The Inn of the Sixth Happiness appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not stunning, this was a largely pleasing transfer.
Sharpness mostly seemed positive. Some shots periodically tended to appear a little soft and ill defined, but those were the exceptions. The majority of the movie looked pretty accurate and concise. No problems with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and neither edge haloes nor noise reduction created artificial distractions. The image seemed free from print flaws, which left it with a clean appearance.
Colors appeared fairly subdued but well-depicted. With a mild blue emphasis on display, the tones rarely seemed particularly vivid, but they also fit the film. Black levels seemed dense and deep, while shadows were mostly smooth and appropriately visible. A few “day for night” shots presented moderately opaque images, but those didn’t create substantial concerns. As a whole, Inn offered a positive presentation..
The DTS-HD MA 4.0 soundtrack of The Inn of the Sixth Happiness seemed good for its age. The soundfield remained pretty restrained but still opened up at times. Music demonstrated reasonable stereo imaging, as the music spread across the front with fair delineation.
Effects used the side speakers to moderate impact and also utilized the back speakers on occasion, such as at a train station or a marketplace. Speech remained mainly centered, with a little bleeding to the sides but no obvious localized dialogue. This wasn’t a remarkable soundscape, but it was well above average for 1958.
Audio quality seemed good for the era. Speech suffered from some weak dubbing but was distinct and lacked any issues connected to intelligibility. While I couldn’t call the lines consistently natural – mainly due to the looping – they were perfectly fine most of the time.
The score was fairly dynamic and rich given its age. Effects also came across as reasonably accurate but without great range. Those elements failed to display problems but they also didn’t show much spark. Nonetheless, the track worked well for its period and fit the movie nicely.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2003 DVD? Audio showed a broader soundscape and improved fidelity, while visuals were cleaner and more accurate. Though the DVD was good for its format, the Blu-ray provided a superior presentation of the film.
Most of the DVD’s extras repeat here, and we open with an audio commentary from documentary filmmaker Nick Redman, The Films of 20th Century Fox co-author Aubrey Solomon, and Ingrid Bergman biographer Donald Spoto. All three were recorded separately and their comments were edited together for this piece.
Inn provides a good chat, as we learn about a wide variety of topics. The track starts with great notes about the life of the real Gladys Aylward, and those elements pop up throughout much of the commentary. We also find many nice facts about the creation of the film, the folks who participated in it – especially Bergman – and other pieces that relate to the flick.
We also find out what the real Aylward’s personality was like and that she vehemently opposed the casting of Bergman among many other intriguing subjects. The excellent information comes at us virtually constantly and really adds a lot to our appreciation of the movie. It’s a terrific listen.
In addition to two trailers - one US, one Spanish - we find a pair of Movietone Newsreels. One shows the New York premiere (64 seconds) and the other displays the Hollywood debut (65 seconds). Neither seems very interesting, but the US trailer is decent. It runs a semi-long three minutes, eight seconds and includes some exclusive footage with Ingrid Bergman. (The Spanish version is identical except for added subtitles and some translated narration.)
What does the Blu-ray drop from the DVD? It loses a restoration comparison as well as ads for other “Fox Classics” releases.
I view The Inn of the Sixth Happiness as a pleasant surprise. The movie seems somewhat sugarcoated much of the time, but it achieves its goals as it provides a lively and moving examination of its subject. The Blu-ray delivers good picture and audio along with an informative audio commentary. Chalk this up as a quality release for an enjoyable drama.
To rate this film visit the original Fox Studio Classics review of THE INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS