How Green Was My Valley appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I felt impressed by this strong transfer.
Sharpness looked positive. A few interiors were a smidgen soft, but those didn’t create distractions. Overall, the movie showed solid clarity and accuracy. I witnessed no jaggies or shimmering, and the presentation appeared to lack edge haloes or issues with noise reduction.
In terms of print flaws, I noticed a couple of small specks, but that was it; the movie usually remained clean. Black levels seemed appropriately dark and dense, while contrast worked well. Shadow detail appeared appropriate and gave us clear low-light shots. Color me pleased with this fine presentation.
In addition to the film’s original monaural audio, the Blu-ray provides a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. Occasionally I find well-executed multichannel reworkings of monaural material, but that doesn’t occur here, as the 5.1 version of Valley creates a flawed experience.
The main problem stemmed from the clumsy soundscape – and awkward foley effects. The 5.1 mix tended to place elements a bit left of center and make them too prominent. When the men came back from the mines, scratchy-sounding footsteps emanated from the left and became a distraction. When they washed off the coal, scratchy-sounding scrubbing popped up from the left and turned into a distraction. When the family ate dinner, scratchy-sounding “utensil on plate” effects arose from the left and distracted. Similar instances appeared through the whole movie and prevented the mix from any form of natural qualities.
That was my major complaint, but other issues occurred. The soundscape offered a mushy sense of place. Music spread across the speakers but didn’t offer stereo imaging; it essentially became “broad mono”. Effects didn’t tend to be well-placed, and the soundfield’s designers made odd choices. Why put footsteps in the side channels but then keep a rainstorm – a sequence made for surround – stuck in the front center?
The surrounds received little use. Some singing echoed to the back speakers but that was about it, as even louder scenes had little to do. I don’t understand why the studio would create a multichannel mix and not bother to use the back speakers.
Audio quality was generally fine for its age. Speech was reasonably natural and concise; some thinness occurred but the lines remained acceptable for their age. Music showed reasonable breadth and depth – except for some shrill singing at times - but effects were lackluster at best. Those stupid foley effects were the biggest concern, as they just seemed scratchy and rough.
Was this the worst 5.1 remix I’ve heard? No, not by a longshot – even with all my complaints, it remained listenable. Unfortunately, it was still a weak reworking of the original material. Viewers should stick with the original mono and avoid this ineffective, messy remix.
How does the Blu-ray compare to the prior 2003 DVD? I thought the audio was a wash, and I might even have preferred the DVD’s stereo remix to this film’s 5.1 version; I thought the former was less distracting. I’d still stick with the mono, though, so in that regard, the two discs were equivalent.
However, the Blu-ray offered a considerable visual improvement. The Blu-ray was cleaner, more vivid and better defined. While this release might not improve on its predecessor’s audio, it gives us better picture quality.
The Blu-ray offers most of the last DVD’s extras and launches with an audio commentary that features actor Anna Lee Nathan and film historian Joseph McBride. Both were recorded separately for this edited, occasionally screen-specific track. Though McBride clearly dominatedsthe piece, Nathan still pops up with acceptable frequency. She adds notes about the production, her impressions of the participants, and her thoughts on the film.
The commentary heavily concentrates on McBride, however, and he offers a very nice chat. McBride documents many topics, from the origins of the production to events that took place on the set to elements of director John Ford’s career. Overall, this track delivers a solid discussion of Valley.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find an episode of Hollywood Backstories that covers How Green Was My Valley. In this 24-minute and 34-second program, we get the standard mix of archival materials, movie clips, and interviews. We hear from filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, film historian Rudy Behlmer, actors Roddy McDowall, Anna Lee Nathan and Maureen O’Hara, John Ford biographer Ronald Davis, the director’s grandson Dan Ford and art director Nathan Juran.
The program goes through Valley’s journey to the screen as well as McDowall’s casting, the rough relationship between director Ford and studio head Darryl Zanuck, Ford’s general abrasiveness, and issues on the set. Some of the material appears in the commentary as well, but “Backstory” still provides a nice synopsis of the production. Some of these shows seem concentrate too little on the making of the actual films, but this one provides some useful details about the creation of Valley.
I can't really recommend How Green Was My Valley just because I find the film itself to be a predictable bore. It seems well crafted and produced, but the story and the characters come across as dull and flat. The Blu-ray delivers excellent visuals and some good bonus materials, but the 5.1 remix offers a flawed dud; at least we get the much more listenable original mono as well. I don’t care for the sentimental Valley but feel pleased with its presentation here.
To rate this film visit the Fox Studio Classics review of HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY