Leave Her to Heaven appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A mix of highs and lows meant that although parts of Heaven looked terrific, it lacked consistency.
The main issue stemmed from fairly prominent edge enhancement. Throughout the movie, moderately heavy haloes appeared, and these rendered the film awfully soft at times. It displayed decent delineation at times, but quite a few shots came across as rather ill-defined. I saw no issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering, though, and source flaws were fairly minor. Occasional examples of specks, nicks, marks and blotches appeared, but these stayed well within the realm of acceptability for a nearly 60-year-old flick.
For the most part, hues seemed wonderfully bold and brilliant. The colors of Heaven were frequently a serious treat for the eyes as they virtually leapt off the screen. The movie offered a broad palette and the film displayed these with fine clarity and vividness. We got the slightly unnatural but totally lovely tones that Technicolor did so well. Black levels seemed deep and rich. Shadow detail looked clear and appropriately opaque. Some shots presented terrific visuals, but the general softness created too many concerns for this transfer to merit anything above a “B-“.
Leave Her to Heaven presented a Dolby Stereo 2.0 soundtrack that was similar to the usually inferior remixes found on other Fox Studio Classics DVDs. This one presented a mushy affair. The audio stayed in the front spectrum and displayed mediocre imaging at best. Music was the best-defined element, as the score showed passable stereo delineation.
Otherwise, the track showed poor localization and blending. Effects stayed essentially monaural; a couple of scenes used additional speakers, such as when we got to a big town meeting. Speech displayed murky delineation through the movie. Most of the lines remained in the center, but they bled to the sides in an unnatural way. This became a moderate distraction.
Audio quality was also average at best. Lines lacked much edginess and remained intelligible, but they seemed somewhat thin and lifeless. They suffered from a little annoying reverb as well. Effects didn’t play much of a role, and they remained fairly flat and bland. Music failed to demonstrate much vivacity. The score was dull and undefined. A little background noise appeared during the flick. Between the drab quality and the awkward soundfield, the audio of Heaven landed in the “below average” category.
As for the package’s extras, the most significant component comes from an audio commentary with actor Darryl Hickman and film critic Richard Schickel. Both were recorded separately for this edited piece. The veteran of many commentaries, Schickel provides some basics about the production and its participants. He also tosses in a little interpretation of the film and occasional critical elements.
Frankly, Schickel’s moments don’t add up to much, and they mostly remain forgettable. Hickman, on the other hand, offers a very interesting set of statements. He discusses his time in Hollywood as a child actor, his experiences on Heaven, and other thoughts about movies and acting in general. Hickman relates positive memories of actor Cornel Wilde and a few others and not-so-positive thoughts about Gene Tierney and director John Stahl. He gives us many illuminating details about his experiences and helps make this a generally winning commentary.
Otherwise, only some Fox Studio Classics basics pop up here. A Still Gallery presents 21 images. Most are good shots from the set, though a couple of ads pop up as well. Two Movietone News reels also appear. We get “Hollywood Spotlight: Galaxy of Stars Attends World Movie Premiere” and “Motion Picture Academy Awards Oscars for Film Achievements”. The first is pretty dull, but the second’s fun because we get a slightly extended clip in which Bob Hope jokes with a few winners. (By the way, this clip shows up here because Leon Shamroy won for Best Cinematography, Color.)
In addition to the film’s trailer, the Studio Classics area presents ads for In Old Chicago, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Snake Pit, and The Three Faces of Eve. Finally, a Restoration Comparison provides images of a mix of different versions of the film.
Occasionally slow-paced and melodramatic, Leave Her to Heaven nonetheless manifests a generally intriguing tale. We get an alluring performance from its leads and intriguing plot twists, all of which are enough to make it keep our interest. The DVD presents occasionally great but very erratic picture with problematic stereo sound. The extras don’t offer much, though the audio commentary presents useful notes. While Heaven didn’t dazzle me, with a cheap list price of less than $15, I recommend it.