It Happened One Night appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Given the age of the film, I found this to become an impressive Dolby Vision transfer.
Sharpness usually looked good. Some softness seemed to result from the style of photography; Capra appeared especially fond of spotlighting Colbert with some mild "glamour shot" lighting.
Otherwise, the movie mostly boasted good clarity and definition. I noticed no issues with shimmering or jagged edges, and neither edge haloes nor digital noise reduction impacted this natural presentation.
Source flaws caused no problems. Grain remained appropriate, and I noticed no obvious distractions from specks, marks or other defects.
Black levels seemed dark and tight, and shadows displayed nice smoothness and clarity. HDR added range and impact to whites and contrast. Fans will feel delighted with this excellent presentation.
Another pleasant surprise came from the DTS-HD MA monaural audio of It Happened One Night. The film came out during the relative infancy of sound movies and I expected it to sound harsh and scratchy.
However, it's actually a clean and accurate soundtrack. Distortion - which plagued more old mixes than anything else - was virtually nonexistent, even when characters shouted.
Dialogue lacked warmth but seemed clear and intelligible. The lines sounded natural for such an old movie. Effects and music - of which we heard little - sounded fine.
Many old soundtracks suffered from much tape hiss and popping, but background noise was refreshingly absent. This was about as good as a track from 1934 could sound.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the of the 2014 Criterion Blu-ray? I thought the 4K’s DTS-HD MA track sounded very similar to the Blu-ray’s LPCM mix.
As for the Dolby Vision image, it showed stronger blacks and contrast. Sharpness got a minor uptick, though the 4K’s higher resolution meant the picture’s softer spots became more apparent. All of this made the 4K a modest upgrade over the Blu-ray, but don’t expect a major step up in quality.
One extra appears on the 4K disc itself: a 1956 feature film called You Can’t Run Away From It. It runs one hour, 34 minutes, 42 seconds and provides a remake of Night with Jack Lemmon and June Allyson as the leads.
Directed by Dick Powell, it offers a largely literal retelling of the 1934 movie, with some changes to reflect then-modern technology and standards. It does turn the tale into a musical, though, which becomes its only reason for existence.
Because why remake a classic - and one that wasn’t all that old at the time – if there’s no clear twist? The musical elements give Run a twist from the original that theoretically justify its reason for being.
That said, I can’t find much to recommend here. Talented though they were, Allyson and Lemmon don’t sub for Colbert and Gable well, mainly because they demonstrate zero chemistry.
Given how much of the story revolves around the tension between the leads, this becomes a major drawback. The leads just grate rather than endear themselves to the audience.
None of the production numbers seem particularly memorable, and the pace tends to drag. Chalk up Run as a forgettable remake.
At least the movie looks reasonably good on the 4K – though not great. More than a little softness appears, and colors can seem dull at times.
Both usually work fine, however, and I suspect the source elements become the main concern here. With only minor print flaws, obviously some work went into its transfer here, but I doubt anyone exerted tons of effort to really bring the image up to snuff.
Still, given the movie’s inclusion as a bonus feature, I can’t complain about the largely satisfying visuals, and the monaural audio holds up fine. I won’t likely want to ever watch Run again but I appreciate its inclusion here.
More extras appear on the included Blu-ray copy, as we start with an audio commentary from Frank Capra Jr., the director’s son. In this running, screen-specific chat, he covers the project’s genesis and development, cast, characters and performances, and various production elements.
The commentary begins well as Capra goes over the movie’s origins and related issues. However, he soon peters out and offers only sporadic notes throughout most of the film. Occasionally he’ll toss out decent remarks about his father’s use of rain in his flicks or the movie’s reception.
However, much of the time he either remains silent or simply describes the action on screen. This is a pretty dull commentary without much to keep us going through its 105 minutes.
We hear more from Capra in an 11-minute, 15-second piece called Frank Capra Jr. Remembers...It Happened One Night. This program intercuts interview shots of Capra with scenes from the film and other photos as he discusses the project’s origins and development, cast, characters and performances, sets, the tight schedule and related challenges, and the flick’s success.
Some of the information from the commentary also appears here. Really, the show is how they should have presented the commentary: simply make it into a documentary like this, since it would have compacted Capra’s narration into a much more listenable package. "Remembers" isn't a great program, but if provides some useful information.
Screwball Comedy? brings us a 2014 piece with film critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate. It goes for 38 minutes, 35 seconds and includes their thoughts about the “screwball comedy” genre as well as aspects of Night and its creators. I’d like a stronger connection between Night and the genre but this still becomes a pretty insightful chat.
From March 1939, we get a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of Night. It offers a 59-minute, 37-second live broadcast that features both Colbert and Gable in their original roles.
It's very entertaining, and I find especially fascinating to note the differences in the story. For one, the characters seem much more mild mannered and their mutual antagonism is almost invisible.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we encounter a Vintage Advertising section that offers a mixture of 16 stills and posters for the film. It offers minor pleasures.
Note that the Blu-ray included here remains exclusive to this 4K package as of January 2023. It differs from the Criterion Blu-ray and may someday see a solo release from Sony, but that’s just a guess.
Although I don’t find It Happened One Night to offer peak level Capra, it gives us an enjoyable romantic comedy. With delightful performances from its leads and a crisp script, the movie amuses and charms us. The 4K UHD comes with excellent picture as well as good audio and a nice roster of bonus materials. Fans of classic cinema will find themselves delighted by this terrific release.
Note that as of January 2023, the 4K UHD disc of It Happened One Night can be purchased only as part of a six-movie “Columbia Classics Collection Volume 3”. This set also includes 4K UHD versions of From Here to Eternity, To Sir, with Love, The Last Picture Show, Annie and As Good As It Gets.
To rate this film, visit the prior Review of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT