Re previous post, no sooner said than it finally arrived. I'm absolutely delighted with the picture quality. Sound is good, too. I originally had Show Boat on Laser Disc. Watching this brilliant restoration is like seeing the movie for the first time.
Just watched this for the very first time last night. I went in completely cold as I haven't seen the MGM remake, nor familiar with the original play. This is such a great film! Plenty of catchy songs, every single performance is wonderful, and there's not a shot in the film that isn't beautiful. And while there's still one scene that's a little irksome, I'm astonished by how the film portrays racial issues of the day. Paul Robeson's performance stands out, with much of "Old Man River" being done in close-up and with stylized inserts. Irene Dunne and Allan Jones are equally wonderful (having only seen Jones in A Night in the Opera, I felt his was kind of wooden in that, but great here). And the scene with Charles Winnegger performing the rest of the play alone is genius.
Without having seen this before, I don't know what to compare the restoration to, but the film is flat-out gorgeous here. I assume there was a lot of optical work done originally (some times it's obvious), but most of the film just looks fresh out of the can. This is the sort of film you can show to someone to show how beautiful black and white can be.
Criterion has been knocking it out of the park this year!
Just watched the restoration tonight. It looks and sounds incredible. I saw this version way back in the early 70's at the Virginia Museum film society. Despite its flaws I would love to see the '51 version restored. I guess the restoration costs must outweigh any potential market for the blu ray.