The Diary of Anne Frank appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a decent but not exceptional presentation.
Sharpness usually appeared solid. Some wider shots displayed a bit of softness, but those examples seemed minor. The majority of the flick came across as fairly detailed and distinctive. I noticed no issues connected to jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained mild. Grain seemed natural.
Blacks looked deep and firm, and contrast appeared mostly good. A few shots could be a bit too gray, but the majority showed positive contrast. The low-light shots demonstrated solid clarity and definition, with no issues connected to excessive opacity.
Mild print flaws cropped up through the film, so I noticed occasional examples of specks, grit and spots. These weren’t heavy, but I’ve gotten used to much better clean-up from older movies, so the presence of so many defects became a disappointment. This ended up as a “C+” image: it looked positive for the most part but could’ve been better.
Diary presented a relatively good DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Not surprisingly, the soundfield remained strongly rooted in the forward channels, where much of the audio remained essentially monaural. Music demonstrated decent stereo imaging in the front, and occasional examples of effects emanated from the side speakers.
However, those examples were fairly infrequent, as the soundscape didn’t do much to broaden its horizons. Bells and explosions dominated the side material. Surround usage tended toward general reinforcement of the front channels and added little. Given the limited scope of the action in Frank, however, one can’t fault the sound design for these restrictions.
Audio quality appeared fine for a movie of this vintage. Speech occasionally demonstrated some edginess, especially when dialogue competed with other elements; one scene in which many bombs fell demonstrated some of the roughest talking. Still, most of the lines were nicely crisp and reasonably natural.
I noticed no problems with intelligibility. As usual for a flick of this vintage, music sounded somewhat thin and constricted, but the score was somewhat broader and better defined than the average movie of the era. Dynamic range failed to impress strongly but still worked out well.
Effects also seemed somewhat tinny in general. Some louder elements like trucks and explosions manifested decent low-end, however, and the effects usually were acceptably detailed. Distortion mainly affected explosions, which came across as moderately rough. Nothing here dazzled, but the track was more than acceptable given its age.
How did this Blu-ray release of Diary compare to the 50th Anniversary DVD? Visuals showed improved delineation and deeper blacks. However, the two discs came out on the same day, so it’s extremely likely the both used identical transfers, which meant many of the DVD’s flaws repeated here. The Blu-ray got a “format-related bump” in terms of visuals but would’ve benefited from a superior transfer.
I did prefer the Blu-ray’s lossless 5.1 mix to the DVD’s Dolby Digital 5.1 track, though. I felt it sounded smoother, more natural and warmer, without the reverb/looseness that marred the DVD’s elements.
The Blu-ray includes the same extras as the 2009 DVD along with a few from an earlier release, and we start with an audio commentary from actor Millie Perkins and associate producer George Stevens Jr., the son of the producer/director. They sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. In general, they create a useful discussion.
Stevens and Perkins go over quite a few topics. For instance, we hear about casting, the atmosphere on the set, the reasons for the use of Cinemascope and black and white photography, locations, and adapting the original material.
In the early parts of the flick, Stevens talks the most, but Perkins soon warms up to the task and offers a lot of good personal observations. The pair go silent more often than I’d like, but given the film’s extended length, I don’t regard these gaps as a terrible issue. Overall, the commentary seems engaging and informative.
Next we find a mix of featurettes. George Stevens in WWII runs seven minutes, 40 seconds. It includes notes from Stevens, Jr., as he discusses his father’s work as a filmmaker during the war; we also get a few comments from actor Diane Baker. The notes are fine, but the footage becomes the highlight of this interesting little piece.
During the 25-minute and five-second The Making of The Diary of Anne Frank: A Son’s Memories, George Stevens, Jr. again comes to the forefront. He talks about his experiences during the production of Diary and other aspects of the film’s creation. Some of this info repeats from the commentary, but Stevens still manages to provide a lot of good material here.
We get more from the actors in The Diary of Anne Frank: Memories from Millie Perkins and Diane Baker. This piece lasts 25 minutes, 53 seconds as actors Perkins and Baker discuss how they got their roles as well as their characters and aspects of their experiences during the production. More interesting tidbits emerge in this enjoyable program.
Another performer shows up for the seven-minute Shelley Winters and The Diary of Anne Frank. In this interview from 1983, Winters discusses working with George Stevens and shooting the film. Stevens remains the main focus of the piece, so don’t expect a broad range of Diary memories from Winters. Still, she gives us a good perspective in this short but informative clip.
We look at audio during The Sound and Music of The Diary of Anne Frank. It goes for seven minutes, 54 seconds and features Stevens, Jr., as well as composer Alfred Newman’s sons Thomas and David Newman. As expected, we get info about the movie’s score and its use of sound effects. The observations about the music become the most useful aspects of this reasonably interesting piece.
The Diary of Anne Frank: Correspondence lasts 13 minutes, 12 seconds, and features the ubiquitous Stevens, Jr., as he reads letters connected to the production of Diary. These are pretty cool to hear, as they offer an intriguing first-person perspective on the production.
Next we get Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman. It fills 14 minutes, eight seconds with comments from the former Fox exec as he discusses the source material and its move to the big screen as well as some aspects of the production. We’ve essentially heard all of this info elsewhere, so “Legacy” doesn’t add much to the package.
As we move along, we find a documentary called The Diary of Anne Frank: Echoes from the Past. Found on the original “Studio Classics” DVD but not the 50th Anniversary release, this 90-minute, seven-second program gives us info from George Stevens Jr., Millie Perkins, Otto Frank (in 1976), actor Shelley Winters, Anne Frank’s cousin Buddy Elias, Otto Frank’s stepdaughter Eva Schloss, documentary filmmaker Jon Blair, WWII historian David Barnouw, Anne Frank’s childhood friend Laureen Nussbaum, Anne and Margot Frank’s American pen pal Betty Ann Wagner, and Fritz Pfeffer’s daughter-in-law Sigi Pepper.
The program covers the diary’s path to publication and other media, notes about George Stevens’ activities in WWII and how they influenced him, casting, issues connected to the film production, and historical information about the Frank family and the era.
To my surprise, the latter subject dominates “Echoes”. I thought the show would mainly go over movie material, but instead it concentrates largely on the facts behind the flick. This includes lots of good background and gets into intriguing issues like fictionalized elements in the diaries themselves and other liberties. We find just enough movie information to provide a decent glimpse at its creation. Overall, “Echoes” presents a consistently interesting and compelling look at its subjects.
Another retread from the initial “Studio Classics” disc, we get an excerpt from George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey. In this seven-minute and 59-second clip, we get some notes about Frank. This includes statement from Stevens as well as Perkins but mostly consists of movie clips. Although it’s good to hear a little from the director himself, this program doesn’t include much that we don’t get elsewhere, so it’s only moderately useful.
In the George Stevens Press Conference, we get a five-minute and one-second session. This piece comes from early in the production of Diary and shows Stevens as he discusses the search to find an actor to play Anne and his research for the flick. The first subject heavily dominates this fairly interesting chat.
Oddly, Millie Perkins Screen Test doesn’t actually include that material. We see parts of her audition during “Echoes”, but none of those snippets show up here. Instead, this two-minute, 20-second piece includes an introductory interview as part of the test. It’s fun to see, but it seems odd that the disc touts a test that doesn’t appear.
Within the Movietone News domain we get six separate newsreels. These include “Millie Perkins, 18, to be Anne Frank in Film of Diary” (61 seconds), “Nobel Peace Prize to Belgian Priest” (24 seconds), “Anne Frank Diary Star Readies for Film’s First Nights” (61 seconds), “Academy Award Highlights” (126 seconds), “Millie Perkins Visits the Los Angeles County Museum of Art” (51 seconds), and “Brilliant Turnout for LA Premiere” (77 seconds). This provides a nice little collection of historical bits.
In addition to two trailers - both international and US - two Galleries finish the set. We get an “Interactive Pressbook” (14 screens) and a “Behind-the-Scenes Gallery” (55 screens). Both are interesting. I like the fact the “Pressbook” allows us to zoom in and more closely examine some elements, and the other gallery includes a lot of interesting shots from the set.
The Diary of Anne Frank takes on an important subject but only provides an occasionally effective examination. While the movie clearly has some terrific moments, it also falls flat at times and seems too erratic to be a thorough winner. The Blu-ray comes with decent picture and audio as well as a strong collection of bonus materials. This is probably about as good as it’ll get in terms of the film’s audio and supplements, but it could definitely use a new visual transfer.
To rate this film visit the DVD review of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK