THE BLACK SWAN STUDIO CLASSICS COLLECTION #38 Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year: 1942 Length: 85 minutes Genre: Adventure/Romance Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Colour/B&W: Technicolor Audio: English 2.0 mono English 2.0 stereo Spanish 2.0 mono French 2.0 mono Subtitles: English & Spanish Canadian Film Rating: U.S. Film Rating: U.S. SRP: $11.98 CDN SRP: $16.98 Release Date: July 11, 2006. Film Rating: / Starring: Tyrone Power (Jamie Waring), Maureen O’Hara (Lady Margaret Denby), Laird Cregar (Captain Sir Henry Morgan), Thomas Mitchell (Tom Blue), George Sanders (Captain Billy Leech) Novel by: Rafael Sabatini Screenplay by: Seton I. Miller & Ben Hecht Directed by: Henry King Seas Ablaze...with black villainy, with fiery romance, with breathless deeds of daring…in the era of Love, Gold and Adventure! After a long absence from the marketplace, Fox is continuing their Studio Classics collection once again beginning with three titles on July 11th, 2006. The Black Swan is numbered where the collection left off last coming in at #38. As a collector it’s good to see these titles have consistency in terms of packaging and order. It’s also great to see that it’s consistent with the quality restorations we’ve seen from Fox because The Black Swan is absolutely stellar. It won’t take a pirate’s sword to the face to make your jaw drop. July is the month of the pirates as we’ll see the theatrical release of Pirates of the Caribbean (2): Dead Man’s Chest and the DVD release of The Black Swan. Starring Tyrone Power as Jamie, the reformed pirate, and Maureen O’Hara as the ever-so-stubborn Lady Margaret, daughter of Lord Denby, past Lord of Jamaica. It’s 1674 and Jamaica has changed; Captain Morgan has taken control as the new governor. He vows to wipe the Caribbean clean of pirates who sail on The Black Swan and refuse to take side with England’s desire for peace. The only way to do this is to hire reformed pirates such as Jamie to make sure that the Caribbean stays safe. Jamie, who respects Captain Morgan, wilfully accepts the job but is also sidetracked by the hot-headed Lady Margaret. The adventure turns wild as Jamie kidnaps her from her soon-to-be husband and takes her to sea where pirates run the waters and all is unpredictable and unforgiving! VIDEO QUALITY / I think I’ve been shot at by a pirate ship’s cannon because I’m blown away with the video quality of this film! This is probably one of the most remarkable images I’ve seen on a classic title in a while. Two million dollars in restoration costs and 40 man hours of digital restoration, the results are very clear to my eyes. The opening scenes of the pirate battle ships firing at each other are bright, vibrant in colour and detail, and have a level of 3-D that I haven’t seen in a classic film for a while. I really couldn’t believe how good this film looked. All I could do was hope it stayed this way through the whole film! I wasn’t disappointed! When the opening credits came up on screen, it reminded me of my impressions when watching high definition DVD. The text seems to float close to the screen far away from the action in the background. I can’t say I’ve ever had this feeling on SD-DVD before. The red lettering was without a hint of noise or colour bleeding – something I was very afraid of before putting in this old Technicolor film. Apparently a CRI (Color Reversal Internegative) was one of the only surviving elements. This CRI was oversaturated with colour but a colour-corrected answer print was made to create a new interpositive for digital cleanup in HD. The film makes a transition to night scenes and each of them are solid in back level and there is excellent shadow detail as every shade of dark grey is noiseless and detailed. Details in the image are also fabulous – every whisker on the face of the character Tommy can be counted and the intricate frayed fabrics on Jamie’s red coat is in full view. Interior scenes look just a hair less vibrant than the outdoor scenes. For some shots, a fraction of the far far far right of the picture is slightly out or focus compared to the middle and the left of the picture. I believe this is due to the original photography. I am going to say that the cleanup on this film is nearly perfect. Not once did I ever catch a speck of dirt, a scratch, a tear – not a single distracting artefact was visible during my viewing. Even film grain was virtually absent along with digital compression artefacts and edge enhancement. By far, this has been one of the most pleasing pictures I’ve seen to date and the film’s cinematography (winning an Academy Award in 1942) is reproduced justly on DVD. AUDIO QUALITY / Like the picture, this is one the better sounding mono recordings I’ve heard too. The dialogue is intelligible; it has body to it and doesn’t sound tinny or frail. The sound effects have some dynamics to them and even the music can have a bit of bass punching at the right moments. There is no background hiss at reference level and the audio isn’t really strident at the level either. My only real complaint is with the original musical soundtrack: I feel Alfred Newman’s music is out of place in many scenes. When dialogue critical to the film happens between characters, music is ho-humming away in the background as if someone accidentally left a radio on in the background. The recorded music doesn’t fit at all and I’d apply the theory of “silence is best” at these points. My advice is to stay with the original mono recording option. The fake stereo option is thinner and unfocussed as the sound is splashed around the front channels. SPECIAL FEATURES / Just a few features found on this disc. Historians will love the audio commentary by Maureen O’Hara and film historian Rudy Behlmer. As you can imagine, these two talk about all they can remember about this film as well as other bits of information about the people involved. It’s definitely worth the listen. The film’s theatrical trailer as well as a restoration comparison is included. IN THE END… As I said before, I am amazed at this release and I can’t wait to get to the other two titles in this newest wave of Studio Classics. Even though I found the film to be a little slow for the first half hour, the rest picked up the speed and excitement and it was nothing but eye-candy all the way to Tortuga. Aye, DVD pirates! (not the criminal ones!) Michael Osadciw June 29, 2006.