Swing Time appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The transfer showed its age and demonstrated more than a few problems.
Sharpness was mediocre. The movie usually offered decent delineation, but it could be rather soft at times. Though that tendency wasn’t overwhelming, I thought it meant the film wasn’t as crisp and taut as I’d like. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but light edge enhancement cropped up through the film.
Source flaws created the biggest distractions. I noticed examples of lines, specks and marks, and quite a few instances of blotches and streaks occurred. These weren’t a consistent nuisance, and some parts of the flick looked pretty clean, but others were rather messy. Blacks seemed reasonably deep and taut, while shadows demonstrated nice delineation. Contrast was a little mushy, though, and the film’s tone remained a slightly unappealing gray. Between the issues with sharpness and source flaws, Swing Time ended up as a “C-“ transfer.
At least the monaural soundtrack of Swing Time proved more satisfying. Speech came across as a little brittle but remained intelligible and reasonably concise. Music showed good clarity; it lacked dimensionality but seemed clean and bright. Similar thoughts greeted the effects, which were acceptably clear. Some light background noise appeared, but not much for a film of this one’s era. This was a pretty good mix for its age.
A few extras fill out the DVD. We open with an audio commentary from film historian John Mueller. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Mueller gets into cast and crew, music and dance sequences, story, pacing and cut scenes, and other production notes. He also gives us a look at the Astaire/Rogers dance team and their history of work together.
All of this means Mueller presents a good overview of the important factors. He offers nice insights into the dance scenes as well as plenty of other elements. Though he drags as the commentary progresses, he remains informative much of the time. This becomes a pretty good track.
Next comes a featurette called The Swing of Things: Swing Time Step By Step. This 14-minute and 45-second piece mixes archival elements, film clips and interviews. We hear from Mueller, film professor Rick Jewell, film critic/historian Leonard Maltin, author/archivist Larry Billman, Broadway performers/choreographers Jeffry Denman, Melissa Rae Mahon, Nancy Lemenager and Noah Racey, dancer/actress Barrie Chase, director/choreographer Randy Skinner and choreographer Hermes Pan. “Things” offers a view of the Astaire/Rogers team and their work on Swing Time. In particular, it details the dance scenes and gives us notes about them. Denman and Mahon also provide demonstrations of these sequences.
This doesn’t act as a view of the film’s creation, but it doesn’t aspire to that goal. Instead, it lets us learn more about the dancing, and it succeeds in that regard. The limited focus works well as it allows us to learn a lot more about the movie’s hoofing.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get two vintage pieces. We find a musical short called Hotel a la Swing (21:37) and a classic cartoon entitled Bingo Crosbyana (7:53). Of the pair, “Bingo” works the best. An insect Bing Crosby makes the female bugs swoon. At no point does this short excel, but it beats the other piece. “Hotel” is a pretty feeble piece of comedy that mostly acts as an excuse for a long musical performance. It’s not interesting as anything other than a historical curiosity, though the clip has held up well; it looked a bunch better than Swing Time did.
A light, charming musical, Swing Time floats to us on the backs of its stars. Without them it’d flop, but with Astaire and Rogers, it turns into a consistent delight. The DVD comes with flawed visuals, relatively good audio and a few tasty extras. The quality of this release won’t dazzle anyone, but the movie itself remains a winner.