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DVD Reviews

AMATEUR REVIEW: Thoroughly Modern Millie (Highly Recommended)



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#1 of 9 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted June 10 2003 - 01:08 AM

Appologies to Stuart if this trumps a review of this same title he was planning to release...but I've been *dying* to read a review of this title since it was announced so I'm posting my own to satisfy my need Posted Image

Title: Thoroughly Modern Millie
Noteable Actors: Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Channing (!)
Studio: Universal
Year: 1967
Aspect: 1.85:1 16x9 encoded (anamorphic WS)
Audio: 2.0 Dolby Digital
IMDB Link: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0062362

Movie:

It's a wacky, campy, zany romantic comedy with some fun musical numbers set in 1920's NYC. I'm not sure what other films best compare to T.M.M., but Hello Dolly and What's Up Doc come to mind. Julie Andres plays "Millie" who moves to NYC to become a "modern" woman and cast asside society's traditional lady-like precepts and marry for money rather than love. You'll have to watch the movie to find out the rest.

It's a film I grew up with and have a special affection for. Anyone else who enjoys films of this type will most likely appreciate T.M.M. for the creative, unorthodox, and charming assemblage that results from this great cast, good directing, and witty writing.

Picture:

In a word...SWELL...just SWELL! Yes, this is a dandy-of-a-trasfer by-jingo! This is reference "vintage" DVD stuff and anyone who wants a lesson in how a DVD transfer should faithfully replicate the look of the original film need look no futher...this is a knock-out transfer folks.

Before you shove asside your Attack of the Clones demo-disc and plunk-in Millie to show your system off to your guests, allow me to elabroate:

The source materials contain prodigous amounts of film-grain and no (innappropriate) effort was attempted by Universal to remove this inherent film-artifact. BRAVO!!! As Robert Harris and Stuart will be happy to explain, film-grain is part of the "canvas" of the art of film...and is often used by the director to create a "look" that is deliberate and intended. The common practive today seems for studios to use sophisticated (or not-so-sophisticated) digital programs to filter out this grain to give the video a smoother or cleaner appearance. While I'm not against such practices when done in an effort to restore the historic appearance of a film which has deteriorated over time...it's important to distinguish when such film-grain is "noise" that's been added to later-generation prints that do not represent the director's vision and when such grain is part of the inegrity of the picture. Gladly, Universal has bravely chosen to preserve the look of the source film elements to a marvelous degree. Ok...film-grain-lesson-101 is now over Posted Image

What's particularly astonishing is that despite the copious film-grain present, the MPEG encoder seems to never (or rarely) get over-taxed. MPEG compression artifacts are rare and not distracting from a 1.75 viewing distance. And Universal has resisted another common pit-fal in DVD mastering...they did *not* apply severe low-pass filtering to reduce detail in order to ease compression requirements given the highly random (challenging) video content. Instead you get a surprisingly sharp, detailed, and crisp transfer that does not seem to lack for resolution. In fact, many scenese have a very 3-dimensional quality that attests to the preservation of source-detail. And not only has Universal resisted over-filtering, but they resisted the use of the "edge enhancement" dial on their control panel too.

Results: A GEORGOUS transfer that looks like real film, replete with source-film-grain, loads of image detail and resolution without any haloing or ringing around sharp transitions.

Perfect.

The only area that one might find fault (and I'm not sure about this) is with color. Flesh tones tend to yellow or green at times (not glaring...very subtle) HOWEVER the look of this film is visually very stylistic and the use of color is very intentional...many scenes are rendered with a "yellow" theme and then a few scenes later there is a "pink" them and then a "purple" theme, "red" theme and so on. Reminds you of the Cook, The Thief, his wife and her lover in that regard. You might not notice it if you're not looking for it...but for those artsy folks out there do pay attention to the use of color-coordinating from scene to scene. Very affective. Colors also appear rich and vibrant when they are supposed to but never over-saturated or smeared (those of you who, like me, lived with laserdisc can understand how much DVD is to be appreciated in this regard).

Oh...the point is that I suspect that, despite the sometimes slight shift in flesh tones, that these anamolies properly represent the color of the film elements as they were intended to look. I'd love to have Harris, Joe Caps, or Stuart chime-in if they can share more.

Objective grade for "demo" material status:
3 / 5
Subjective grade for faithfullness to the source:
5 / 5


Sound:

2.0 Dolby Digital surround. Others have already praised the audio on the forum and I have to say that while T.M.M.'s sound is quite acceptable overall...for a 2.0 mix it still left me thinking "If only it had been PCM on laserdisc it would have sounded so much better". But what else is new? That's a given with almost EVERY 2.0 DD soundtrack I've heard mastered @ 192 kbps (which I assume is the data-rate for the audio on this disc). Recording level is rather low...I had to *really* turn up the volume for this one. Surround is mild and mostly ambient (what you'd expect from a matrix-surround recording). According to Joe Caps T.M.M. should have contained a 4.0 mix given the source audios stems which were discrete...we can only hope that there is a *good* reason why Universal chose to present the 2.0 down-mix here rather than a 4.0 mix from these stems (which reportedly do exist in some form).

The audio quality is generally good and the music is well-recorded, full-bodied and spread nicely accross the front sound-stage. There's also a bit of "depth" to much of the instrumentation which is something I always enjoy (as opposed to everything sounding like the instruments are located right inside your L/C/R speaker cabinets). Dialog is clear but does reveal the "dubbed" sound at times.

Objective grade for "demo" material status:
2 / 5
Subjective grade for faithfullness to the source:
4 / 5 (better data-rate or PCM would have helped the 2.0 sound...also...why not a 4.0 mix???)


Extras:

A 4x3 encoded @ 1.5:1 aspect ratio trailer that really shows its age. Whoopie.

Conclusions:

All in all a GREAT job on the part of Universal for giving us a DVD that faithfully replicates the look and sound of this marvelous film. My only real criticsm of the audio/video presentation is that the audio could have benefited from a higher bit-rate (sorry...no 192 kbps 2.0 DD soundtrack has *ever* impressed me...especially since I know what 2.0 PCM on laserdisc sounds like) and perhaps a 4.0 mix derived from the source stems. Extras are non-existent...but it's got quality where it counts (the film presentation). Fans of this film or those of you who like vintage romantic comedies from this era or have a fascination with the 1920's should give it a try.

It's a Swell DVD by jingo and highly recommended!!

I'd love to hear your feedback. Those of you who would like to post any comments regarding picture/sound (even if they differ wildly from my own--I'm a big-boy and I can handle it Posted Image ) please feel free to do so in this thread.
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#2 of 9 OFFLINE   DeeF

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Posted June 10 2003 - 02:11 AM

About the movie: the final third, with the white slavery sequence, is too long and drawn out (and has no songs!). Hill was known to cut his own throat sometimes, particularly with the death of Susan Sarandon in Waldo Pepper -- the movie didn't recover. In the case of Millie, a smoothly compelling romp loses all steam. Still, Bea Lillie is a pure delight in every scene: she literally steals the movie. About the disk: the picture looked great to me. Also, I preferred the sound to the 4-channel "Sweet Charity," where the surround and directional dialogue sounded very odd, almost electronic. TMM's sound has more depth, and sounds more realistic, to my ears.

#3 of 9 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted June 10 2003 - 05:44 AM

Without a direct way to compare to the original 4.0 soundtrack, it's impossible to say how different it would have sounded in the case of T.M.M. I have Sweet Charity but have yet to watch it...I'll keep your comments in mind when I do. In any case, agreed that the 2.0 *mix* is pleasing and well-balanced, inspite of the fidelity limitations of 2.0 192 kbps DD.
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#4 of 9 OFFLINE   SteveP

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Posted June 10 2003 - 06:01 PM

The monochomatic look was deliberate, to give the movie the feel of period tinted black and white.

#5 of 9 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted June 10 2003 - 11:40 PM

Thanks Steve. Yes...I can see how that makes sense. Hadn't occured to me until you said it. That goes well with the title cards that flash up once in a while to make you feel like your watching an old B&W silent film...and the 'hand-colored' monochromatic accents work to that same end. Good job. Had you heard that officially or did you just figure it out?
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#6 of 9 OFFLINE   SteveP

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Posted June 11 2003 - 07:11 AM

Read it in the big Julie Andrews picture book that came out at the time of her "Back On Broadway" PBS special in 1995. Both Julie Andrews and George Roy Hill were displeased with Universal's decision to make the film a two and a half hour long roadshow--they saw it as a shorter, general release film. I've read that when Universal did a limited re-release in the early 1970's, they offered Mr. Hill the opportunity to do a shorter cut, but he turned them down.

#7 of 9 OFFLINE   Joe Caps

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Posted June 11 2003 - 01:27 PM

I saw Millie at least twenty times in first run and it looked very colorful - hardly monochromatic! Got the DVD today and the color is not as good as the old laser. Sound was okay except in the Overture where the stereo is backwards - but not in the rest of the movie.

#8 of 9 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted June 11 2003 - 04:13 PM

I noticed distortion and crackle in the right channel audio of my copy during the opening sequence. Has anyone else experienced this? Or perhaps I have a defective disc?

#9 of 9 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted June 24 2003 - 11:33 AM

Roger, I'll take another look and see if I hear the distortion. Interesting that someone posted that the L/R channels are reversed for the overture. -dave
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