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Blu-ray Reviews

Steel Magnolias Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted September 13 2012 - 02:16 PM

Steel Magnolias is an enjoyable and sentimental episodic film which looks at several years in the lives of six women who live in a small town in Louisiana. It features an all-star cast and is nicely directed by Herbert Ross (Footloose, The Goodbye Girl, The Turning Point, Funny Lady). The film employs equal doses of humor and pathos, and the result is an effective tear-jerker which has been given typically first-class Blu-ray treatment by Sony and Twilight Time.





Steel Magnolias

Studio: Twilight Time/Tri-Star
Year: 1989
Rated: PG
Program Length: 118 minutes                 Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p
Languages: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Subtitles: English SDH

The Program

Steel Magnolias is an enjoyable and sentimental episodic film which looks at several years in the lives of six women who live in a small town in Louisiana. It features an all-star cast and is nicely directed by Herbert Ross (Footloose, The Goodbye Girl, The Turning Point, Funny Lady). The film employs equal doses of humor and pathos, and the result is an effective tear-jerker which has been given typically first-class Blu-ray treatment by Sony and Twilight Time.

The film opens on the wedding day of Shelby Eatonten (Julia Roberts) and her handsome fiancé, Jackson Latcherie (Dylan McDermott). Shelby's mother, M'Lynn (Sally Field) is rushing around making final preparations for the reception while her husband, Drum (Tom Skerritt), busies himself by firing pistol shots at the trees on his property to chase birds away.

Another beehive of activity is the local beauty parlor, owned and run by Truvy Jones (Dolly Parton). Truvy's only employee left her a few days earlier, so on the morning of the wedding she hires a newcomer to town, Annelle (Daryl Hannah in a quirky, unglamorous role). M'Lynn and Truvy are close friends with the recently-widowed Clairee Belcher (Olympia Dukakis), and they have a frequently contentious relationship with their cantankerous neighbor, Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine). Annelle is new to the group, but the other women sympathize with her when they learn that her missing husband is wanted by the police.

Truvy's husband is Spud (Sam Shepard), a taciturn man who has been having trouble finding work. Truvy complains to her friends that there is no longer any romance in her life. In the meantime, there is something about the imminent marriage which troubles both Shelby and her mother. It is gradually revealed that Shelby has serious health problems (she has a diabetic seizure while getting her hair done by Truvy), and M'Lynn fears that her daughter may suffer life-threatening complications if she ever becomes pregnant.

There are many humorous moments and some incisive dialogue in Steel Magnolias, which was adapted for the screen by Robert Harling from his own play. The film's major weakness is the fact that the male characters are little more than props. The most well-defined male character is Shelby's father, Drum, but that is not saying much. For example, we have no idea if Drum shares his wife's concerns about Shelby getting pregnant - any thoughts he may have on the issue are never part of the equation. Sam Shepard is essentially wasted as Truvy's husband - his character never appeared in the original play and he has little to do here. Dylan McDermott's character Jackson also is an enigma. He is wealthy and seems to be a nice guy, but there is nothing about him which is in the least surprising or particularly interesting.

That said, it is the female actors who carry the day in Steel Magnolias. Sally Field displays a considerable range of emotion; Shirley MacLaine is very amusing as the constantly complaining neighbor; Olympia Dukakis is elegant, wise and witty; Dolly Parton is entertaining, as always; and Daryl Hannah is almost unrecognizable as the emotionally insecure Annelle. This turned out to be a breakthrough role for Julia Roberts, who almost was passed over in favor of Winona Ryder (the filmmakers decided that Ryder was too young for the part). Steel Magnolias clearly was tailored for female audiences, but it also has potential for men who are looking for a good date movie and who are not embarrassed about being manipulated into displaying their sensitive side.

The Video

The 1.85:1 1080p image is excellent, with vivid, accurate colors and fine detail. The image tends to be very slightly on the soft side, but this appears to be by design. The filming was done on location in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and the colorful and ornate surroundings are utilized to excellent effect. Contrast is excellent, black levels are solid and shadow detail is very good. The film appears to be properly framed. The transfer is immaculate and shows no evidence of excessive DNR or other anomalies.

The Audio

The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is excellent. This is a dialogue-driven film, and every word is clear and understandable. The surround channels are used primarily to deliver ambient sounds and a pleasing soundstage for the film score by composer Georges Delerue (the isolated score track is accessible through the setup menu).

The Supplements

Twilight Time Blu-rays typically have little in the way of extras, but this one includes a commentary track by director Herbert Ross. He comes across as rather bland, although he had a reputation for being a stern taskmaster on the set. It is unclear when the commentary was recorded. Ross died in 2001 and I do not know if this commentary appeared on a prior DVD version of Steel Magnolias.

The only other extras on the disc are the isolated score track and a catalogue of Twilight Time films. October's releases will be Enemy Mine and The Night of the Living Dead (1990).

Included with the disc is a colorful, informative and entertaining 8-page booklet written by the always reliable Julie Kirgo.

The Packaging

The single disc is packaged in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

The Final Analysis

Steel Magnolias is undeniably a woman's film, but there is much about it which will appeal to everyone. Not the least of its attractions is the opportunity to see a female cast which has combined for twelve Academy Award nominations and five wins. Although the film would have been stronger if the male characters had been better defined, it was highly popular when released in theaters and has lost none of its charm and relevance.

This Blu-ray release is limited to 3,000 copies. Those who are interesting in buying it can order it directly from Twilight Time.

Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable

Release Date: September 11, 2012


Rich Gallagher

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Posted September 13 2012 - 04:39 PM

I have this disc and totally agree with this review...great disc and great review!



#3 of 6 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted September 13 2012 - 05:12 PM

Thanks, I appreciate that!


Rich Gallagher

#4 of 6 OFFLINE   AnthonyP

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Posted September 15 2012 - 02:19 AM

Ross died in 2001 and I do not know if this commentary appeared on a prior DVD version of Steel Magnolias.

According to DVD reviews, the commentary and isolated music score were on that also. The DVD also included some deleted scenes and a 23 minute featurette with interviews with Ross, Robert Harling and Shirley MacLaine.

#5 of 6 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted September 15 2012 - 06:20 AM

Originally Posted by AnthonyP 


According to DVD reviews, the commentary and isolated music score were on that also.
The DVD also included some deleted scenes and a 23 minute featurette with interviews with Ross, Robert Harling and Shirley MacLaine.


Thanks. I took a quick look on Amazon and it mentions the deleted scenes and two featurettes, but says nothing about the commentary in the description so I wasn't certain.


Rich Gallagher

#6 of 6 OFFLINE   AnthonyP

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Posted September 16 2012 - 05:29 AM

Amazon is useless for anything release related like tech specs and the like. DVDCompare and DVD-Basen usually will turn up some DVD reviews for most R1 releases.





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