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Laura Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 31 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted February 15 2013 - 10:04 AM

One of the greatest noir mysteries ever made, Otto Preminger’s Laura is even more celebrated today than it was when it first premiered. Offering a brilliant sound debut in films for one of its principal cast members while firmly establishing its director as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, Laura has allure and romance and secrets to spare and is one of those films where repeat visits are rewarded with ever deeper forays into the nature of obsession and deception.






Laura (Blu-ray)
Directed by Otto Preminger

Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 1944
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 87/88 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 English; Dolby Digital 1.0 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish


Region: A
MSRP: $ 24.99



Release Date: February 5, 2013

Review Date: February 15, 2013




The Film

5/5


When the body of a woman with her face blasted away by a shotgun is found in the apartment of Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), all of Laura’s friends become suspects in the murder of this glamorous, bewitching creature. Among them are cynical columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), Laura's fiancé Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), wealthy widow Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson), and perhaps a few others: a model who worked at Laura’s advertising agency who was also involved with Shelby, Laura’s housekeeper (Dorothy Adams), and Jacoby (John Dexter) who had painted a portrait of Laura that hangs over her fireplace. As he spends time investigating all of the suspects, Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) begins to be drawn into the spell that Laura cast making his job even more difficult once he begins to lose perspective. Then, events unfold that turn the murder of Laura into something else entirely and make McPherson’s job even more difficult.


The screenplay by Jay Dratler, Betty Reinhardt, and Samuel Hoffenstein adapted from the novel by Vera Caspary is a beautiful piece of work wisely spending the first half of the film with Lydecker serving as the narrator of Laura’s discovery and rise to power in her advertising agency while detailing her grooming by him into a social butterfly and her succession of boy friends only to find the film abruptly halted and spun off in a different direction midway through. Lydecker’s narration ceases at that time since he’s as much a victim of the film’s major twist as anyone, but the film’s genius lies in having the initial suspects remaining under suspicion while adding one major new player to the pool of potential murderers. If the romance that blooms in the film’s final third of the movie is a bit abrupt, it’s typical of movie romances of the day and not unexpected. The mystery’s solution is a fair and logical one, and Otto Preminger’s direction doesn’t rush through final reel clues before the unmasking of the culprit. With the mystery being so solid and the direction so assured and unfussy, the lush decors and the brilliant music by David Raksin wrap the film in a cocoon of romantic yet enigmatic magnetism that few films can match.


Gene Tierney makes a most convincing title character. Her unselfconscious beauty and poise in scenes as the sophisticated Laura are nicely contrasted with other scenes where as the unsophisticated, eager ad agency worker who knows little about clothes, wine, music, or men, she wins people over through her kindness and lack of pretension. As the film deals with three men who are in various stages of obsession with Laura, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, and Vincent Price all play their parts with superb control. Webb, of course, was the breakout star from the movie earning an Oscar nomination and establishing a film persona which would serve him well for the remainder of his time in movies. Dana Andrews’ natural good looks and unadorned confidence gets a bit of a drubbing as he falls under Laura’s spell while Vincent Price plays the weak and insincere Shelby with as much unctuous charm as he can muster. Judith Anderson makes another strong impression as the wealthy patroness infatuated with Shelby and not above groveling to win him for herself. Dorothy Adams is also quite wonderful in a few select scenes as Laura’s steadfast maid.



Video Quality

3.5/5


The film’s 1.33:1 original theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. At its best, the image is wonderfully sharp with a snappy grayscale which offers clean whites, rich blacks, and superb contrast. The problem is that there aren’t many of those scenes. Much of the film offers a bit milkier contrast and sharpness that’s not optimum. Black levels can sometimes be quite gray looking rather than the inky blacks one would wish for this great film. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.



Audio Quality

4/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 soundtrack features a sound mix that’s likely the best the movie has ever sounded on home video. While fidelity might not be exemplary, it’s generally strong and never allows David Raksin’s hypnotic music to overpower the scintillating dialogue spoken by the actors. There might be a bit of attenuated hiss from time to time, but you’ll only notice it in the quietest scenes.



Special Features

4/5


There are two audio commentaries. Film historian Jeanne Basinger holds court on the first one with occasional edited-in comments by composer David Raksin. Movie historian Rudy Behlmer contributes the second one. Behlmer’s track is the more researched one, and fans of the movie will want to hear what he’s uncovered. Basinger’s track begins well with information about the major actors and their careers but by the halfway point, she’s reduced to describing what we’re seeing on the screen. Raksin’s comments are interesting but really don’t command much time.


The disc offers both the original theatrical cut and the extended movie version (which runs about a minute longer).


All of the bonus video material is presented in 480i.


There are two episodes of the series Biography which concentrate on the lives and careers of Gene Tierney (44 ¼ minutes) and Vincent Price (44 minutes). Peter Graves narrates the Tierney biography which focuses on the notable amount of tragedy and ill luck the actress endured during her career. The Price program concentrates not just on his films but also his interests in art and cuisine. Both are excellent examples of the Emmy-winning program’s ability to make biographies interesting and absorbing.


“The Obsession” is a 12 ½-minute video essay on the movie featuring analysis by, among others, film historians James Ursini, Alain Silver, and Dr. Drew Casper, film director Carl Franklin, and music historian John Morgan.


The deleted scene which is included in the extended edition of the movie is also offered as a bonus feature. With surrounding shots which weren’t deleted, this clip runs 2 ½ minutes.


The theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.



In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)


One of the supreme noir mysteries of the 1940s, Laura is must-see viewing for all film buffs interested in great movies. While the image quality isn’t reference, it’s certainly acceptable and imminently viewable and may well be the best high definition release of this classic we’re ever likely to get. Recommended!



Matt Hough

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#2 of 31 OFFLINE   Keith Cobby

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Posted February 15 2013 - 10:36 AM

Thanks for the review. I have previously posted that I am hesitating on upgrading from the reasonably good DVD. I measure picture quality of b&w Blu-ray against the best I have (Casablanca and The Big Heat) and it is disappointing that Fox have not provided a better product (if this is possible) of one of their most important films. The dilemma is, if you buy this you are accepting the quality and if you don't then it is much less likely Fox will dig much deeper into their catalogue film noir. I think I am buying.

#3 of 31 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted February 15 2013 - 12:08 PM

First off, I'm irritated by those complaining about this release. If we complain about this release, which looks as good as it can due to mediocre condition of the source, Fox will not feel compelled to release classics on Blu-ray. I mean if it's a DNR problem, then I complain. But, if the issue pertains to the source, I just accept it and move on.

#4 of 31 OFFLINE   DennisBassi

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Posted February 15 2013 - 05:10 PM

Who made his/her sound debut in this picture?

#5 of 31 OFFLINE   larryKR

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Posted February 15 2013 - 05:34 PM

Reviewing or members posting that "Laura" has video problems is telling the truth, not complaining. Would you prefer that Matt not mention the video quality in his review? I bought the BD and I would rate the video quality lower than the score Matt gave it.

#6 of 31 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted February 15 2013 - 05:41 PM

Originally Posted by DennisBassi 

Who made his/her sound debut in this picture?

Clifton Webb.


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#7 of 31 OFFLINE   Reed Grele

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Posted February 15 2013 - 05:42 PM

Who made his/her sound debut in this picture?

Clifton Webb As Maxwell Smart used to say "Missed it by that much" :D

#8 of 31 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted February 15 2013 - 05:49 PM

Originally Posted by larryKR 

Reviewing or members posting that "Laura" has video problems is telling the truth, not complaining.
Would you prefer that Matt not mention the video quality in his review? I bought the BD and I would
rate the video quality lower than the score Matt gave it.

I thought his 3.5 rating was lower than my rating of 4 and even RAH's rating of the same.







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#9 of 31 OFFLINE   jeffsultanof

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Posted February 16 2013 - 05:58 AM

As most of us should know, the more popular a film, the chances are that it survives in less-than-stellar condition. I saw a 35MM print of Laura in the eighties, and there were all sorts of little problems. In a way, it is wonderful that we have become so spoiled by the high quality of Blu-ray releases in the last few years, particularly of titles that show their age and popularity (of course there's always The Hitchcock box). Thank goodness it looks and sounds as good as it does.

#10 of 31 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted February 16 2013 - 08:08 AM

Hmm, Amazon has temporarily stopped selling it:



This item is currently unavailable because customers have told us there may be something wrong with our inventory of the item, the way we are shipping it, or the way it's described here. (Thanks for the tip!)

We're working to fix the problem as quickly as possible.




#11 of 31 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted February 16 2013 - 08:21 AM

Hmm, Amazon has temporarily stopped selling it:

This is why I don't appreciate the afformentioned complainers.

#12 of 31 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted February 16 2013 - 08:27 AM

Reviewing or members posting that "Laura" has video problems is telling the truth, not complaining. Would you prefer that Matt not mention the video quality in his review? I bought the BD and I would rate the video quality lower than the score Matt gave it.

First off, my post was not directed at Matt, although I do think he was a bit harsh on the image quality. I was specifically refering to the fact that Amazon has stopped selling it due to complaints. Also, one must understand the condotion of the source and rate the video accordingly. Read Robert Harris's thoughts on this title. I think he wrote a review with better insight on the condition of the film source. Laura's original elements have been lost and all that survives are dupe safety elements created in the 1970s without any concern for quality. That is part of the reason why Laura looks as it does, in addition to the filmmaking technologies of the time.

#13 of 31 OFFLINE   larryKR

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Posted February 16 2013 - 01:37 PM

It's just my opinion, but if you are going to rate video quality and assign it a score, you have to be consistent and fair. You can't make exceptions and and give a release with source condition problems a free pass and an artificial high score.

#14 of 31 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted February 16 2013 - 01:52 PM

It's just my opinion, but if you are going to rate video quality and assign it a score, you have to be consistent and fair. You can't make exceptions and and give a release with source condition problems a free pass and an artificial high score.

Laura would not be an exception. There are many releases which would fit the same parameters. Honestly, I just don't think people in general (I'm not saying Matt is complaining) should complain to Fox about the quality of this release unless it is a technical issue where the disc has been digitally processed to death, which Laura has not, or if there are authoring or other technical issues. If we complain about a release as good as this, Fox will not be compelled to release more classics with somewhat problematic film elements like Laura's on Blu-Ray.

#15 of 31 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted February 16 2013 - 04:49 PM

Originally Posted by larryKR 

It's just my opinion, but if you are going to rate video quality and assign it a score, you have to be consistent and fair. You can't make exceptions and
and give a release with source condition problems a free pass and an artificial high score.

Why can't you, it's your personal rating system.


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#16 of 31 OFFLINE   larryKR

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Posted February 16 2013 - 08:47 PM

I would rate something truly exceptional like the BD "Casablanca" (70th ann.) a perfect score 5/5. BD's like "Experiment in Terror", "The Big Heat", and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" surely deserve a 4/5. You seem to want to give "Laura" a score of 4/5, but in my opinion the video quality comes up way short of the above mentioned 4/5 blu-rays. If you are going to give a BD release like "Laura" an artificial high score because Fox did what it could with a poor source, it isn't fair to other BD releases that actually do look good and have earned their higher scores. A scoring system is worthless if the same rules don't apply to all. I'm not complaining about "Laura", I'm just posting how it looks to me on my display. I bought the BD and I like the film.

#17 of 31 OFFLINE   Keith Cobby

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Posted February 16 2013 - 09:00 PM

Ratings, particularly of picture quality, are obviously very subjective. I generally find my own ratings are, on average, slightly less than reviewers. We all want the picture quality of our favourite films to be exemplary. I will upgrade to Blu-ray for my favourite films, but those others which I like and where the DVD is good enough I will only upgrade if the picture quality is excellent. Laura fits into this second category for me. Having read further reviews and considered the comments on HTF I am still undecided.

#18 of 31 OFFLINE   Keith Cobby

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Posted February 16 2013 - 09:04 PM

larryKR was posting while I was reviewing my comments. I haven't got the most recent Casablanca Blu-ray but I wholly agree with his remarks about ratings.

#19 of 31 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted February 17 2013 - 05:24 AM

Originally Posted by larryKR 

I would rate something truly exceptional like the BD "Casablanca" (70th ann.) a perfect score 5/5.
BD's like "Experiment in Terror", "The Big Heat", and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" surely deserve a 4/5.
You seem to want to give "Laura" a score of 4/5, but in my opinion the video quality comes up way short of the above mentioned 4/5 blu-rays.

If you are going to give a BD release like "Laura" an artificial high score because Fox did what it could with a poor source, it isn't fair to other BD releases that actually do look good and have earned their higher scores.
A scoring system is worthless if the same rules don't apply to all.

I'm not complaining about "Laura", I'm just posting how it looks to me on my display. I bought the BD and I like the film.

IMO, Casablanca is the benchmark for all other B&W films on BD.  With that said, I thought Laura was a 4 which is a far cry from being the benchmark on my personal grading system.








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#20 of 31 OFFLINE   larryKR

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Posted February 17 2013 - 05:51 AM

Well for me a 5/5 is only for that rare release which is perfect, while a 4/5 is very very good but not at the benchmark level. I would score Laura somewhere between 2.5 and 3. If you give the new BD of Laura a high score in video quality, then you have to give practically all BD's a high score, which is like saying all BD's look the same. Anyway I think I've said enough about my views of the video quality of Laura, and I seem to be repeating myself. I am perfectly willing to let it be. Cheers to our wonderful hobby of watching and collecting films on BD.





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