Directed by Otto Preminger
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 87/88 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 English; Dolby Digital 1.0 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Review Date: February 15, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!