Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Columbia Classics Vol. 4) UHD Review

4.5 Stars Still timely
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Review

Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner makes its 4K debut as part of Sony’s Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Volume 4.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
Released: 12 Dec 1967
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 108 min
Director: Stanley Kramer
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Cast: Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn
Writer(s): William Rose
Plot: A couple's attitudes are challenged when their daughter introduces them to her African-American fiancé.
IMDB rating: 7.8
MetaScore: 63

Disc Information
Studio: Sony
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 48 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: 2-disc UHD keepcase with slipcover
Disc Type: UHD
Region: All
Release Date: 02/13/2024
MSRP: $215.99

The Production: 5/5

Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was a groundbreaking film for its time (1967), one of the first to portray an interracial couple and its box office success prompted studios to adjust their marketing of films featuring African-American actors, particularly in the Southern States of the country. The film would get remade in 2005 as simply Guess Who starring Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher and Zoë Saldaña, reversing the racial roles to much less success.

Richard Gallagher’s review from the 2015 Twilight Time Blu-ray release is below:

Younger readers may find this almost inconceivable, but when Sammy Davis Jr. married the Swedish actress May Britt in 1960, interracial marriage (miscegenation) was illegal in 31 states. In fact, anti-miscegenation laws were not declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court until 1967, coincidentally the same year in which Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was released. It turned out to be Spencer Tracy’s last film, and of course it is the ninth and final film in which he co-starred with Katharine Hepburn.

Dr. John Prentice (Sidney Poitier), a black physician of international renown, and Joanna “Joey” Drayton (Katharine Houghton), the white daughter of a San Francisco newspaper publisher, met ten days ago in Hawaii and almost immediately fell in love. They fly to California, unannounced, so that John can meet Joanna’s parents, Matt Drayton (Spencer Tracy) and his wife Christina (Katharine Hepburn). John is apprehensive, but Joanna insists that her parents are very progressive and will certainly accept him. John is even more apprehensive about telling his own parents that he is going to marry a white woman.

There is some urgency, because John has to fly to New York for a meeting and cannot stay overnight in San Francisco. After the New York meeting he has to fly to Europe, and Joanna has agreed to meet him there in two weeks so they can be married. The Draytons live in a beautiful house overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, where they are tended to by a black maid, Tillie (Isabel Sanford), who has been with them for more than two decades. When John and Joanna arrive at the house only Tillie is there, but Christina rushes home when she learns that her daughter has returned from Hawaii. While John is on the phone with his parents in another room, Joanna starts to tell her mother how wonderful he is. The look on Christina’s face when she sees the handsome black man emerge from the study is priceless.

When Joanna’s father arrives and hears the news he is, in his own words, flabbergasted. He knows how controversial interracial marriage is, and he fears that John and Joanna will not be able to cope with the disapproval of the country and the world. Christina, however, gets over her initial shock and she tries to counsel her husband. “We told her it was wrong to believe that the white people were somehow essentially superior to the black people,” she reminds him. “Or the brown or the red or the yellow ones, for that matter. People who thought that way were wrong to think that way. Sometimes hateful, usually stupid, but always, always, wrong. That’s what we said.”

John tells Matt and Christina that he understands how they feel, and without Joanna’s knowledge he pledges that he will not go through with the marriage unless her parents give their blessing before he leaves for New York. Christina sees how much John and Joanna are in love, and she is inclined to give her approval, but Matt is unmoved. The situation becomes even more complicated when John’s father (Roy Glenn) calls back to say that he and his wife (Beah Richards) want to fly up from Los Angeles to see him and meet his fiancée before he leaves for New York. Joanna gets on the phone and invites both of them to have dinner at the Drayton house – but the Prentices still have no idea that she is white.

Spencer Tracy was only 67 years old when he died a few weeks after the filming was completed, but he looks to be at least ten years older due to his poor health. Nevertheless, he gives a compelling and at times powerful performance. Katharine Hepburn – whose eyes are absolutely luminous on this Blu-ray – deservedly won her second Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. She must have known that Tracy’s days were numbered, and the knowledge that they loved each other gives the film added poignancy. Sidney Poitier is elegant and soft-spoken as Dr. Prentice, but he really comes to life when he has a man to man talk with his father. Katharine Houghton, who in real life is the niece of Katharine Hepburn, more than adequately acquits herself in her first feature film appearance. Isabel Sanford is excellent as the black family maid who surprises John Prentice by vehemently disapproving of his relationship with Joanna, and Cecil Kellaway is fine as the kindly family friend, Monsignor Ryan. The actors – four of whom received Academy Award nominations – are expertly directed by the famed Stanley Kramer, who also produced the film. Screenwriter William Rose won an Academy Award for his excellent screenplay.

I mentioned earlier that it was coincidental that anti-miscegenation laws were found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court the same year that Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was released. At the time it was a very controversial film, not in small part because it was the first mainstream film to show a black man kissing a white woman (albeit a rather chaste kiss). As I watched the film I could not help but think that history is repeating itself, because it could easily be remade today with the protagonists being two men or two women and it would have the same relevance that it had in 1967. Now, we do not want the discussion of this film to devolve into a political argument about gay marriage, but at one point Matt Drayton pessimistically tells Monsignor Ryan that interracial marriage will be accepted in “fifty years, maybe, or a hundred years.” Fortunately, it did not take nearly that long.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

Per the restoration notes by Grover Crisp included in the collectable book, in 2022 the original negative was scanned in 4K with additional digital cleanup, color correction (the negative had noticeable color fading at the time), image restoration, etc. to create a new 4K digital intermediate with HDR grading. Sony’s 2160p HEVC encode includes both Dolby Vision and HDR10 high dynamic range. The result is absolutely gorgeous, with vivid and natural colors that never appear overly saturated, contrasts levels featuring deep blacks and strong shadow details with bright highlights that never look blown out, and excellent fine details that bring out fabric textures and facial features. Film grain is light and organic. Unfortunately, the included Blu-ray disc is a repressing of the 50th Anniversary release from 2017 and is not sourced from this new transfer.

Audio: 5/5

Dolby Atmos may seem like overkill for a dialogue-driven drama like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but you’d be mistaken. Per the restoration notes by Grover Crisp included in the collectable book, Sony had “an original 35mm 6-track magnetic master to work with” as a starting point, which was used to create both this new Dolby Atmos and the older DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix (from the 2017 Blu-ray release). It’s a subtle mix, allowing for smooth and seamless movement of sounds and the placement of instruments from the score by Frank De Vol along with ambient and acoustical effects in the heights and surrounds to add a sense of immersion. Dialogue is always clear and understandable throughout.

Special Features: 3/5

This is one of the few titles in this set where the 4K disc includes a few extras, but also does not include a remastered Blu-ray.

UHD Disc
Audio Commentary: Film historians Eddie Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo discuss various aspects of the film in this commentary track ported from the 2015 Twilight Time Blu-ray release.

Theatrical Teaser (1080p; 1:04)

Blu-ray Disc (50th Anniversary Blu-ray from 2017)
Introductions (1080i; 9:39): Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, Karen Kramer, and Tom Brokaw offer insights into the film and its place in history.

A Love Story of Today (1080i; 29:53): A featurette which includes audio comments by Stanley Kramer, who emphasizes that the film is, above all else, a love story. This extra has a running time of 30 minutes and includes an interview with Katharine Houghton. She tells about how Columbia Pictures wanted to cancel the film, supposedly because Spencer Tracy’s frail health made him uninsurable, but actually because the studio thought that the subject matter was too controversial for the film to be a success. Kramer and Katharine Hepburn agreed to put up their salaries as collateral in case Tracy could not finish the project.

A Special Kind of Love (1080i; 17:15): Expands upon the material covered in A Love Story for Today.

Stanley Kramer: A Man’s Search for Truth (1080i; 16:56): An examination of the producer-director’s career, with appearances by Dick Van Dyke, Alec Baldwin, Beau Bridges, Norman Jewison, Dennis Hopper, Louis Gossett Jr., and Taylor Hackford.

Stanley Kramer Accepts the Irving Thalberg Award (1080i; 2:03): Black & white footage of Kramer accepting his award during the 1962 Academy Awards show.

2007 Producers Guild “Stanley Kramer” Award Presentation to Al Gore (1080i; 4:38): Karen Kramer explains how she helped to establish the award for filmmakers who make important movies. The award is presented to Al Gore by Harrison Ford.

Photo Gallery (1080i; 4:10): Non-interactive slide show of production stills.

Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:37)

Digital Copy: A Movies Anywhere code is included for all six films in the boxed set.

Overall: 4.5/5

Although currently only available on UHD disc in the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Vol. 4 boxed set, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner has never looked or sounded better.

Todd Erwin has been a reviewer at Home Theater Forum since 2008. His love of movies began as a young child, first showing Super 8 movies in his backyard during the summer to friends and neighbors at age 10. He also received his first movie camera that year, a hand-crank Wollensak 8mm with three fixed lenses. In 1980, he graduated to "talkies" with his award-winning short The Ape-Man, followed by the cult favorite The Adventures of Terrific Man two years later. Other films include Myth or Fact: The Talbert Terror and Warren's Revenge (which is currently being restored). In addition to movie reviews, Todd has written many articles for Home Theater Forum centering mostly on streaming as well as an occasional hardware review, is the host of his own video podcast Streaming News & Views on YouTube and is a frequent guest on the Home Theater United podcast.

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Robert Harris

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Wonderful review, Todd, Thank you. You’re correct. Miss Hepburn not only knew of Mr. Tracy’s health problems, but as In recall, they may have been living together during the production. He was only able to be on set for an hour or or so a day. Miss Hepburn’s tears in one sequence, as her old friend speaks, are quit real. Having that information causes the film to play differently for me, and I presume, for others. Reminds me of something Freddie Young told me. During the production of Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Mr.Donat pulled him aside, told him that he had a serious condition, and to get all of his takes which needed dialogue or his face on camera, leaving reverses to be dealt with as necssary.
 

Todd Erwin

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Wonderful review, Todd, Thank you. You’re correct. Miss Hepburn not only knew of Mr. Tracy’s health problems, but as In recall, they may have been living together during the production. He was only able to be on set for an hour or or so a day. Miss Hepburn’s tears in one sequence, as her old friend speaks, are quit real. Having that information causes the film to play differently for me, and I presume, for others. Reminds me of something Freddie Young told me. During the production of Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Mr.Donat pulled him aside, told him that he had a serious condition, and to get all of his takes which needed dialogue or his face on camera, leaving reverses to be dealt with as necssary.
That wasn't me who said that, it was from Richard Gallagher's review of the Twilight Time Blu-ray release.
 

Robert Harris

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Giving credit where due. Mr. Donat passed a month before the film wrapped.
 
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Noel Aguirre

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While it may have a great back story it’s not a great film but an important film for its time IMHO
Rather hokey and driven by star power alone.
Its subject would be much more effectively handled in a few years later by Norman Lear on TV on many of his hit shows.
 

Mark-P

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Per the restoration notes by Grover Crisp included in the collectable book, Sony had “an original 35mm 6-track magnetic master to work with” as a starting point
Pray tell, what is that? I’ve never heard of a 35mm 6-track magnetic master. 70mm sure, but 35mm was limited to 4-track. Unless this was a 6 track element, striping on a 35mm roll without picture that was meant for use with a 70mm release that never materialized.
 
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warnerbro

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I have the Twilight Time and it is quite nice. I think this is a powerful film with powerful performances and very progressive for its time.
 
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Vern Dias

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Pray tell, what is that? I’ve never heard of a 35mm 6-track magnetic master. 70mm sure, but 35mm was limited to 4-track. Unless this was a 6 track element, striping on a 35mm roll without picture that was meant for use with a 70mm release that never materialized.
It was a full coat (35mm with magnetic oxide across the full width) element which was used extensively for mastering.

From Wikipedia, describing Command records use of 35mm fullcoat:

While the recording industry had made magnetic tape the standard for recording music for release on vinyl, Command's albums were recorded onto magnetic 35mm film. Light used the width of the film strip to create multitrack recordings, as opposed to the more limited two or three tracks offered by most recording studios at the time; the slightly higher linear speed provided an advantage in analog fidelity and the sprocket-driven film limited the "wow and flutter" problems associated with tape recording. This enabled Light to record more instruments individually and adjust their audio input levels, as well as their stereo position.[8]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Command_Records

Movie studios often employed the same technology for audio mastering.
 

Lee Sandersen

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One of my favorite films, of course, Miss Houghton being so pretty, also helpped my opinion on this. BTW, the soundtrack record is amazing. Frank DeVol did it, an amazing talent from that time. Look him up, started in pop music, then did soundtracks. I own the soundtrack on pristine vinyl. I say pristine, because about 35 years ago, I found an unopened copy in a used book store, cost me a buck. Not a click or pop on it, rare for those days. I right away copied it to reel to reel tape, so as not to lose the great fidelity. Today all my music is digitalized, and my digital copy came from that tape. I listen to it at least annualy, sometimes more than that. I see a new record is $124 these days. Of course you can always stream it I guess, but where is the fun in that? https://www.amazon.com/GUESS-COMING-DINNER-ORIGINAL-SOUNDTRACK/dp/B00125JPC6
 

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PMF

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I would argue that it is a classic film that remains of great importance. Flawlessly executed, deftly balanced, brilliantly written and an acting ensemble of sheer perfection that still sets the standard and bar quite high, over a half century later. Thrilled that Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was taken on by Grover Crisp and his Rolls Royce team.

Yet another thoughtful review from Mr. Todd Erwin; as well as encouraged to read that this personal favorite of mine still garners a 5/5.
 
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Wes Candela

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While it may have a great back story it’s not a great film but an important film for its time IMHO
Rather hokey and driven by star power alone.
Its subject would be much more effectively handled in a few years later by Norman Lear on TV on many of his hit shows.
It’s a critical and beautiful film, important.
it addresses racism from both sides of the spectrum, and how sensitive the barrier breaking was to both sides.

The acting was sublime. Is sublime. However, it's Katherine Hepburn that knocks it out of rhe park.

her tears, and her eyes are extremely wet and filled with emotion throughout the movie. Heartbreaking for me to watch. I only saw the movie last week when I saw the 4K edition, but in my heart, I believe she found it important to do the movie and I can see that on her face during the film.
I was not aware that Spencer Tracy was sick, but that does explain quite a lot makes it even more precious of a movie to me. I can't say that I think Norman Lear handled this subject better than Stanley Kramer.

I found the way they handled the subject matter to be respectful, sensitive, and beautiful when Sidney Poitier says to his father
"Dad, in your eyes, you are a colored man. But I… I'm just a man."

I fell in love with the movie

Beautiful and tender, and I laughed quite a bit.
Great review
 
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