Picnic appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.55:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The disc packed two movies - Picnic and Jeanne Eagels - onto one dual-layered disc. That might’ve been too much for one DVD to handle, and I think it affected the attractiveness of the presentation.
Actually, compression artifacts weren’t a major concern. Mosquito noise crept in at times, and I noticed occasional instances of blockiness, but those weren’t my biggest complaint. Instead, basic definition tended to be problematic. Close-ups looked fine, and two-shots weren’t bad, but wider shots were rather soft and fuzzy. Since the movie offered more than a few of those, the flick could often suffer from a lack of good delineation.
Jagged edges weren’t an issue, but instances of shimmering cropped up with minor frequency. Edge haloes appeared but were fairly light. Source flaws remained virtually absent, though. The movie came free from any notable print defects, which came as a positive.
Colors worked fine. At times, they tended to be slightly brownish, but the hues usually appeared natural and full. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows showed pretty good clarity. The transfer mixed good and bad elements, which left it as a “C+”; the inconsistent definition remained my biggest issue.
I felt more pleased by the surprisingly strong Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The front spectrum offered some nice breadth, with an attempt to spread audio across the three channels that's much better than we normally hear for movies this old. When necessary, movement could be good; for instance, the opening shot of a train cranked from one side to the other in a convincing manner.
Surround usage wasn’t tremendous, but it contributed depth to the audio. Again, the louder bits like the train used the back speakers well, and sequences such as the big picnic provided nice reinforcement from the rear. None of this dazzled, but given the movie’s age and modest sonic ambitions, I thought the soundscape worked nicely.
Audio quality held up well over the last 55 years. Speech could be a little reedy, and a lot of it was clearly dubbed; those elements lacked a very natural quality. However, the lines were always perfectly intelligible, and they offered typical sound for recordings of their era.
Effects came across pretty nicely. That loud train at the open packed a good roar, and other components showed reasonable clarity. They weren’t particularly impressive, but again, they seemed more than competent given their vintage.
Music fared best of all. The score boasted good vivacity and range, and this became the one aspect of the mix that transcended its age. While not up to modern standards, the music sounded notably more dynamic and full than I expected. That was the main reason this satisfying mix earned a solid “B”.
Only minor extras accompany the film. In addition to the flick’s trailer, we got a featurette called Kim Novak’s Hollywood Picnic. In this 17-minute, 13-second piece, we hear a chat from author Stephen Rebello and actor Kim Novak as we watch stills and footage from her career. Novak chats about her career in general as well as many specifics about aspects of Picnic and the folks with whom she worked. The featurette concentrates on good details and doesn’t stray off-topic too often, so it provides a concise little look at Novak’s impressions of Picnic.
I didn't find Picnic to be a terrible film, but it's a dated and not very compelling one. It made an awkward shift from the stage to the screen and just never really became involving. The DVD’s picture shows highs and lows that make it average in the end. The audio works quite well, but the set’s supplements don’t give us much. As a DVD, this is a decent to good release, but the movie itself just doesn’t do a lot for me.
Note that this release of Picnic 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 Pal Joey.