster presentation. Video quality is somewhat variable, but for the most part is much better than you would expect for a film of this vintage. Audio is likewise a bit thin given recording standards of the time. In spite of that, it is still a compelling and high quality release, reflecting a descent upgrade in quality from the standard DVD.
Mrs. Miniver (1942), a film we’ve already reviewed at length, is the next entry in the series. Both video and audio quality are improved significantly over that of Grand Hotel, making it perhaps the favorite of the set. Audio here as well is a bit thin at times but also suprisingly robust at others, most notably during some of the arial sequences. Visually the film is stunning to see but still preserves a nice film feel with some discernible grain to the image. Of the three, I noted the strongest improvement against previous standard DVD releases here.
Driving Miss Daisy (1989), the last and most recent entry in the series, is a bit of a lackluster affair. In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that the film itself has never been a favorite. That said, the feature looks great, although some purists may mistake the softness of the picture for a processing error, when in fact this is how it was shot. Audio and video are both quite good, though perhaps not as good as one would expect for a film of this relatively youthful vintage. This isn’t a James Bond picture, so surely not one which will push your audio system regardless.
Driving Miss Daisy is the only one to be presented in the wonderful digi-book format which fans have grown to love over the years. The other two features are in the standard single disc clamshell cases which, though by no means bad, don’t have the warm and cozy feel of the digi-book. It would have been great to see the others in the premium packaging as well, but no matter.
All three have a fairly good range of supplemental materials, with the potential exception of Mrs. Miniver. And to further muddy the water if you are considering a potential upgrade from previously released versions of these films, all have new supplemental materials in addition to what has been ported over from standard DVD releases.
If you have to pick on of these three- and assuming you have previous DVD releases of them all- the sure pick is Mrs. Miniver, with Grand Hotel a strong second. If you don’t already have these in your library, you’ve surely already purchased as you can’t really go wrong with Best Picture winners, can you?
Thank you to Warners for the review copies supplied for this review.