Pal Joey appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I felt pretty pleased with this appealing transfer.
Sharpness worked fine. Due to the limitations of DVD’s resolution, wider shots could be a bit soft, but the movie usually exhibited nice clarity and delineation. I noticed no prominent instances of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained minor. Source flaws also failed to make an impression. I noticed a couple of small specks but nothing more distracting. Grain could be a little heavy, but it remained appropriate and natural.
Colors usually looked nice. A few instances of colored lighting at the nightclub seemed a bit heavy, but the movie’s hues normally appeared to be full and rich. The same went for the satisfying black levels, and low-light shots tended to show positive clarity; a few “day for night” shots came across as too dark, but that was expected. Overall, I liked this strong presentation.
Though not as good, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Joey worked fine for its age. Taken from the original monaural mix – which also showed up on the disc – the soundfield opened matters up in a modest manner. Music showed passable stereo spread, and effects also broadened to the side and rear channels in a gentle manner. Street and club scenes contributed general ambience but didn’t have much more to do than that. The soundscape didn’t impress, but I was fine with its limited scope.
Audio quality showed its age but not in a terrible way. Speech could be a bit thick, but most lines were reasonably natural, and they always remained intelligible. Effects were acceptably accurate; they didn’t have much to do, but they showed no significant weaknesses either.
Music was decent but a bit of a disappointment. I watched Joey right after I saw Picnic; the latter’s score boasted nice vivacity, and Joey’s music seemed drab by comparison. In truth, the score was acceptable given its vintage, but the music tended to sound somewhat flat. Nonetheless, I felt the mix worked fine as a whole and earned a “B-“.
A few minor extras flesh out the set. First comes a select scenes commentary from actor Kim Novak and author Stephen Rebello. Their remarks fill 11 minutes, 24 seconds as they chat over three parts of the movie: “Opening Scene” (2:25), “My Funny Valentine” (2:51) and “Dream Sequence” (6:06). They discuss shooting in San Francisco, Novak’s musical number, her co-stars, and a few other aspects of the production. Novak throws out a few good details – especially when she mentions Sinatra’s unpleasant behavior on the shoot – but I can’t say that the commentary packs a great deal of strong info. The material’s worth a listen , but you shouldn’t expect much.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a featurette entitled Backstage and At Home with Kim Novak. This runs for nine minutes, 28 seconds and includes more info from Novak and Rebello. She gives us thoughts about her costumes as well as her home and her life after movies. Novak tells us little about Joey; it’s mildly interesting to hear about her current situation, but I’d prefer more material related to the movie. The absence of those notes makes “Backstage” less than impressive.
I expected to dislike Pal Joey, but a number of factors - mainly Frank Sinatra's fine performance - won me over. I found it to offer a light but pleasant and charming experience. The DVD provides very good picture and perfectly adequate sound but lacks compelling supplements. Despite that last disappointment, Pal Joey will be greatly enjoyed by fans of musicals or any of the stars, and even musical-hating bastards such as myself may get a kick out of it.
Note that this release of Pal Joey comes only as part of a five-film “Kim Novak Collection”. The two-DVD set also includes Jeanne Eagels, Bell, Book and Candle, Middle of the Night and Picnic.