Anatomy of a Murder appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. While not without some minor concerns, this was usually an excellent presentation.
For the most part, sharpness appeared great. Although a few shots displayed a smidgen of softness, the majority offered nice clarity and delineation. I think some of the softness stemmed from the original photography, by the way; the film offered shallow depth of field, so it didn’t ake much for elements to lose focus. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I saw occasional instances of edge haloes.
Print flaws were quite minor. I noticed a handful of small specks but nothing more, as the movie was almost always clean. I detected no signs of digital noise reduction, as the film boasted nice, natural grain, and blacks were terrific; dark tones demonstrated solid depth. Shadows were also strong, and the film showed a good sense of contrast, as it never appeared either too dark or too bright. With the occasional instances of softness and specks, I had to “downgrade” my rating to a “B+”, but that shouldn’t make anyone think this was anything other than an attractive presentation.
In addition to the film’s original monaural soundtrack, the film came with a new DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Across both, dialogue tended to be a bit metallic – a factor exacerbated by the echo heard in the courtroom – but the lines were always intelligible and lacked edginess or notable problems. Effects felt about the same; they didn’t get a lot to do in this chatty affair, but they were reasonably accurate and concise.
Music varied notably between the two. In the mono track, Duke Ellington’s score was more than acceptable, as it showed fine clarity and warmth. However, I thought the music demonstrated more pep and vibrancy in the multichannel mix; the material sounded surprisingly good given its age and offered nice zing.
Of course, the soundscapes differed, though music remained the biggest difference. The 5.1 track used the side and rear channels to involve the listener in the score, and it did so well; the instrumentation spread around the room in a satisfying way. Effects also opened up the setting in a moderate manner, as vehicles moved from side to side and other elements popped up in logical spots. However, that was a less engaging aspect of the track when compared with the music; as I noted earlier, this was a dialogue-oriented film, so the effects didn’t get a lot to do.
Which track did I prefer? I thought it was a toss-up, honestly. As a general rule, I prefer original mixes, and I’d probably stay with the mono audio for future viewings. However, the 5.1 version did have its appeal, largely due to the higher quality of the music. The use of the side and rear speakers didn’t add much to the experience – at least not for me – but I did like the sound of the score. That made the 5.1 track a more than viable option, even if I ultimately would go with the mono mix simply due to my own preferences.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the original DVD from 2000? Both worked better, especially in terms of visuals. Not only did the Blu-ray offer the film’s original aspect ratio – it was 1.33:1 on the DVD – but also it was cleaner and tighter with deeper blacks and stronger contrast. Audio also sounded warmer and richer, and of course, the Blu-ray delivered the 5.1 option as well. The Blu-ray became easily the superior version of the movie.
The Blu-ray comes with a slew of new supplements. An Interview with Otto Preminger Biographer Foster Hirsch runs 29 minutes, 45 seconds and features Hirsch’s notes about the filmmaker. We learn about Preminger’s early life, how he got into films and came to America, and some of his other efforts. Much of Hirsch’s chat focuses on Anatomy, though, as he provides an overview of various production aspects. It plays like a mini-commentary, really, and Hirsch gives us a nice take on Preminger and Anatomy.
For info from the director himself, we go to Excerpts from 1967 Firing Line Episode with Otto Preminger. This reel lasts 10 minutes, 41 seconds as Preminger chats with host William F. Buckley about film morality, the Production Code, and censorship. It’s good to hear from Preminger himself, and it’s fun to get this slice of history, especially since the discussion between Buckley and Preminger gets a bit contentious at times; that ensures the piece never becomes dull.
Two more interviews follow. The first comes from Critic Gary Giddins and goes for 21 minutes, 47 seconds. Giddins discusses composer Duke Ellington and the film’s score. We get a lot of good insight here, as Giddins digs into the musical motifs and themes with gusto.
During the 14-minute, 53-second Interview with Writer Pat Kirkham, we learn about graphic designer Saul Bass. Kirkham tells us about the Anatomy opening titles as well as the genre in general and thoughts about Bass. Like the other interviews, this one proves to be compelling and informative.
Newsreel Footage goes for five minutes, two seconds and shows the Anatomy production on location in Michigan. Much of this is advertising hyperbole, but we also get some shots from the set, as we watch part of a rehearsal. That helps make the newsreel more useful than most.
Next we get a Photo Gallery. Shot by Life magazine’s Gjon Mili, we get 55 shots here. These mix publicity elements, images from the film, and behind the scenes pictures. They add up to a nice collection.
For a “work in progress”, we go to Anatomy of Anatomy. In this 30-minute, 11-second piece, we find segments of an incomplete still-being-made documentary about the Michigan area in which the film was shot – and where the events that influenced the story occurred. Narrated by Joan G. Hansen – whose book prompted this project – we get notes from locals Bob Brebner, Paul Bonetti, Norman Kukuk, Millie Menze, Lou Chappell, Bob Brumm, and George Johnson. We get a warm, enjoyable remembrance here; it’s a likable, engaging program.
In addition to the film’s Trailer. the set includes a booklet. The 28-page affair provides an essay by journalist Nick Pinkerton, a 1959 Life magazine article about actor Joe Welch, and some credits. Criterion usually delivers good booklets, and this is another winner.
Anatomy of a Murder was a terrific movie that translated well to home video. The film maintained a fine pace from start to finish and kept me thoroughly involved in the story. The Blu-ray delivered very good picture, more than acceptable audio, and a nice roster of supplements. Criterion gave this movie the treatment it deserved via this quality release.