The blu-ray disc is accompanied by a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack and being a movie about music you would expect it to buzz.
Unfortunately the delivery, down mix and execution of it all is very disappointing. Guitars and harmonicas should pluck and resonate with a vivid vibrancy and a verve that is simply lacking at all times. It feels like a limiting filter has been applied across the whole sound spectrum to dampen it in a compressed manner. The result is a surprisingly muffled sound when you really would have hoped for a more directly crisp and rasping experience.
Vocals and dialogue are all centre staged and the front panning is good but the technical bods forgot all about the rear channels. Hearing Beyonce sing in the studio is mesmerising but unfortunately the audio has no ambience and is simply not inspiring. In fact there is never a feeling of ambience at all throughout the whole movie which is a real shame.
LFE and bass support are both woefully inadequate which results in an anaemic sound that simply fails to give the requsite weight and presence required of the music in the film.
Frustratingly the soundtrack is nowhere near as good as it should be for a film of this type.
The disc comes with an Audio Commentary and four visual extras presented in High Definition with the exception of the Deleted Scenes that are presented in Standard Definition. You'll need a 2.0 enabled blu-ray player to access the BDLive function.
Audio Commentary - Writer and Director Darnell Martin provides the commentary. She's got some interesting facts to share and a clear knowledge of the music and its origins but it's not a comfortable or free flowing accompaniment. The commentary drops in and out of the soundtrack and it gets a bit annoying after a while as Darnell does an annoyingly croaky and punchy voice.
The Chess Record Player - This is an interactive feature that enables you to create a playlist of your favourite songs from the movie so that you can play them as you would like them in any order that you like.
Deleted Scenes - (4min 56secs) - There are five short deleted scenes for you to familiarise yourself with and see what was left on the cutting room floor. 'Leonard Chess introduces Muddy to his brother' Phil, 'Pat Strong Dies', 'Revetta and Leonard Chess in Restaurant', 'Muddy Locked out of Studio', 'Alternate Muddy Locked out of Studio'.
Playing Chess: The Making of Cadillac Records - (26mins 10secs) - A very stylistic presentation about the making of the film presented in HD. The cast talk about the history of the record label but the whole episode tends to lose its way very quickly. A lot of inserts from the movie itself make the whole thing feel like an elongated trailer.
Once Upon a Blues: Cadillac Records by Design - (15mins 37secs) - The crew and production designers talk about how they went about recreating the period. The importance of colours and textures of Chicago of the 1950's are extensively talked about and the attention to detail that took place. Whilst there is detail on offer I can't help that they all got lost in it when they really should have focussed on the end result and where that was heading.
Previews - A variety of trailers and previews for new and upcoming releases.
Cadillac Records is essentially a bold attempt to recreate what is a 1950's Chicago period piece. The problem here though is that the film is as superficial as the Cadillac icon it uses to symbolise success. It's not an in-depth re-collection of the Chess Record Label, its founder or any of the artists that it gave rise to. This is a real shame as musically this film had so much going for it but unfortunately the execution has simply faltered.
In effect it turns out to be an all too brief synopsis of what occurred at the time. All the major artists with the exception of Muddy Waters feel as if they had no gravitas whatsoever. We all know that Chuck Berry for example was phenomenally successful but you'll get no measure of it in this film. Everything feels a little skimped and a weak attempt to scratch the surface of the careers of some immensely successful artists.
The blu-ray disc delivers a reasonable video performance but is distinctly light on quality of extras. If that was not enough then its audio performance is disappointing. When you have a film charting a musical episode then the least thing you should get right is the sound. In the end it's an annoyingly disappointing effort however good the singing performances.
Cadillac Records manages to just about hang together as a film but not as it should have done. I'm afraid that this film lacks soul where it needed it most. In the end it does just enough to meander along the history line of a record label from downtown Chicago but never enough to do the real story justice.
Whereas the Chess label and its many artists actually gave rise to an extraordinarily exciting new musical era that caused a checkmate, it's a pity that this film then goes and depicts the whole episode as a stalemate.
Cadillac Records is presented in a 1080P MPEG-4 AVC format.
The transfer is a job well done and the image has a touch of fine grain to it. I could not see any dirt or blemishes to tarnish what is generally a beautifully smooth image.
The blacks and contrast set off against each other in more than competent fashion. Shadow delineation is good and detail in the darker scenes remains prevalent. Fleshtones appear to be very accurate and the colour palette is rich where it needs to be. The start of the film for example feels a little subdued but as the film enters the late 50's the colours really begin to shine through. I never felt that this was a technical deficiency but more likely an ageing process by design.
Overall there's not too much to be disgruntled about. The image is solid and resolute and makes for a bold visual statement but in High Definition terms it's par for the course.
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