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Leave Her to Heaven Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 24 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted May 13 2013 - 05:10 PM

Leave Her to Heaven Blu-ray Review

A purple melodrama spawned during an era when such films were wildly popular with female audiences left at home while World War II raged on, John M. Stahl’s Leave Her to Heaven is actually a bit more restrained than its genre siblings like, say, Mildred Pierce or Mr. Skeffington, but it nonetheless focuses on one of the most coldly evil central female characters in movie history, and the film has stood the test of time better than some due to the relative restraint of its acting and a lovely controlled score by one of the greats, Alfred Newman.


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: 1 Hr. 50 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

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Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: All

Release Date: 05/14/2013

MSRP: $29.95




The Production Rating: 4/5

Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) makes up her mind she wants author Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) almost from the minute she meets him, and she’s such a controlling kind of person that she basically announces their engagement to her family before they’ve barely dated and does the proposing when Richard obviously wants to take things a little slower. Once she’s snared him, he becomes her entire life, and she’s resentful of anything or anyone who even for a moment comes between the two of them. That includes his younger brother Danny (Darryl Hickman) mildly afflicted with polio but slowly improving, her own sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain) who comes for a visit and endears herself to Richard by planting wisteria around the yard, the child that she and Richard conceive which necessitates turning her beloved father’s den into a nursery, and even Richard’s writing which she’d rather he give up to live on her own inheritance. Ellen makes it her business to eliminate the distractions to her and Richard’s relationship one by one as situations arise that give her the opportunities to do so.

Screenwriter Jo Swerling adapted Ben Ames Williams’ novel, but Ellen’s perverse machinations to keep her husband all to herself are still present even if they had to be tempered to fall in line with the MPAA Production Code of the era (and since the film’s structure is in flashback, that can allow the teller of the story to editorialize the events to minimize their unfeeling horror). Among the most vivid sequences in the film are Ellen’s murder of the helpless Danny so that it would appear to be an accident, her set-up for a terrible fall in order to induce a miscarriage, and the climactic courtroom scene where Ellen’s final strike at her innocent family from the grave comes horrifyingly to light. The absolutely gorgeous location camerawork in Arizona, Georgia, and Maine settings is captured in Leon Shamroy’s stunning color cinematography for which he justly won the 1945 Academy Award.

Gene Tierney scored her only Oscar nomination for her performance in the film. She’s rather obviously coldly calculating some of the time which begs the question why those around her weren’t more wary of her two-faced treachery hiding behind a mask of poise and beauty, but it’s certainly an effective performance of evil that won’t be forgotten once seen. Cornel Wilde, never the most forceful of actors, is just fine as the soft spoken author rather bowled over by the beauty who won’t take no for an answer and who only too late realizes what a monster he’s married. Darryl Hickman gives one of the most engaging juvenile performances of the 1940s while Mary Philips and Chill Wills offer solid support as Ellen’s worried mother and Richard’s lake house custodian. Jeanne Crain’s pretty blandness as Ellen’s younger sister is actually an asset here as it offers a strong contrast to the more flamboyant personality of her alpha sister. Vincent Price gets a bit carried away in his showboating turn as the district attorney trying Ruth for murder, but he certainly holds the frame decisively.



Video Rating: 4/5  3D Rating: NA

The film has been framed at its theatrical 1.33:1 aspect ratio and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is the most spectacular facet of this transfer with sparkling clarity in all of the medium shots and close-ups. An occasional long shot will offer slightly smudged details and mottled color. Fox engineers have done the best they could with the Eastmancolor elements they had to work with in bringing the movie as close as possible to its former Technicolor brilliance. However, skin tones do sometimes look flat, almost as if they had been colorized and are thus sometimes a bit unrealistic. But while there is no mistaking that this is not Technicolor we’re watching, the images can still be beautiful. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix has been cleaned up wonderfully and offers very nice sound reproduction for a film from this era without distracting hiss, pops, or crackle. Dialogue is always strong and easy to understand, and Alfred Newman’s score and the sound effects never intrude on our hearing and understanding what’s being said.



Special Features Rating: 3/5

Audio Commentary: Critic Richard Schickel and actor Darryl Hickman have been recorded separately with their comments edited together. Schickel gives some brief biographical information about the actors and his own reactions to the film while Hickman relates not only his own (not always happy) experiences making the film but also offers fascinating stories of what it was like to be a child actor in Hollywood at the time.

Isolated Score Track: offered in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (mono).

Theatrical Trailer (2:11, SD)

Newsreels (2:20, SD): two Movietone newsreel excerpts detailing the film’s Hollywood premiere and the subsequent Oscar ceremony showing Leon Shamroy accepting his award along with some other business with host Bob Hope.

Enclosed 6-Page Booklet: offers stills from the film, poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s always interesting liner notes on the film.



Overall Rating: 4/5

Leave Her to Heaven is wonderful melodramatic filmmaking from the 1940s featuring memorable performances and some beautiful location photography. Only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray from Twilight Time have been manufactured so 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


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#2 of 24 OFFLINE   Nick*Z

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Posted May 13 2013 - 06:01 PM

Leave Her To Heaven remains a powerful noir (in color) with Gene Tierney giving possibly her best performance. Okay, it's a tie between this movie and Laura. This transfer is about what I expected. But I was under the impression Leave Her To Heaven was a Technicolor movie - 3 strip - and not Eastman. 

 

Poster art of the day seems to suggest as much as does the look of the film. Now, if Fox took those original 3 strip elements in the late 50s and transferred them onto Eastman stock for preservation while doing away with the old archival masters (which I wouldn't be surprised) then that's an entirely different matter. But Leave Her To Heaven in its original presentation was absolutely Technicolor.  Eastman's monopack didn't come into prominence and mainstream usage until after 1950 although I understand they had introduced a more costly precursor to monopack as early as 1935 or thereabouts.

 

This disc is an impressive upgrade. I just wish Twilight Time would give us better cover art. Honestly, talk about bad Photoshop. Even I can do better than this! 



#3 of 24 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted May 13 2013 - 06:09 PM

Leave Her To Heaven remains a powerful noir (in color) with Gene Tierney giving possibly her best performance. Okay, it's a tie between this movie and Laura. This transfer is about what I expected. But I was under the impression Leave Her To Heaven was a Technicolor movie - 3 strip - and not Eastman. 

 

Poster art of the day seems to suggest as much as does the look of the film. Now, if Fox took those original 3 strip elements in the late 50s and transferred them onto Eastman stock for preservation while doing away with the old archival masters (which I wouldn't be surprised) then that's an entirely different matter. But Leave Her To Heaven in its original presentation was absolutely Technicolor.  Eastman's monopack didn't come into prominence and mainstream usage until after 1950 although I understand they had introduced a more costly precursor to monopack as early as 1935 or thereabouts.

 

This disc is an impressive upgrade. I just wish Twilight Time would give us better cover art. Honestly, talk about bad Photoshop. Even I can do better than this! 

 

As you'll read in many threads and reviews of Fox Technicolor films of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, they junked their Technicolor elements in the 1970s and saved only elements in Eastmancolor. Hence my comments in the visual quality review area. Look at this and compare it to Meet Me in St. Louis on Blu-ray, and you'll know you're NOT looking at Technicolor.



#4 of 24 OFFLINE   Nick*Z

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Posted May 13 2013 - 06:13 PM

Agreed. Just wasn't sure when Fox junked their Technicolor elements. Fools!



#5 of 24 OFFLINE   John Hermes

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Posted May 13 2013 - 06:45 PM

Agreed. Just wasn't sure when Fox junked their Technicolor elements. Fools!

Courtesy of Robert Harris:

 

Around 1976, with an apparent fear of nitrate stock, certain execs at Fox decided that it would be appropriate to "convert" to safety any and all nitrate holdings.

There are two ways to perform this. The first, and least expensive, would be to create new safety fine grains from each of the original black & white nitrate Technicolor records, and then re-composite said records to a new color dupe negative. This would be performed after a test print had been produced, checking for dupes, alignment of records and other potential problems.

The precise same methodology would deal with black & white productions, less the alignment tests.

These actions would have preserved the library AT ITS ORIGINAL QUALITY.

Once all elements would be produced, tested and answer printed, the original nitrate elements would go into archival storage, lest they be needed again. The LoC, UCLA, GEH, or MOMA would all have been perfect places to shepherd the elements.

The other way to "preserve" an entire library would be the route taken by Fox, one of the most notoriously idiotic things ever done in the history of film, and IMHO worse than the great silent purge at Universal, c. 1948.

What these knights of film preservation did, was to take original Technicolor negatives, and without testing, combine the records to a single safety color dupe negative stock called CRI, thus saving one generation of loss, and not going through an intermediate stage.

CRI stock was not meant for archival printing, and generally has a shelf life of less than ten years, properly stored, before it quickly begins to fade.

The fact that proper alignment was not done was error one.

The fact that CRI stock was used was error two.

Had proper testing been performed, there would have been nothing wrong using CRI as an immediate printing element, but not for archival use. While the resultant prints could potentially, if created from fully exposed negatives, be very pretty, there were registration errors printed in, and color timing generally did not replicate the original intent of the filmmakers.

Once the CRIs were produced, the lab then made error three.

New separation masters, from partially registered, improperly graded, and in many cases, overly dupey and contrasty CRIs were struck. These new "archival" elements, replicated in quick and dirty separated records, what had been improperly exposed to the CRI.

Once all of these miracles were performed, every original nitrate Technicolor three-strip negative was junked. Every (I believe one survived) set of three-strip nitrate fine grains were junked.

Every black & white nitrate negative was junked.

Every black & white fine grain master was junked of Fox's holdings. A small number may have survived at archives.

Fortunately, the Fox nitrate studio prints went to UCLA.

Rumor has it, that the nitrate elements were taken out into the Pacific on barges, and dumped, but that may just be rumor.

Today, because of the unprofessionalism of those who came before them, do the best that they can with what survives.

None of the Techniciolor films have been restored, no matter what you may read. Films such as The Black Swan, which won the Academy Award for Best Color Cinematography, and Leave Her to Heaven, with its beautiful Technicolorish tones are digital clean-ups based upon the extant elements, with a good attempt at making them look nice. But far from original.

While digital technology is helpful, it cannot repair the damage done to these films.

Every time I think of this unfortunate situation, Henry Hull's words, as spoken in both Jesse James and The Return of Frank James come to mind.

Fortunately, every other studio had the foresight and technical knowledge to take care of and properly store their libraries.

Let's look to the bright side.

RAH 

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but


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#6 of 24 OFFLINE   Robin9

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Posted May 13 2013 - 09:29 PM

Thanks for the review.

 

I'm very pleased that Fox have somehow managed to produce really good images for this BRD. The DVD was way below what this film deserves. I've pre-ordered but it will be interesting to see how well this disc sells.



#7 of 24 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted May 14 2013 - 11:18 AM

Are there any registration errors or color fringing associated with misaligned 3-strip records? All Fox Technicolor films duped and junked in the '70s seem to suffer from this problem.



#8 of 24 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted May 14 2013 - 12:25 PM

I saw no such problems.



#9 of 24 OFFLINE   Mark VH

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Posted May 15 2013 - 05:12 AM

Anybody know what's going on with the shipping of this? The Screen Archives site still has the pre-order page up, but the ship date was supposed to be yesterday. Has there been any kind of delay reported? Anxious to get my hands on it.



#10 of 24 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted May 15 2013 - 09:11 AM

Anybody know what's going on with the shipping of this? The Screen Archives site still has the pre-order page up, but the ship date was supposed to be yesterday. Has there been any kind of delay reported? Anxious to get my hands on it.

Still no shipping notice. :( I hope TT and SA have some sort of announcement on this coming.



#11 of 24 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted May 15 2013 - 10:13 AM

Mine shipped today so you should be getting ship notices very soon.

Crawdaddy

 

Blu-ray Preorder Listing

 


#12 of 24 OFFLINE   Dave B Ferris

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Posted May 15 2013 - 11:05 AM

Sure enough, Crawdaddy, I just received my shipping notice, too.



#13 of 24 OFFLINE   Rob_Ray

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Posted May 15 2013 - 01:30 PM

Mine shipped within the last hour.



#14 of 24 OFFLINE   Dave B Ferris

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Posted May 15 2013 - 01:59 PM

Mine shipped within the last hour.

 

We're both in Southern California (I'm in Tustin), so we'll have a race! 

 

When I first started receiving shipments from Twilight Time, I would receive the actual shipment two-days after receiving the shipping notice.  I thought that was super fast.  Then, on one occasion, I looked at the information above the endicia code - the package had apparently been shipped the day before I received the notice.



#15 of 24 OFFLINE   Rob_Ray

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Posted May 15 2013 - 02:14 PM

We're both in Southern California (I'm in Tustin), so we'll have a race! 

 

When I first started receiving shipments from Twilight Time, I would receive the actual shipment two-days after receiving the shipping notice.  I thought that was super fast.  Then, on one occasion, I looked at the information above the endicia code - the package had apparently been shipped the day before I received the notice.

I'm in Cerritos, so the race is on!  I notice I had a tracking number long before my order was changed from PENDING to SHIPPED.  It's due to arrive on the 18th via First Class Mail, so we'll see.



#16 of 24 OFFLINE   jsteed

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Posted May 15 2013 - 03:18 PM

I just received a shipping notice as well, can't wait to get it.

#17 of 24 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted May 16 2013 - 12:13 PM

I received my notice yesterday as well. Since I'm in the deep south, I'm not expecting it to get here until Saturday.



#18 of 24 OFFLINE   Rob_Ray

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Posted May 16 2013 - 12:49 PM

I received my notice yesterday as well. Since I'm in the deep south, I'm not expecting it to get here until Saturday.

How deep are you?  Mine's shipping from Virginia and it's due to be in Southen California by Friday.



#19 of 24 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted May 17 2013 - 08:43 AM

How deep are you?  Mine's shipping from Virginia and it's due to be in Southen California by Friday.

Northern Georgia. I believe the shipping notice said it would arrive by Saturday afternoon, but I haven't bothered checking since then.


Edited by Lromero1396, May 17 2013 - 08:44 AM.


#20 of 24 OFFLINE   Rob_Ray

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Posted May 17 2013 - 01:02 PM

According to the tracking site, my copy is out for delivery this afternoon.   I hope to be watching it tonight.







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