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    Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Fox Twilight Time

    Jul 08 2013 01:45 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    One of the great cinematic love stories swathed in one of the most memorable theme songs ever written for the screen awaits the viewer of Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing. While director Henry King doesn’t do anything remotely cinematic to augment this slow-building romantic tale based on a true story, the Hong Kong location photography casts its own kind of spell enhancing the splendid leading performances and the solid production values which the movie offers.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Fox
    • Distributed By: Twilight Time
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: English SDH
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 42 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: keep case
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: All
    • Release Date: 07/09/2013
    • MSRP: $29.98

    The Production Rating: 4/5

    Having been a widow for more than a few years and determined to live out her remaining life at service to others while denying her own romantic yearnings, Dr. Han Suyin (Jennifer Jones) finds herself gradually falling under the romantic spell of globetrotting foreign correspondent Mark Elliott (William Holden). In 1949 Hong Kong, such an involvement between a Eurasian woman and a Caucasian man (who also happens to be in an estranged marriage) is undoubtedly frowned upon by the tradition-oriented British residents, and Dr. Suyin finds her hospital job in jeopardy as her feelings grow stronger for Mark. But once she’s committed herself to him, she’s determined to follow her heart wherever it leads.

    John Patrick’s screenplay only touches on the bigoted racial undercurrents roiling underneath the story of this love affair making it seem somehow a bit incomplete as if part of the story is being underserved (we must get the ideas about the existent caste attitudes from the comments and demeanors of a couple of the snootier Hong Kong residents played by Isobel Elsom and Virginia Gregg as well as Han’s former Chinese friend Suzanne (Jorja Curtright) who’s passing as a Caucasian so she can pursue one particular Englishman). Otherwise, director Henry King lets the love story admirably take its time to reach its apex with Jones’ Han believably trying her hardest to resist letting love into her heart and Holden’s Mark being eager but not absurdly relentless in his pursuit of her. If there is a possibly too-great emphasis on omens and fates, perhaps that’s the Eastern influences on the story that might seem a little obvious and heavy-handed to us today. Director King’s work in Cinemascope is rather disappointingly mundane; he doesn’t use his wide frame in very interesting ways but rather groups actors in clumps in the middle without much use for the areas right and left of center. True, the Cinemascope camera does capture many colorful and panoramic vistas of Hong Kong, but the action plays out rather rudimentarily and without much range. But all of those seeming lapses eventually simplify the story and focus our attention on the mating and matching of these soul mates at one particular time and in one particular place.

    The two stars play together to perfection, and because the build-up to their romance is slow and adult-like, it’s all the more believable when the full flower of love finally blossoms. True, Jennifer Jones isn’t Eurasian, but she hasn’t been overly made up in any embarrassing attempt to make her look more Chinese. And she handles the role with much delicacy and élan. William Holden makes an appealing leading man and though top-billed, the story really focuses on the story of Han (not surprising since it was based on the doctor’s autobiographical A Many Splendored Thing) making him less in the spotlight throughout the movie. Isobel Elsom is the epitome of class snobbery as Adeline Palmer-Jones, and Murray Matheson as Han’s fellow doctor at the hospital lends strong support. Kam Tong is rather chilling as a Communist Chinese doctor who berates Han for not returning to China to minister to her own people rather than remaining with the spoiled and stuffy English and poor refugees jamming into Hong Kong.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.55:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is striking throughout with oodles of detail to be seen in faces, clothes, and particularly rocky and wooden landscapes. Color is rich and wonderfully under control with believable and appealing flesh tones. Contrast has been dialed in to perfection. While black levels are merely okay, you’ll look long and hard to find a cleaner, clearer Blu-ray transfer. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers a very full spread of the music and sound effects across the front soundstage with only occasional spillage into the rears. But fidelity is excellent, and Alfred Newman’s award-winning score (and the famous title tune by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster) is lovingly rendered. Dialogue is always clearly discernible and is audibly directionalized.

    Special Features: 3/5

    Audio Commentary: three professionals offer edited-together expert commentary on their fields of expertise: Sylvia Stoddard discusses Chinese customs and makes notable comments about the film’s cast and crew, music historian Jon Burlingame talks about the marvelous Alfred Newman score, and director of photography Michael Lonzo discusses the work of Leon Shamroy from a perspective of camerawork and lighting.

    Isolated Score Track: presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.

    Fox Movietone News Footage (2:21, SD): two award presentations are noted for the newsreel cameras including the Photoplay Awards which voted its gold medal awards to Jennifer Jones as Best Actress, William Holden as Best Actor, and the movie as Best Film.

    Original Theatrical Trailer (2:22, SD)

    6-Page Booklet: contains numerous black and white and color stills, poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s extensive essay on the film’s production history and accomplishments.

    Overall Rating: 4/5

    Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing is one of the great Hollywood love stories that doesn’t bask in any mawkish emotions or cheapen the deeply felt love story at its core with undue sentiment or melodrama. Only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray release are available. Those interested should check www.screenarchives.com to see if copies are still available. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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    23 Comments

    Matt,

     

    Thank you for your review as I eagerly await my BD to ship to me.

    My copy of this shipped from Twilight Time this morning...your review has made me even more eager to watch it as soon as it arrives, Matt!!! Thanks for the positive remarks about the presentation... :thumbs-up-smiley:

    Five stars for transfer all the way.  No equivocating on this front.  Anyone who wants to know what proper color looks like - here's your poster child.  Gorgeous.

    Okay, the time has come for me to see this classic, which I've never gotten around to. (Sorry... to which I've never gotten around. ;) )

    You are in for a treat.

    Just ordered!  Very excited. :)

    I looked at the old DVD a few days ago. It's not even anamorphic! One of the first DVDs I bought.

     

    Very pleased to hear this BRD is excellent; and that analysis of Leon Shamroy's work will be especially interesting for me.

    Ordered. Now looking forward to the enjoyment. Thanks for the review, it made my mind up.

    I have only seen this on television a few years ago. I didn't buy the DVD as I wasn't sure I would watch it again and I only remember it for the great score. However a really good blu-ray can totally change the viewing experience so I may buy it after considering a few more reviews.

    Watched this one last night.  Looks terrific.  Sounds terrific.

     

    The commentary was a very mixed bag for me.  90% of it is Sylvia Stoddard.  Jon Burlingame and Mike Lonzo are barely able to get a word in edgewise.  Stoddard has much to say that is informative, but since it's not about what we see or hear, it probably should have been a separate commentary from the one dealing with the cinematography and score.

    Love was reissued on a seond dvd that was 16x9

     

    I would like to know if Fox used a better sound source.  All  other dvds used a mag dupe that had the high end rolled off.

    It's got plenty of high end and it sounds great just like the reviewer here says and that others confirm.

    It's got plenty of high end and it sounds great just like the reviewer here says and that others confirm.

     

     

    Love was reissued on a seond dvd that was 16x9

     

    I would like to know if Fox used a better sound source.  All  other dvds used a mag dupe that had the high end rolled off.

    I happen to share your question, Joe. I haven't seen the BD yet, but the TCM master that was run maybe 6 months ago had far more dynamic range than the DVDs and was obviously from a newer image harvest (I confirmed this through a brief side-by side comparison). I would assume such has carried over to the BD release.

    I happen to share your question, Joe. I haven't seen the BD yet, but the TCM master that was run maybe 6 months ago had far more dynamic range than the DVDs and was obviously from a newer image harvest (I confirmed this through a brief side-by side comparison). I would assume such has carried over to the BD release.

    Well, why do you share his question when his question has been answered by several people in this very thread?  It sounds great.  

    My copy just shipped and am looking forward to seeing it.

    Mine seems to be spending a couple of days at the USPS sorting facility in Kearny, NJ -- first, getting processed through it, then departing it, then getting processed through it again -- and amazingly, still with an expected delivery date of July 9, 2013.

    Anyone know who has the European distribution rights to the movie, or any other of the twilight releases ??

    It wouldn't surprise me to learn if down the track, most of the Fox films from Twilight Time were released again through Fox's various European distribution arms.

    I watched the film again on DVD last night with the audio commentary track, hosted by Sylvia Stoddard, who is one of my fave classic DVD commentators.  She has such a fun style, and manages to pack a lot of information in without sounding bored, or dry.

     

    Also love her commentaries for "Anastasia", "The Best of Everything" and "Return to Peyton Place".

    This seminal heart breaker has been given its due - exemplary color, gorgeous sound - pluperfect and affecting as ever. Bill Holden - what a great guy and a magnificent star. Jennifer Jones too. Still can't get the Alfred Newman main title out of my head. Not sure I even want to try. 

    The scoring and the playing of the main title theme are so stupendous, it immediately brought to mind the openings of Zhivago and Lawrence, and that's not a comparison one gets to enjoy very often.

    The scoring and the playing of the main title theme are so stupendous, it immediately brought to mind the openings of Zhivago and Lawrence, and that's not a comparison one gets to enjoy very often.

    I dare not mention this film's score in the same breath as Lawrence. The score to Splendored-Thing feels repetitive and sappy in comparison. In my opinion, it's not one of Newman's best works from the era. Perhaps it's just the title song that irritates me.

    ... In my opinion, it's not one of Newman's best works from the era. Perhaps it's just the title song that irritates me.

     

    It seems the song does effect some people that way, including one of the greatest popular music vocalists of the 20th Century, Frank Sinatra. I've never been able to track down the exact details, but it was fairly common knowledge that Sinatra declined to record the song initially and only came to regret it when it became a very big hit by others. He even jokes about having passed on it on his Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music double album.

     

    Not sure what he had against it. My guess is it had nothing to do with the music but something to do with the lyrics, Sinatra being one of the best lyric "readers" of all time, there must have been something in there that rankled him, that he thought sounded hokey or unsuitable for him at his then age or whatever. That "golden crown" line, perhaps. Or maybe the idea of describing love, about which Sinatra sang from virtually every aspect imaginable in his life, as "a many-splendored thing" felt too awkward to him. Don't know. But even that supposition by me doesn't really jell since Sinatra was able to turn a lot of clunky lyric lines into either something much, much better or at least something non-obtrusive throughout his career. 

     

    However, he did get around to recording it in his 1964 album, Sinatra Sings Days of Wine and Roses, Moon River, and Other Academy Award Winners. Does a fine job of it, too, imo.

     

    As for me, I love the song, can't get enough of it in the movie or other recordings of it and think it adds immeasurably to the movie's emotional punch.