Picnic Blu-ray Review
And by 'picnic' you mean...?
Movies & TV reviewSRP: £16.99
Picnic Film Review
Joshua Logan's Oscar-nominated 1955 adaptation of acclaimed playwright William Inge's Picnic has William Holden and a young Kim Novak heating up small-town Kansas.Written as a stage play, and shot like a sweeping epic (in full cinemascope), Picnic takes place over the course of a long Labor Day weekend, when former war vet and failed Hollywood actor Hal turns up in small-town Kansas to visit an old high school friend and causes chaos with a local family whose daughters (one of whom is dating said high school friend) both take a shine to him.
There's certainly a Gone with the Wind feel to the production, from the messy love triangle to the sweeping scale that frames its small-scale melodramatics, with double Academy Award winner, and ten-times nominee James Wong How's cinematography making striking use of, then-expansive, cinemascope, and utilising a very early example of a helicopter shot to produce one of the most memorable closing shots of all time. Similarly From Here to Eternity composer George Duning gives is a suitably evocative score to bolster the complicated relationship antics.
Indeed with script, score and cinematography in place, it would appear like Picnic had all the magic ingredients to be an all-time classic
Indeed with script, score and cinematography in place, it would appear like Picnic had all the magic ingredients to be an all-time classic, but it falls down somewhat in casting. Not acting, but casting, with its quartet of lead characters well-cast on the side of the women - a young Kim Novak (Vertigo) and an even younger Susan Strasberg play the two main sisters - but don't really work opposite their much older male counterparts. Novak was 20, Strasberg 15, whilst the old high school friend is played by a 30 year old Cliff Robertson, who can't quite pull off the boyish charm.
It's really the lead casting of The Wild Bunch's William Holden that stands out, however. Holden, 37 at the time, knew he was almost ten years too old for the part, but was fulfilling the last picture he had under a studio contract, but it was woeful miscasting, and watching a shirtless Holden trying to act like a kid just feels off - with a weathered, experienced look on his face and a familiar gravely voice, both of which betrayed his age.
Logan's piece still works, looking and sounding suitably epic, and telling a familiar but still effective tale of relationship complications in a small town where everybody knows everybody else's business, and where things are going to get heated and heartbroken for at least one - if not several - of the main characters. It's just a shame that Holden looks so out of place here - to the point where you want one of his Wild Bunch to turn up, hand him a shotgun and the reins to a horse, and ask him to return to the picture he really belongs in.
Picnic Blu-ray PictureEureka afford the 1955 feature an excellent Region B-locked UK debut, delivering a strong and even occasionally stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.55:1 Cinemascope widescreen, with the unusual breadth afforded by the filmmaking style undoubtedly contributing to the lasting visual impressiveness of the feature.
A strong and occasionally stunning presentation framed in Cinemascope
Detail is largely excellent - certainly for a film that's 64 years old - and undoubtedly all the more stunning through the beautiful and epic width of some of the shots, showcasing intricate crowded multiple focal points, and impressing with fine background texturing and lavish scenery even beyond the numerous characters who may be on screen at any one time. It's a beautiful scope and the presentation makes the most of it, and, even if freeze-frame observation will highlight flaws, grain levels - however natural it is to see this much grain - are still occasionally variable, softness is certainly not non-existent and black levels are far from flawless, the presentation somehow manages to push past these and nudge them towards being little more than niggles in what, on the whole, feels like a truly cinematic demo rendition of a naturally visually impressive feature.
Picnic Blu-ray SoundEureka afford the film two audio options, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and a Linear PCM 2.0, and whilst it's easy to assume that the latter is the most natural way to enjoy the feature, the original presentation carried 4-track audio, making the 5.1 mix actually not that much of a stretch beyond what the prints provided for back in the day.
Strong audio options that do a faithful job delivering the movie in the best possible shape you could ever expect to hear it in
Certainly, the lossless 5.1 mix is the more immersive of the two, delivering a nice little bustle that brings environments to life, some decent background din in the more crowded locations like the train station, and even a few impressive uses of the surrounds (undoubtedly to show off the breadth afforded by the audio). Dialogue remains firmly prioritised, and clear and coherent throughout, and the scoring never feels clipped even if it is lighter and more tinny than in later productions - and thus commensurate to the era - and also limited by the near-lack of LFE input, which is also reflective of the limitations of the 4-channel source audio. Overall, these are strong audio options that do a faithful job delivering the movie in the best possible shape you could ever expect to hear it in.
Picnic Blu-ray ExtrasEureka deliver an archival Kim Novak Interview
Picnic Blu-ray VerdictEureka go the extra mile with a lavish Blu-ray release
Picnic has all the trappings of an all-time classic - it's epic in its cinematography, with a sweeping score and a solid script originating from an acclaimed playwright - but unfortunately it falls down in casting, with The Wild Bunch's William Holden simply too old for the lead role. Still, getting past that, it's an enjoyable yarn, and Eureka go the extra mile with a lavish Blu-ray release making the most of the cinemascope presentation and original 4-track score.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £16.99
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