The Greatest Show on Earth Studio: Paramount Year: 1952 Rated: NR Length: 152 minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Audio: English and French Dolby Digital Mono English Subtitles, Closed Captioned in English SRP. $14.99 USD Release Date: April 6, 2004 Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth may seem dated today, what with some hokey performances and DeMille’s occasional narration, but it still manages to entertain after 52 years. The story follows the Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus, with circus manager Brad Haden (Charleton Heston), trapeze artists Sebastion and Holly (Cornel Wilde and Betty Hutton), and “Buttons” the clown (Jimmy Stewart), as they travel the country trying to keep audiences coming to the Big Top. Almost half the film is recorded circus acts, occasionally broken up by a MovieTone News-like documentary on the traveling circus – oh… and there is a drama involving a love triangle and a clown on the lam (Stewart, in the outstanding but understated performance of the picture). These three major elements are deftly edited together, resulting in an exciting couple of hours with the circus. It’s an entertaining fluff piece that I count among my guilty pleasures - but I’ve always wondered how this film could win Best Picture over the likes of High Noon or The Quiet Man, or the criminally un-nominated musical of that year, Singin’ in the Rain. It’s not that The Greatest Show on Earth isn’t worthy of attention – after all it’s got charm, pretty colors, and a cool train wreck (not so cool by today’s special effects standards)… but it was an over-hyped fluff piece – typical of DeMille’s work – a big movie about nothing. The Greatest Show on Earth is sort of like cotton candy. It’s mighty tasty, but not very filling. Video The picture is presented in a fullscreen aspect ratio (the original aspect ratio was 1.37:1). Any minor discrepancies there may be in the aspect ratio will be hidden by your display’s overscan. Filmed in Technicolor, the circus colors come alive in this transfer. They are beautifully saturated in neutral tones – the colors really pop. The picture is slightly soft, showing the age of the print. Occasional blemishes also belie the film’s age – but overall the image is outstanding, considering the age of the film. Grain is very fine. Contrast is a touch on the low side – bright whites are rare. Black levels are strong enough, with acceptable (if less than perfect) shadow detail. Considering the film is 52 years old, I can find little to complain about with the video transfer. Audio There isn’t much to talk about regarding audio, which is delivered in your choice of English or French Mono. Frequency response is acceptable given the recording technologies used. Voices are always clear, dialog always understandable. There is little in the way of bass… the film’s audio rarely made use of my subwoofer, never reaching the crossover point with any strength or regularity. Some of the music occasionally suffers from mild distortion – but it’s distortion I’ve always associated with this film (it’s not a result of the authoring of this disc). Special Features There are no special features. Final Thoughts With a suggested retail price of $14.99 USD, you’ll likely be finding this bare-bones release in a bargain bin near you. At that price, it’s can’t miss entertainment.