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Blu-ray Reviews

The Song of Bernadette Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 8 ONLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 25 2013 - 06:27 PM

The Song of Bernadette

One of cinema’s most authentic, beatific representations of faith, The Song of Bernadette still works its magic even seventy years after its premiere. Directed by Henry King, the film’s beautiful craftsmanship and exquisite handling of sensitive subject matter never goes for an overly pious or egregiously saintly tone. Instead, its purity comes, as with the title character herself, from within, delicately stepping around the exaggerations and overdrawn melodrama of earlier religious-themed films and emerging as one of the few faith-based movies that can be enjoyed by all whether they consider themselves to be religious or not.


Cover Art


Studio: Fox

Distributed By: Twilight Time

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)

Subtitles: English SDH

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 2 Hr. 36 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

Standard Case

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 03/26/2013

MSRP: $29.95




The Production Rating: 5/5

In the village of Lourdes in 1858, a simple peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones) has a series of visions of a beautiful lady whom many took to mean the Virgin Mary. Instructed by the lady, Bernadette scoops out a place in the ground where a spring with somewhat miraculous curative powers babbles which begins a series of pilgrimages to the site for the crippled and infirm. But town officials want nothing to do with Bernadette for fear that she’ll eventually be unmasked as a fraud which would make them look ridiculous. The town’s Imperial Prosecutor Vital Dutour (Vincent Price) continually interrogates her trying to make her slip up in her testimony, but she remains resolute. Even religious leaders shy away from her initially doubting her faith, especially her former instructor Sister Marie Therese Vauzous (Gladys Cooper), but eventually Father Peyramale (Charles Bickford) believes in her sincerity and recommends that she devote her life to God by becoming a nun.

Written by George Seaton (based on the book by Franz Werfel), the script does not shy away from the persistent doubt cast upon Bernadette by both political and religious leaders of France (the Catholic Church really comes off here as a tentative, graceless entity; the poor and simpler folk seem to have fewer questions about the earnestness of her faith) making the movie much less pious and sanctimonious than was typical for religious movies of the era. She’s mentally tortured and continually treated roughly despite evidence of the waters’ healing powers and even though Bernadette herself never claims the lady she saw was the Virgin. Henry King directs Bernadette’s initial encounter with the lady with simple grace and elegance and guides the entire film with a stylishness and simplicity that lets the wonderful words and the excellent performances speak for themselves.

Jennifer Jones had made some minor film appearances before this one under her real name Phyllis Isley, but the film introduces her in her new screen name to starring roles, and she’s entirely worthy of such an introduction. In a wonderfully spare but wholly committed performance, she’s utterly convincing as this simple French schoolgirl who never wavers from her belief in what she saw. With utmost dedication and seeming almost to glow from within, Jones is peerless in this role, certainly one of her greatest-ever performances. As her crusty mother who softens over time when she realizes her daughter’s unique place in history, Anne Revere is quite excellent. Charles Bickford, too, gets to temper his initial reluctance to believe over the course of the lengthy picture eventually becoming one of Bernadette’s staunchest supporters. Gladys Cooper as the nun filled with hatred and jealousy that so lowly a girl would be chosen for such a special experience gets some especially dramatic scenes to act which she handles with great authority. Vincent Price likewise has a meaty role as the cynical inquisitor intent on unmasking a fraud handling his chores nicely.



Video Rating: 3.5/5  3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. While sharpness is everything one would wish it to be, unfortunately time has left even this remastered version with a plethora of dirt and dust specks which are sometimes quite heavy. The grayscale is certainly above average though black levels are not always optimal, and shadow detail is sometimes only average. There is fading to be seen sometimes especially along the left side of the frame. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.



Audio Rating: 3/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix at its finest boasts excellent fidelity that really presents Alfred Newman’s exquisite Oscar-winning score to its best advantage. Sadly, there is a somewhat troubling undercurrent of low rattling noise on occasion and some hiss which intrudes on quieter scenes especially in the film’s second half. Dialogue has been well recorded and is always intelligible, but one wishes the sometimes distracting audio artifacts could have been dealt with with greater dexterity.



Special Features Rating: 3.5/5

Audio Commentary: comments from three speakers are interspersed during the film’s lengthy run time. Donald Spoto gives the film’s overview and speaks to its religious themes and treatment; Edward Z. Epstein comments on the work and career of Jennifer Jones; Jon Burlingame lends his expertise to analyzing Alfred Newman’s splendid score.

Isolated Score Track: Alfred Newman’s marvelous Oscar-winning score is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo. The disc also allows the viewer to play the film with or without the overture.

Theatrical Trailer: (1:53, SD)

Restoration Comparison: (3:32) shows split screen clips comparing the 1993 film transfer to its 2002 restoration.

Enclosed 6-page Booklet: contains black and white stills of the film, poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s appreciative essay on the movie.



Overall Rating: 4/5

The Song of Bernadette is one of the great classics of the era now coming to Blu-ray. Even with somewhat spotty video and audio, it’s such a wonderful film that the upgrade comes highly recommended. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to 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


Support HTF when you buy this title:
www.screenarchives.com



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#2 of 8 OFFLINE   Rob_Ray

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Posted March 26 2013 - 08:58 AM

Thanks, Matt.  I think this film has become somewhat overlooked in recent years and needs to be rediscovered by new generations for the fine masterwork that it is.  I'm happy that it's out on BluRay and wish Fox had enough confidence in it to release it themselves rather than hand it over to the fine folks at Twilight Time.



#3 of 8 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted March 30 2013 - 10:50 AM

Thanks, Matt.  I think this film has become somewhat overlooked in recent years and needs to be rediscovered by new generations for the fine masterwork that it is.  I'm happy that it's out on BluRay and wish Fox had enough confidence in it to release it themselves rather than hand it over to the fine folks at Twilight Time.

Fox doesn't seem to have taken the time to conduct a new image harvest and restoration. This appears to be the exact same HD master as the DVD. The audio seems to be from the same master as well. I'm very disappointed with this release.



#4 of 8 OFFLINE   Douglas R

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Posted March 30 2013 - 11:18 AM

I'm afraid I found this disappointing as well. The isolated music score is a plus but the picture quality is not much of an improvement over the DVD.


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#5 of 8 OFFLINE   Nick*Z

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Posted April 05 2013 - 04:48 PM

Yes, I was so excited about seeing this in hi-def, expecting the stellar efforts Fox had put forth on Ford's How Green Was My Valley but finding my viewing experience not much more impressive than my old DVD - and missing the Biography special on Jennifer Jones no less. I mean, if Fox couldn't even be bothered to go back and remove the obvious hair dangling in center frame during the entire opening credits sequence what hope was there for the rest of the transfer. 

 

No, it didn't live up to expectations - a shame because Fox has proven they know better. We just need to coax them in the right direction. The speckles of age could have been removed. It just takes time and money - commodities Fox was decidedly unwilling to lavish on this release. Contrast ought to have been corrected. There were a few sequences where the mid-register of gray was bleached out so as to obscure facial details. Image stabilization also should have been applied. Again, time and money.  I've already sent my letter to the powers that be. Now I'm voicing my displeasure herein.  

 

The way I feel about classics to hi-def is this - if it's good enough to be slated for a 1080p release, then it is owed every consideration to make sure the transfer is in optimal condition - period. If its a question of 'time' and 'money' make the investment. If that means fewer releases per year so be it. But they will be treasured longer than this one. I felt cheated. 



#6 of 8 OFFLINE   Ed Lachmann

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Posted April 28 2013 - 01:58 PM

BERNADETTE, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN and MANY SPLENDORED THING was and will be the only three of the recent batch I'll be rushing to buy.  Classic film people who want the early 20's through the late 60's stuff should be happy that they get released at all. Personally, I really enjoy my BERNADETTE and have few problems with it, but I suppose it could have been better.  Then, I compare it to my SPARTACUS and feel SO MUCH better. My real problem is that there are fewer and fewer films of this era being presented at all.  At least TT has a healthy regard for us, not so much as Olive but much more than the BD joke that is Warner Archives and MIA Universal.  Sad to remember the halcyon days of VHS and early DVD, when ten titles I REALLY wanted would appear magically every week.  In a way it is good to be able to save so much money by the studios being kind enough to put out so little that I'd even care to buy.



#7 of 8 OFFLINE   Nick*Z

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Posted May 12 2013 - 06:57 AM

I personally find it increasingly difficult to 'respect' the studios for the way they've been handling classics on hi-def. I'm not a curmudgeon or a complainer, but every studio with the exception of Sony has been dragging their heels on releasing classics to Blu-ray - or worse, slapping out substandard transfers that do not approximate the level of perfection possible if more time and money is being spent.

 

I noted recently that Warner Home Video is offering a 3D reissue of The Wizard of Oz in yet another lavish box set - and this only 5 years after releasing the first box sans 3D. To me, this is wasteful - particularly since those who truly love The Wizard of Oz and are purists for the art of movie making would never even think to watch it in 3D.

 

The money spent on retooling Oz and reissuing it to hi-def in what promises to be a lavish box set, could have been spent more prudently and productively on giving us such stellar movies as The Student Prince, The Merry Widow, The White Cliffs of Dover, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Gaslight, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Honky Tonk, Red Dust, The Philadelphia Story, The Valley of Decision, Weekend At The Waldorf, Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, the as yet unreleased A Guy Named Joe - in something better than shoddy burn-on-demand disc in the Warner 'archive' which has become a repository and dumping ground for both classics and crap on the marketplace.

 

Dare I suggest that the aforementioned (to say nothing of the multitude of titles I've managed to exclude herein) deserve hi-def transfers!!! Speaking of which, as an aside, The Merry Widow was improperly formatted to MOD. You have chapter stop menus over the main titles. Dumb! Really dumb! Is no one paying attention over there?!?!

 

But I digress. I think the only way we're likely to see more classics given the respect they're due is by boycotting the junk that's coming down the pipeline right now. Profits dictate what gets put out and how it gets put out.

 

So stop buying - not just classics - I mean everything - until the level of quality rises.

 

Several years ago I drafted a letter to George Feltenstein at WB and made the claim that if the studios had simply not wanted to improve the quality of home video they needn't have bothered introducing 1080p Blu-ray into the marketplace. You can't just debut hi-def and then offer at least half your product in substandard transfers and claim you've done the best you can with the source materials you have to work from - not when there's so many digital clean-up tools at your disposal. We live in an age of technological wizardry. While some films are arguably beyond repair, many more are not beyond basic improvement and a great many still capable of being rescued from their MIA purgatory and/or limbo. 

 

The studios argue that the market for hi-def classics is slim to nil - hence, few releases and lack of time, money and interest spent on getting the ones they do release in optimal quality. But they're theory is far too 'chicken and egg' to be taken at face value.

 

When the Warner machinery was going full steam during DVD's heyday - or at Fox or elsewhere for that matter - we had a lot of product getting released - not all of it perfectly - but a goodly number of titles getting at least the remedial clean up to make them half way presentable on home video. When Blu-ray debuted this commitment died out overnight.

 

Now it's 'archive titles' or the trickle of re-issues or titles being released through boutique labels like Twilight Time, Criterion, or in some cases as an Amazon or Wal-mart exclusive. 

 

Yet this has made the collector have to scrounge everywhere to get his/her classic movie fix. You really have to be aware and look around in order to find out what's being released and where. A lot of middling collectors, or even casual consumers who would otherwise buy these titles if they were sitting on a shelve at their local video store probably don't even know they're out there because the retail sell-through model of feeding everything down the same pipeline has been fragmented.

 

In my opinion this is a terrible misfire on the studio's part. I keep abreast of the market so I usually know what's coming out and when but even I get occasionally surprised in all my vigilance. 

 

What's the secret?!? Why do I have to suddenly find out that Funny Girl's coming to Amazon only or that At Long Last Love will make its way to Blu via Twilight Time? 

 

Dear studio exec's - if you want to sell your product to the public at large, make the public at large aware of your product first. Don't bury it in the back of the public consciousness and then expect that those of us who are looking for these titles will simply find them by conducting our own 'Easter egg hunt' all over the internet because they are, in fact, out there somewhere.

 

No, the current marketing platform is a bust. The proof is in what's getting released and what's not. Why The Rains of Ranchipur, as example, should have it's debut before the original Oscar-nominated The Rains Came (1939) - an infinitely superior movie - is frankly beyond me! 

 

I mean, come on! Can we really believe its 2013 and there are still no hi-def transfers of Best Picture winners, Cavalcade, The Greatest Show On Earth, The Great Ziegfeld, The Life of Emile Zola, You Can't Take It With You, Marty, Tom Jones, et al?!?

 

Can we really be functioning in a movie culture where such iconic Disney movies as Mary Poppins, Swiss Family Robinson, The Parent Trap, Pollyanna, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Old Yeller are still MIA?!?

 

Are we honestly supposed to be so gosh darn grateful when the studios give us mangled hi-def releases of such immortal classics as My Fair Lady, Marnie, The Man Who Knew Too Much and West Side Story?

 

No, my friends, something has to change and I am very much afraid that something is going to have to be our spending habits. Don't settle for what's being offering. Classics on home video used to be a buyer's market.

 

The public used to rattle the message boards and inundate the studios with requests and they used to listen.

 

I'm not an anarchist, but I've frankly had enough of the game. Oh, no - not enough to do an outright boycott. No lover of great movies can ever bring himself to do that. But I write and write a lot more to make both my praise and displeasure known. When a release is great I celebrate it. When it's pure pulp - a disc I can only see fit for being used in the future as a Frisbee or coaster for my drink (Marnie, The Man Who Knew Too Much and a handful of the Bond titles come immediately to mind here) then I make it known to the higher ups that they haven't won any points.

 

It's time we, the collectors amassed and became a little more proactive about what we're happy with and what makes our sprockets split. DO NOT take this matter lying down. I've used The Song of Bernadette as a prime example of Fox's finger being on the chicken switch. You can't trust Fox to do the right thing. For every Hello Dolly! or How Green Was My Valley we get a Song of Bernadette or Viva Zapata! the latter with not even the basic attention paid to eliminate its gate wobble from damaged sprockets. That's cheapening out in the extreme and guess what? We should take notice and umbrage when such releases get casually swept under the rug. I think I've said enough on the matter. I'll leave it for others to decide. But I'm not giving up or in. I'm a collector and a purist. Cutting corners today bankrupts our movie culture for generations yet to discover these touchstones of film making; generations that may not have such an opportunity long after my generation is dead and gone!



#8 of 8 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted May 12 2013 - 12:30 PM

I personally find it increasingly difficult to 'respect' the studios for the way they've been handling classics on hi-def. I'm not a curmudgeon or a complainer, but every studio with the exception of Sony has been dragging their heels on releasing classics to Blu-ray - or worse, slapping out substandard transfers that do not approximate the level of perfection possible if more time and money is being spent.

 

I noted recently that Warner Home Video is offering a 3D reissue of The Wizard of Oz in yet another lavish box set - and this only 5 years after releasing the first box sans 3D. To me, this is wasteful - particularly since those who truly love The Wizard of Oz and are purists for the art of movie making would never even think to watch it in 3D.

 

The money spent on retooling Oz and reissuing it to hi-def in what promises to be a lavish box set, could have been spent more prudently and productively on giving us such stellar movies as The Student Prince, The Merry Widow, The White Cliffs of Dover, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Gaslight, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Honky Tonk, Red Dust, The Philadelphia Story, The Valley of Decision, Weekend At The Waldorf, Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, the as yet unreleased A Guy Named Joe - in something better than shoddy burn-on-demand disc in the Warner 'archive' which has become a repository and dumping ground for both classics and crap on the marketplace.

 

Dare I suggest that the aforementioned (to say nothing of the multitude of titles I've managed to exclude herein) deserve hi-def transfers!!! Speaking of which, as an aside, The Merry Widow was improperly formatted to MOD. You have chapter stop menus over the main titles. Dumb! Really dumb! Is no one paying attention over there?!?!

 

But I digress. I think the only way we're likely to see more classics given the respect they're due is by boycotting the junk that's coming down the pipeline right now. Profits dictate what gets put out and how it gets put out.

 

So stop buying - not just classics - I mean everything - until the level of quality rises.

 

Several years ago I drafted a letter to George Feltenstein at WB and made the claim that if the studios had simply not wanted to improve the quality of home video they needn't have bothered introducing 1080p Blu-ray into the marketplace. You can't just debut hi-def and then offer at least half your product in substandard transfers and claim you've done the best you can with the source materials you have to work from - not when there's so many digital clean-up tools at your disposal. We live in an age of technological wizardry. While some films are arguably beyond repair, many more are not beyond basic improvement and a great many still capable of being rescued from their MIA purgatory and/or limbo. 

 

The studios argue that the market for hi-def classics is slim to nil - hence, few releases and lack of time, money and interest spent on getting the ones they do release in optimal quality. But they're theory is far too 'chicken and egg' to be taken at face value.

 

When the Warner machinery was going full steam during DVD's heyday - or at Fox or elsewhere for that matter - we had a lot of product getting released - not all of it perfectly - but a goodly number of titles getting at least the remedial clean up to make them half way presentable on home video. When Blu-ray debuted this commitment died out overnight.

 

Now it's 'archive titles' or the trickle of re-issues or titles being released through boutique labels like Twilight Time, Criterion, or in some cases as an Amazon or Wal-mart exclusive. 

 

Yet this has made the collector have to scrounge everywhere to get his/her classic movie fix. You really have to be aware and look around in order to find out what's being released and where. A lot of middling collectors, or even casual consumers who would otherwise buy these titles if they were sitting on a shelve at their local video store probably don't even know they're out there because the retail sell-through model of feeding everything down the same pipeline has been fragmented.

 

In my opinion this is a terrible misfire on the studio's part. I keep abreast of the market so I usually know what's coming out and when but even I get occasionally surprised in all my vigilance. 

 

What's the secret?!? Why do I have to suddenly find out that Funny Girl's coming to Amazon only or that At Long Last Love will make its way to Blu via Twilight Time? 

 

Dear studio exec's - if you want to sell your product to the public at large, make the public at large aware of your product first. Don't bury it in the back of the public consciousness and then expect that those of us who are looking for these titles will simply find them by conducting our own 'Easter egg hunt' all over the internet because they are, in fact, out there somewhere.

 

No, the current marketing platform is a bust. The proof is in what's getting released and what's not. Why The Rains of Ranchipur, as example, should have it's debut before the original Oscar-nominated The Rains Came (1939) - an infinitely superior movie - is frankly beyond me! 

 

I mean, come on! Can we really believe its 2013 and there are still no hi-def transfers of Best Picture winners, Cavalcade, The Greatest Show On Earth, The Great Ziegfeld, The Life of Emile Zola, You Can't Take It With You, Marty, Tom Jones, et al?!?

 

Can we really be functioning in a movie culture where such iconic Disney movies as Mary Poppins, Swiss Family Robinson, The Parent Trap, Pollyanna, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Old Yeller are still MIA?!?

 

Are we honestly supposed to be so gosh darn grateful when the studios give us mangled hi-def releases of such immortal classics as My Fair Lady, Marnie, The Man Who Knew Too Much and West Side Story?

 

No, my friends, something has to change and I am very much afraid that something is going to have to be our spending habits. Don't settle for what's being offering. Classics on home video used to be a buyer's market.

 

The public used to rattle the message boards and inundate the studios with requests and they used to listen.

 

I'm not an anarchist, but I've frankly had enough of the game. Oh, no - not enough to do an outright boycott. No lover of great movies can ever bring himself to do that. But I write and write a lot more to make both my praise and displeasure known. When a release is great I celebrate it. When it's pure pulp - a disc I can only see fit for being used in the future as a Frisbee or coaster for my drink (Marnie, The Man Who Knew Too Much and a handful of the Bond titles come immediately to mind here) then I make it known to the higher ups that they haven't won any points.

 

It's time we, the collectors amassed and became a little more proactive about what we're happy with and what makes our sprockets split. DO NOT take this matter lying down. I've used The Song of Bernadette as a prime example of Fox's finger being on the chicken switch. You can't trust Fox to do the right thing. For every Hello Dolly! or How Green Was My Valley we get a Song of Bernadette or Viva Zapata! the latter with not even the basic attention paid to eliminate its gate wobble from damaged sprockets. That's cheapening out in the extreme and guess what? We should take notice and umbrage when such releases get casually swept under the rug. I think I've said enough on the matter. I'll leave it for others to decide. But I'm not giving up or in. I'm a collector and a purist. Cutting corners today bankrupts our movie culture for generations yet to discover these touchstones of film making; generations that may not have such an opportunity long after my generation is dead and gone!

I agree with all the points you have raised here.


Edited by Lromero1396, May 12 2013 - 12:32 PM.






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