A Place In the Sun appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasn’t a great looking movie, but it seemed to reproduce the source well.
Sharpness looked reasonably crisp and accurate, though some soft focus came into play during a few close-ups of Taylor. This seemed odd; I normally associate that technique with older actresses who want to hide flaws. Taylor was a teen at the time, so I seriously doubt she needed this kind of obscuring.
In any case, the technique only appeared a few times, and most of the film remained fairly accurate. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no source flaws. With natural grain, I didn’t suspect problematic usage of noise reduction.
Blacks felt dark but occasionally a bit crushed, as the elements could seem a little dense. Shadows followed suit, as they displayed somewhat thick notes at times. Ultimately, this became a more than watchable image but not one that stood out as memorable.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of A Place In the Sun adapted the original monaural mix, but it didn’t stray far from the source. I detected some mild side and rear spread to the movie’s score, but otherwise, I didn’t hear any audio that moved from the center.
Some minor effects ambience occurred, and it stayed very modest. For instance, some factory clatter used the other channels in a bland, mushy manner. This was a pointless 5.1 mix.
Audio quality appeared fairly typical for the era. Dialogue sounded somewhat thin and reedy, but speech remained acceptably distinct and it showed no problems related to intelligibility or edginess.
Effects offered a relatively minor aspect of the mix, but they stayed clear and adequately realistic, though they offered little depth. Music fared about the same, as the score became lackluster, though largely typical for its era.
The soundtrack felt adequate, though I admit I’d prefer the original monaural. The “stereo” spread of the music felt unnatural and not very convincing.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2001? Audio seemed a little stronger, mainly because the DVD suffered from background noise. Nonetheless, both remained largely similar and reflected the limitations of the source.
Visuals demonstrated improvements, as the Blu-ray looked better defined and cleaner than the DVD. I thought the DVD impressed by 2001 standards, but 20 years later, the Blu-ray became the superior product.
We find a mix of new and (mostly) old extras, and we start with an audio commentary from associate producer Ivan Moffat and George Stevens Jr., the director’s son. The two sit together for this running, screen-specific piece.
When they speak, the track adds a fair amount of solid information. They cover issues in regard to the story’s translation from the original novel, and they also go into concerns about the original 1931 version of the film along with production topics, story and character interpretation, and a mix of other issues.
Unfortunately, the commentary suffers from an excessive number of gaps. Quite a lot of the action passes without discussion, and the spaces grow rather large at times. For fans of the film, the material covered merits attention, but this still becomes a somewhat frustrating track.
In addition to trailers for Sun, Shane and Sunset Boulevard, we get some video programs. George Stevens: His Place In the Sun focuses on the filmmaker but relates these details largely as connected to Sun.
The 22-minute, 22-second program combines archival materials with interview snippets. It includes circa 2001 clips from Stevens Jr., Moffat and Elizabeth Taylor plus 1983 bits from Shelley Winters.
This becomes a pretty compelling piece. The program tosses in a nice little biography of the elder Stevens, and it goes into some solid details about Sun itself.
Somewhat surprisingly, Taylor’s remarks seem the most interesting of the bunch. She relates nice notes about her experiences on the flick, especially in regard to her relationship with Clift and the impact the experience of making Sun had on her career. It’s a solid little feature that merits a look.
Next up comes George Stevens: The Filmmakers Who Know Him, a 45-minute, 28-second discussion of Stevens’ work by a slew of cinematic notables. Apparently filmed in 1983 for little George’s A Filmmaker’s Journey - his tribute to dad - this program consists entirely of other folks’ remarks about Big George.
We hear from Warren Beatty, Frank Capra, Rouben Mamoulian, Joe Mankiewicz, Alan J. Pakula, Antonio Vellani, Robert Wise, and Fred Zinnemann. Each man’s comments last between three minutes, five seconds (Mamoulian) and 11 minutes, 31 seconds (Pakula).
Not surprisingly, the statements from the older filmmakers relate mainly to their personal experiences with Stevens, while the younger men talk more about their feelings toward his work. While the former can be quite entertaining, the latter offer the greatest substance.
I liked most of the material here, but the bits from Beatty and especially Pakula were the most compelling. All in all, this was a good package of information.
New to the Blu-ray, we find Filmmaker Focus, a seven-minute, 35-second chat with film critic/historian Leonard Maltin. He discusses aspects of Stevens’ career as well as the creation of Sun. Maltin chimes in with some good notes.
Parts of A Place In the Sun failed to age well. Nonetheless, it remains a fairly intriguing and provocative piece. The Blu-ray brings generally good picture and audio along with a mostly useful set of supplements. Classic film fans should be very pleased with A Place In the Sun, and others curious about this member of the AFI Top 100 also might want to give it a look.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of A PLACE IN THE SUN