Presented in the academy ratio, this film will leave black bars at the sides for those viewing on a widescreen monitor (and who doesn't these days...?) and that's the way it's meant to be - though the film has been altered slightly for this DVD. Old type square TV's equated to 1.33:1 as you probably all know - whilst the academy ratio (the shape of the screens in cinemas before the advent of Cinerama, cinemascope or any other number of ratios) was closer to 1.37:1 - so the picture has been zoomed in slightly so that it doesn't float in the middle of your screen. You could course expand the picture to fill your screen - but why would anybody want to do that...?
Obviously, being seventy years old, the picture has deteriorated in quality somewhat from what would have been seen on those squarish screens. Most notably, a lot of the dark backgrounds flash slightly and look a little unstable. Close ups are good though - and there's a lot of them - and print damage seems to be minimal. The marks on the print to tell the projectionist to start the next reel are clearly visible all the way through - but in all honesty, I didn't really care. If they weren't there, it would take something away from the charm and enjoyment of watching these kind of films. I like to watch them on my front projection system and pretend that I'm back in the '30's - I draw the line at allowing anybody to fill the room with smoke though and the newsreel is always in colour...
If I were to complain about the picture on this disc, I would just be picking holes. It's fine for a seventy year old film and I think you'll enjoy the film that much, you won't really care anyway...
All of the hiss and crackles that you associate with these old black and white films has been removed. This adds to the enjoyment of the film no end.
Dialogue is clear and audible all the way through. Dynamics are limited of course and I'm sure that my sub didn't kick into life all the way through.
Oscar nominated for it's score, I'm going to sway slightly from my usual purist stance and say it would have been nice to hear it in stereo. There's nothing wrong with the mono mix of course - but the score is used to great effect to add to the dramatics onscreen that I often found myself wondering what it would actually sound like if it were remixed...
I'll not go on about the mix - it's in mono and it won't set your sound system on fire. It is though adequate to task and has been nicely cleaned up to remove all the horrible hiss and crackles. Nice one.
Kind of based on a true event, Souls At Sea tells the compelling story of one mans horrible task of deciding who lives and who dies in a terrible shipwreck accident. Throw in a bit of romance, a slight touch of comedy (but not to much), some great 1930's charm and innocence, stir well and you have the perfect pudding after that family Sunday lunch.
If you tied me by my thumbs to the yardarm and forced me to pick fault, there's a distinct lack of extras on the disc - but this isn't one of Eurekas masters of cinema releases so it was to be expected. The menus are score and animated though, which is a nice touch.
Highly recommended for those cold and wet Sunday afternoons coming up.
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