Great Expectations Blu-ray Review
‘Great Expectations’ is presented in 1.33:1 with VC-1 1080p coding.
Given the movie’s age and the limited filming techniques which were available in 1946, I was not expecting anything overly special from this release in terms of picture quality. If Criterion’s name was on the packet, I would be anticipating a top notch, highly polished transfer, but here we simply get a bog standard upgrade from the previous DVD release. That’s not to say that this effort from ITV DVD does not have its merits, it’s just that a movie from this time period requires highly skilled technicians and a sizeable budget to get the most from the restoration process.
One aspect of the presentation which shines through is the amount of detail which is visible throughout. Fine cobwebs, lavish costumes and meticulously dressed sets are all plainly on view. Every object in shot displays strong delineation and thankfully there’s no evidence of DNR or other image tampering. The depth of the image is another facet which at times impressed. The subtle tonality of the greyscale palette aids perspective and also adds significantly to the haunting ambience of the piece (especially during the graveyard scenes and those in Havisham’s desolate abode).
The all important contrast ratio is a little weak (not surprising for such an old movie) but the black/white balance, at least, is spot on for the duration, with no fluctuations in intensity noted. The blacks are solid enough, but don’t even come close to the depths that BD is capable of. Shadow detail is a little below par, with some of the finer detail lost to the gloom. I suppose that these aspects of this release really expose the movie’s age and the older filming techniques which were employed at the time.
There are, of course, almost constant signs of print damage, with scratches and other marks plainly on show. There are also a couple of faint lines running from top to bottom (through the image), but these are relatively faint and not overly distracting. While these aspects show the age and general wear and tear of the print, it also adds a little je ne sais quoi to the presentation, and overall I have to say that I was impressed at how good this release looks; just don’t be expecting anything that’s going to blow you away.
‘Great Expectations’ comes with a Dolby Digital mono track.
Like the transfer, I was not expecting much from this release in the audio department and I was not proven wrong as the credits rolled. This is obviously a very limited track but at least the all important vocals are always crystal clear and never difficult to follow. Other aspects of the presentation, such as the smattering of gunfire (during Abel’s escape) and other ambient effects, are all completely audible but it’s rather like listening to a play being broadcast over the radio, rather than being drawn into a fully fledged cinematic experience; i.e. there’s a complete absence of really strong treble and bass and the track never envelops the listening position. There’s also a slightly irritating hiss, which is present continuously, but it’s only really noticeable during the quieter scenes.
I suppose that until Criterion pick up the rights to this movie we will never see a fully fledged, uncompressed and re-mastered version of this track. This is truly a shame, as I really think that this movie would benefit from a full surround upgrade. As such, this release gets a solid six and given the fact that this release has been available for a number of years now, it’s probably the best that this movie has ever sounded (or ever will). Taking into consideration the movie’s age, a seven is awarded here; but, like the image quality, don’t expect audio revelations with this BD.
Disappointingly, there are zero additional supplements on this release. It’s a shame that a landmark release such as this has got absolutely no complimentary documentaries or commentary tracks but I suppose extras had not yet been invented in 1946!
‘Great Expectations’ was released in 1946 and was directed by Sir David Lean. This movie is an adaptation of the literary classic of the same name, which was written by Charles Dickens. The plot follows the amazing tale of a young orphan, who is granted a chance to become a gentleman of high society, when an unknown benefactor supplies him with a seemingly inexhaustible amount of cash. With a cast list that reads like a who’s who of the upper echelons of British acting talent, in combination with a startlingly haunting cinematic presentation (with Lean guiding proceedings with flair and vision), this movie cements it’s place as one of the great cinematic landmarks and comes highly recommended for all fans of great films in general.
Both the audio and video presentations show their considerable age but both also perform admirably, taking the age factor into consideration. There are no extra features to get stuck in to but I’m not even too sure if there are any available out there (even the Criterion DVD release was sorely lacking). As such, this bare bones ITV DVD release is the best that this seminal movie has ever looked or sounded and as such it comes recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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