A gothic romance done up in the grand studio style distinguishes Robert Stevenson’s Jane Eyre. Featuring top-notch star performances from both adult and child performers and suffused with enough mood and mystery to thrill even the most demanding viewer, Jane Eyre stands tall with other notable gothic pieces like Rebecca and Wuthering Heights while not quite matching their overall breathtaking allure.
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. 36 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Release Date: 11/12/2013
After ten years of harsh drudgery at the Lowood Institution, Jane Eyre (Peggy Ann Garner as a child, Joan Fontaine as an adult) finds a position as a governess at Edward Rochester’s (Orson Welles) estate Thornfield tutoring his young ward Adele Varens (Margaret O'Brien). The home is well named for its master has a thorny, brusque demeanor that it takes Jane some time to adjust to, but she’s so happy to be in a place of comfort where her talents are appreciated that she doesn’t mind her employer’s eccentricities. But there are strange noises at night: scratching at doors and screams on occasion, and Mr. Rochester’s bedroom is even set on fire on one occasion. But Jane grows to have tender feelings for Edward and is dismayed to learn that the wealthy and beautiful Blanche Ingram (Hillary Brooke) seems to have the inside track on getting a marriage proposal from Edward.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Another of Hollywood’s sterling condensations of a classic book, the script for the film was penned by director Robert Stevenson along with Aldous Huxley and John Houseman, and while admirers of the novel may be disconcerted by the abridgement (the ending comes very fast, almost as if the writers and director were under the gun to finish things quickly), all of the book’s salient points in the main story are touched on. Director Stevenson has done a remarkable job extending the book’s gothic elements to the big screen with its brooding protagonist, a mysterious expansive house holding many secrets, and endless shadows stretching almost into infinity. Even with a mostly studio-bound production, there is a vastness and wildness to the mise-en-scène that the movie captures wonderfully, nowhere more prominently than in Orson Welles’ bursting onto the scene some thirty minutes into the movie. It’s a real movie star entrance, but it establishes the curt brutishness of Rochester’s manner quite brilliantly and allows the viewer to watch as Jane chips away at it bit by bit until he becomes almost human.
After scoring two Oscar nominations (and one win) for two timid young women in Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Suspicion, Joan Fontaine etches another memorable portrait of a reticent though determined naïf as the title character. She’s eager to please but with a rod of iron down her spine as she faces one unusual circumstance after another during her time at Thornfield. And Peggy Ann Garner is a most believable younger version of Fontaine as the younger Jane with fire in her eyes even when downtrodden by her elders. Orson Welles’ Rochester may not be quite as appealing and heartbreaking as Laurence Olivier’s Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, but his equal parts bluster and insecurity are entertainingly combined and his character grows on the viewer. Margaret O’Brien is an engaging youngster as the ward Adele (coincidentally, O’Brien and Garner would win consecutive special Oscars as juvenile performers within the next two years). The film offers an embarrassment of riches in the character actors in supporting roles: John Sutton as the kindly Dr. Rivers, Sara Allgood as the loving Bessie, Edith Barrett as the sweetly efficient Mrs. Fairfax, and the film’s two key villains: Agnes Moorehead as the viperous aunt Mrs. Reed and Henry Daniell as the cruelly sanctimonious Brocklehurst. Hillary Brooke is a lovely and haughty Blanche Ingram while Ethel Griffies can be spied quickly as Grace Poole, caretaker to Thornfield’s most infamous resident. And, yes, that’s the young Elizabeth Taylor as Jane’s sickly young friend at Lowood in one of her earliest performances.
The film is framed at its theatrical 1.33:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is good rather than great, and the grayscale doesn’t feature blacks of the inkiest variety. Grain levels rise in the shadows of a couple of key scenes, but whites are clear and clean, and while there are some stray dust specks here and there and a slight bit of damage, the image is mostly quite evocative and alluring (the transfer handles the heavy fog quite well). The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix offers good fidelity for its era. Dialogue is clear throughout (the use of ADR makes itself known on several occasions), and engineers have cleaned the track of any age-related artifacts that might distract one’s attention. Bernard Herrmann’s score has a firm authority throughout and yet it nor the sound effects ever compromise the dialogue.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentaries: the disc features two wonderful ones. In the first, Welles biographer Joseph McBride and actress Margaret O’Brien both speak in detail in separate interviews which have been edited together into a single track. In the second, film historians Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo, and Steven C. Smith offer their own lucid takes on the film with lots of anecdotal and analytical information that make it a must-listen.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Isolated Score Track: Bernard Herrmann’s magnificent score is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.
Locked in the Tower: The Men Behind Jane Eyre (18;48, SD): film historians Scott McIsaac and Bob Thomas along with Robert Stevenson’s widow and children (among others) speak about Orson Welles and director Robert Stevenson, the two primary creative forces behind the film.
Know Your Ally Britain (42:12, SD): World War II propaganda documentary directed by Robert Stevenson.
Theatrical Trailer (2:16, SD)
Six-Page Booklet: contains a number of stills from the movie, poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s always astute essay on the movie.
A gloriously entertaining gothic romance, Jane Eyre makes a welcome stateside debut on Blu-ray via Twilight Time. 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 .
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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