The Sting appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That marked a change from the original DVD, which offered a fullscreen transfer. This new one improved on it in other ways, but it’s not a great leap forward in quality, unfortunately.
Sharpness presented one of the concerns. The majority of the movie looked adequately defined, but lapses in detail occurred with some frequency. More than a few of those instances seemed to relate to the presence of moderate edge enhancement; haloes were noticeable during many points. Shimmering also popped up at times, but no jagged edges appeared.
Source flaws diminished from the earlier transfer but continued to cause distractions. The movie seemed grainier than I’d expect, and various examples of specks and grit showed up throughout the flick. I also noticed an occasional blotch and some flashing early in the film. The defects never became overwhelming, but they created concerns.
Despite the low-key production design that matched the film’s Depression era, colors generally looked bright and vivid and offered some of the high points of the image. They seemed well-saturated and lacked noise or smearing. Black levels were also quite good, and shadow detail usually appeared appropriately opaque. While this transfer did improve over the original fullscreen affair, I thought the softness, edge enhancement and source defects created too many issues for it to earn a grade above a “C+”.
Another change from the old DVD came with the audio of The Sting. While the prior release solely offered the movie’s original monaural mix, the new one presented that track along with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 remixes. As often is the case, I thought the pair sounded identical and noticed no differences between them.
At least The Sting offered greater room for sonic ambition than did To Kill a Mockingbird, another film that originally featured mono sound and received a 5.1 “upgrade”. Still, I think the presence of both Dolby Digital and DTS tracks remains overkill, as the DVD would be fine with just one 5.1 mix.
The Sting opened up the image in a modest way. Music demonstrated decent stereo imaging, and atmospheric scenes got a boost. Usually we heard audio from the sides for shots with street life such as cars or trains. The gambling dens also showed some extra breadth. The mix didn’t go nuts, though, as it stayed reasonably true to its single-channel roots. Surrounds added some light reinforcement of the elements but not much else; you’ll be excused if you don’t even notice their presence.
The quality of the audio was solid. Dialogue usually integrated well with the picture and sounded relatively natural and intelligible. Effects reasonably realistic and lacked much distortion. Scott Joplin's music came across terrifically well; the ragtime songs sounded clear and rich, with a little bit of nice bass tossed into the mix. For material from an older source, The Sting sounded pretty good.
The main differences that I heard when I compared the 5.1 tracks to the original mono mix related to the soundscape. Audio quality was quite similar for all of them, but obviously the 5.1 mixes opened up the spectrum. I figured that was enough to merit a “B” instead of the old DVD’s “B-“.
The original DVD included only a couple of minor supplements. This “Legacy Series” release doesn’t do a whole lot to change that situation, unfortunately. We get one major new component on its second platter: a documentary called The Art of The Sting. This program lasts 56 minutes and 17 seconds as it presents movie clips, archival materials, and remarks from writer David Ward, musical adapter Marvin Hamlisch, and actors Robert Redford, Ray Walston, Paul Newman, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan, and Dimitra Arliss.
We learn about the origins of the movie and Ward’s writing of it, assembling a cast and crew, the film’s music, recreating the Depression-era setting and the use of slang, the director’s style, the actors’ work and their interactions, the story and its complications, and general thoughts. That latter topic means the show degrades into a praise-fest at the end, especially about the greatness of director George Roy Hill.
Until that point, it works awfully well. We get a decent sense of the way the production functioned, but better yet, we hear many great stories from the participants about approaches to characters, Hill’s recommendations, and nuts and bolts like the use of music. The show offers many insightful and interesting moments to turn into a winning documentary.
In addition to the documentary, we also find some very good text production notes. These offer quite a lot of information about the film. We also get the flick’s theatrical trailer, though it was created for a post-Oscars reissue.
The Sting is a solidly entertaining little film. It aspires to be nothing more than a consistently compelling and delightful movie and it succeeds on all counts. The DVD offers good sound plus decent picture and a minor set of extras highlighted by a very good documentary.
This two-DVD “Legacy Series” take on The Sting isn’t a slam-dunk, mostly because of the erratic visuals and skimpy extras. Nonetheless, I do recommend it. Folks who don’t own the old DVD should check it out, and it also would fare as a good upgrade. I don’t think it blows away the prior DVD, but it improves matters enough to merit a look.