The new Criterion Blu-ray solves a single problem, which is availability of the Twilight Time original. This is important, as Leave Her to Heaven is an important film, that should be available. Hats off to Criterion for making it so.
That noted, there seems to be some misinformation regarding the transfer.
These are not restorations. Rather, they are digital clean-ups derived from second and third generation elements, which allow a decent hint as to the appearance of the Technicolor original, while never replicating it.
The two releases appear identical, and are both based upon the work performed at Lowry Digital in 2006. Our working continuity is dated 28 June 2006, and that work was based upon our process of recombining alien layers of disparate elements.
I’m unaware of anything that might be construed as a 2012 restoration. Possibly someone came up with that date, presuming whatever might have been done, to have pre-dated the Twilight Time by twelve months or so.
Below are my original thoughts published on 15 May 2013, for the Twilight Time Blu-ray release.
I’ve always been an easy target for a great ghost story, or especially in the cinema, noir.
While there have been dozens of great noir projects over the years — at least since the mid-1940s. There have been very few played out in open vistas and bright sunlit exteriors.
Which makes John Stahl’s 1945 Leave Her to Heaven, with what were originally magnificent Technicolor set-pieces, one of those anomalies.
Acted by some of the best from the Fox stock company of players, and with the luminous Gene Tierney in the lead, the film is one of those of which it can be said — “the stuff that dreams are made of.” Or in this case, nightmares.
You know I don’t give away plot, and I’ll certainly not begin here.
Like the rest of the Fox library, all of the original elements for Leave Her to Heaven were poorly copied, and then junked in the mid-’70s. What was left seven or eight years ago was not a pretty picture.
But here’s where some interesting digital technology comes in, and led by Fox’s Schawn Belston, with support from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and The Film Foundation, the film is once again far more than viewable.
This isn’t a restoration, mind you, in any sense of the word. It’s very much a digital triage, using extant elements and making something very nice out of them.
While Leave Her to Heaven looks nothing like it would have from pure three-strip Technicolor negatives or fine grains, with the work performed, we can get a very good peek inside that look, and still come away impressed.
Grain is a bit soft, but the film looks fine, even in projection. Shadow detail a bit lacking. Color overall is very acceptable.
There are a handful of problematic shots. Dupes and thinner exposures generally, and an occasional bit of mis-registration, but considering the alternative, Twilight Time’s new Blu-ray from Fox, is nothing less than miraculous — literally a sow’s ear turned into a silk purse.
Image – 3.5
Audio – 4
One of the great and timeless films of the era.