Kramer Vs. Kramer appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A product of its era, Kramer looked okay but no better than that.
This meant that the crummy film stocks of the late 70s caused the image to appear pretty bland. Sharpness was decent for the most part. More than a few shots displayed mild softness, though, and the movie rarely came across as particularly concise. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, but some light edge haloes manifested themselves through the flick.
As for source flaws, they were absent, at least in terms of the usual suspects like specks and marks. I noticed no extraneous defects of that sort. However, Kramer provided an awfully grainy experience. Most of this stemmed from interior shots, where lighting conditions contributed to the graininess, but I still thought the flick suffered from more muck than it should.
As a low-key drama, Kramer didnít feature a bright palette, and the colors remained consistently subdued throughout the movie. That said, I thought they appeared decent. While the tones were dull, they werenít absurdly so, and they came to life better in daylight exterior shots.
Black levels looked a little drab but usually were reasonably deep and dense, while shadow detail could seem mildly thick. In general, the interior shots - of which the movie largely consisted - came across as a bit murky, while exteriors looked positive. Nonetheless, I felt that Kramer Vs. Kramer provided a watchable image.
And the winner for the prize as 2008ís Most Pointless Multichannel Remix goes to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Kramer. The movie originally offered monaural audio, and that version appears on the DVD as well. Why did the suits at Columbia decide that a chatty character flick like Kramer needed a 5.1 reworking? I have no idea.
As one might expect, the results came across as subdued. The movieís simple score seemed to stay monaural; I noticed no indications that the music spread to the side speakers.
I did hear some mildly directional dialogue at times, though, and effects broadened to the sides. Those usually cropped up during street scenes, as they added light environmental information to the experience. None of this affected the movieís impact in either direction; the film didnít benefit from the added breadth of its soundfield.
Audio quality was just fine for a 36-year-old flick. Speech was a little thin but usually remained reasonably natural and concise. Only a smidgen of edginess showed up in a few louder lines. Music was acceptably full and rich, while those minimal effects seemed decent. They showed good clarity and lacked any concerns. Nothing here stood out from the crowd, but the audio satisfied.
How did the picture and sound quality of this 2008 Special Edition compare to those of the original 2001 DVD? Although the new disc added that 5.1 remix, I didnít think it improved on the prior releaseís audio. Kramer worked just fine in its monaural incarnation; the 2008 version may have included a new multichannel remix, but that didnít mean I thought it seemed more satisfying in the auditory realm.
Matters became more complicated in terms of visual comparisons. On one hand, the 2008 transfer showed fewer source flaws, and it also came with less edge enhancement. On the other hand, the 2001 presentation looked sharper and brighter, and it also suffered from lighter grain. In the end, I thought it was a wash. Both images had ups and downs, so neither surpassed the other.
Only one extra appears here: a documentary called Finding the Truth: The Making of Kramer Vs. Kramer. This 48-minute and 20-second program also appeared on the 2001 disc. It combines film clips, stills from the set, and modern interviews with writer/director Robert Benton, producer Stanley Jaffe, author Avery Corman, and actors Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Jane Alexander, and Justin Henry.
Those latter elements are what makes ďTruthĒ truly special. The interviews go far beyond the usual ďheís great, sheís great, weíre greatĒ nonsense found during most pieces of this sort. Instead, we learn a great deal about the production, from its genesis to the production to fine notes about the characters.
While all of the participants seem compelling, I must give special appreciation to Hoffman, who provides a wealth of honest and fascinating details about his work. He and Streep remain two of the most noted actors alive, and itís fantastic to hear them talk about their performances.
Since Hoffman plays a much bigger role in Kramer, he dominates the documentary, and thatís fine with me; I canít recall the last time I heard such an engrossing discussion. Across the board, ďFinding the TruthĒ is a wonderful documentary that adds immensely to my appreciation of the film.
Does the 2008 release drop any extras from its predecessor? Yes, but it doesnít lose anything scintillating. It omits filmographies, production notes and trailers. Itís too bad these got the axe, but theyíre not horrible losses.
While I donít believe that Kramer Vs. Kramer was the best film of 1979, it did provide a reasonably engaging and vivid experience. The movie offered generally solid acting and an involving and believable story. As for the DVD, its provides decent but unexceptional picture and audio along with a very good documentary. Ultimately Kramer Vs. Kramer merits your attention as a well-made drama.
Note that this edition of Kramer appears as part of ďThe Columbia Best Pictures CollectionĒ, an 11-movie set that also includes It Happened One Night, You Canít Take It With You, All the Kingís Men, On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, A Man for All Seasons, Oliver!, From Here to Eternity and Gandhi.
While some of the other exclusives found in this set demonstrate substantial improvements over their predecessors, that isnít the case with Kramer. Neither one looks notably better than the other, and the addition of this releaseís 5.1 remix doesnít add anything to the table. This is a competent release but not one that surpasses its predecessor.
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