A Star Is Born appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Star provided a consistently good visual experience.
Sharpness looked pretty solid. A little softness affected some close-ups, a fact I’d guess came from “glamour” photographic techniques, and a few other “off” shots occurred, such as a blurry sequence when Esther and John write a song together. Those created minor concerns, though, as the movie was usually concise and accurate. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. Despite the age of the movie, it seemed surprisingly free of defects. A couple of tiny specks popped up but nothing more than that.
Colors stood out as positive. Within the production design, the hues came across as rich and distinct. I noticed no issues related to bleeding, noise, or other concerns, as the tones were lively and dynamic. Black levels were deep and rich, while shadow detail looked clean and clear; a few nighttime shots could be a bit dense, but those were mild distractions. Nothing substantial marred the presentation so I thought it was a solid “B+”.
As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of A Star Is Born, it presented a distinct series of highs and lows. On the positive side, much of the music sounded very good. The tunes boasted nice stereo imaging, and they often showed solid dynamics. Though a few of the numbers were a little lackluster, most demonstrated fine clarity and range. The music acted as the clear highlight of the mix.
As for the negatives, I’d focus on everything else. Speech tended to be dinky and distant. I often found it tough to hear what the actors said and found the quality of the lines to seem thin at best. This was more of a problem with the mix than with the original recording, though; the balance buried the lines and could make them difficult to discern. When dialogue stood on its own, it seemed more natural, though even those moments were up and down; for every concise line, we got a flat, distant one.
Effects usually sounded wan and without much definition. Since they played a small role in the proceedings, that wasn’t as much of an issue as the poor speech, though. Effects usually stayed focused on the front center, though some elements like crowd noise and rain spread to the rear. These elements tended to seem thin and distant.
Other than the music, this wasn’t an ambitious mix. And other than the music, this wasn’t a good mix. The high-quality tunes earned a “B+” but the rest fell into “C-” range, so I ended up with an overall “B-”.
How does the Blu-ray compare to the prior DVD? Audio is a little warmer and fuller, but both suffer from similar drawbacks. Visuals show an improvement, though, as the Blu-ray brings us the standard step up in terms of accuracy and color reproduction. I felt pleased with the DVD’s picture quality but the Blu-ray easily tops it.
The Blu-ray replicates the DVD’s extras and adds one new one. The prime attraction comes from an audio commentary with actor/producer Barbra Streisand, as she offers a running, screen-specific discussion. Streisand covers how she got into the project and her role behind the scenes, casting and the other actors, music and performances, cinematography, editing and costumes.
Quite a few good notes emerge here. We learn how Elvis almost played the John Norman Howard role, and her insights about her hatred of lip-synching are nice. However, a few flaws mar the program. The main issue stems from the many long gaps that appear. There’s lots of dead air on display, and that makes the track tough to take at times.
In addition, Streisand devotes much of the discussion to the Woes of Fame. She often notes how difficult it is to be a star, and she really sounds whiny. I understand her complaints but geez, she’s been a major star for five decades, and I’d think she’d be over all these issues by now. I can’t imagine hearing McCartney or Jagger gripe like this. Streisand manages to provide some nice notes, but the mix of drawbacks makes this an erratic commentary.
We hear more from Streisand during three minutes and 12 seconds of Wardrobe Tests. Streisand narrates the otherwise silent footage and gives us some notes on what we see. The footage is moderately interesting as it shows ideas for outfits, and Streisand’s remarks add a few useful bits of info.
12 Deleted Scenes run a total of 16 minutes and 44 seconds. Most of these pad out the John/Esther relationship, and virtually all of them seem redundant. We get the needed information in the final film, so none of this material would have contributed to matters.
You will find unintentional comedy, though. We get alternate angles of the movie’s concluding musical performance. Streisand’s insanely emotive rendition of the tune is bad enough as viewed in the flick, but here we see her go fully epileptic. The horror! The horror!
We can watch these with or without commentary from Streisand. She offers a few general notes about the clips and usually tells us why they got cut. Nothing essential appears, but the remarks fill out matters acceptably well.
Finally, the disc presents three trailers. We discover promos for the 1937, 1954 and 1976 versions of Star.
New to the Blu-ray, we find a hardcover book. It includes a mix of production notes, cast/crew info, and a variety of photos. It adds a little value to the package.
Back in the Seventies, many regarded the 1976 A Star Is Born as a misfire, and nothing has changed perceptions over the last 37 years. Tedious, boring and bloated, the flick exists as a love letter to its star and nothing more. The Blu-ray presents pretty good picture, erratic audio and a moderately useful set of supplements. I feel pleased with this release but as a movie, A Star Is Born offers a dreadful vanity piece.
To rate this film visit the original review of A STAR IS BORN (1976)