Shane appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I’ve seen worse transfers, but I’ve seen better.
Sharpness was one of the many issues. Close-ups demonstrated acceptable clarity, but anything wider than that was mushy and fuzzy. Some of that was semi-intentional – the cinematographer lathered on the soft focus to make then-50-something Jean Arthur’s age less obvious – but most of it came from the transfer, not the source. Blockiness could appear as well.
At least the image lacked any obvious signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes were minimal. Print flaws were more apparent, however. Various spots, marks and scratches showed up throughout the film. These weren’t dominant – I’ve viewed many dirtier images – but they did distract.
Colors seemed faded and bland. Granted, Shane isn't The Wizard Of Oz; it's not the kind of movie that should boast vivid, bright hues, and most of the film stayed with a pretty drab palette that made sense within the dusty landscape. However, even with that consideration I still found the colors to appear awfully flat and pale; they consistently seemed weaker than they should.
Black levels appeared generally decent, with acceptably deep tones, but shadow detail caused some problems. Some of these issues occurred due to "day for night" photography; those scenes were consistently thick and opaque. However, it's not just those parts that looked overly heavy; a number of other interiors - such as in the bar - became excessively thick. Again, this wasn’t a terrible transfer, but it’s definitely flawed and barely scraped out a “C-“.
Don’t expect much from the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of
Shane. For all intents and purposes, this was a mono mix; sound emitted from the side and rear speakers, but it added virtually nothing. Music showed “broad mono” and lacked any form of stereo presence; the music came from the other channels but failed to deliver unique instrumentation on the sides. Effects remained centered, and any surround usage was minimal at best.
Quality of the audio appeared adequate. Dialogue generally was clear and relatively natural, with a few instances of edginess but no problems with intelligibility. Effects were a bit flat and thin, but they seemed acceptably realistic and they featured a mild level of bass as well.
The score sounded fairly crisp and distinct, with somewhat mushy quality at times but no serious concerns. I noticed a slight layer of background noise throughout the track. Ultimately, this was an adequate mix for a 60-year-old movie, though the decision to expand it from its original mono to ineffective surround made no sense.
When we shift to extras, we get a running, screen-specific audio commentary from production assistant/director’s son George Stevens Jr. and associate producer Ivan Moffat. They discuss story/characters, cast, crew and performances, sets and locations, and other filmmaking elements.
Although it contains a fair number of gaps - particularly during the second third of the film – I find this piece to provide a moderately compelling description of the creation of Shane. Stevens relates some interesting historical documents of his father's, and both participants provide some good anecdotes about the shoot. The gaps can make some stretches of the track frustrating, but it's worth your while to stick with it, as many of the best details don't appear until toward the end. It's not a great commentary, but it merits a listen.
In addition to the commentary, we get a theatrical trailer. This comes from a reissue of the film, as indicated by “A Paramount Re-Release” at the end.
Shane offers a very satisfying Western. It's not my favorite example of the genre - I really loved Stagecoach - but it works well overall and provides a compelling experience. The DVD features mediocre picture and audio along with a generally informative commentary. The movie remains a classic, but the DVD has problems.
To rate this film, visit the Blu-Ray review of SHANE