Tom Jones appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though it revealed issues with the source, the image usually held up well.
This meant the movie mostly displayed nice definition. A smattering of soft shots cropped up at times, but the majority of the film boasted solid clarity and accuracy.
I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and the image lacked edge haloes. Print flaws also appeared absent, and the film offered a nice, natural layer of grain.
Colors fared well, as the movie came with a warm, amber-influenced palette. The hues came across as full and rich throughout the film.
Blacks seemed dark and deep, while shadows usually gave us fairly nice delineation. A few “day for night” shots came with the usual thickness, but that was unavoidable. Overall, the Blu-ray represented an inconsistent source well.
The same went for the movie’s dated LPCM monaural. Speech remained intelligible but not especially natural, mainly due to some dodgy looping. Still, the lines lacked edginess and didn’t create major concerns.
Music lacked much range but appeared clear enough, and effects seemed similar. Those elements also failed to display a lot of punch, but they also felt accurate and clean within the restrictions of their era. This was a decent track given its age.
Tom Jones got two DVD releases, one for each version of the film. The “Director’s Cut” hit all the way back in 1997, while the theatrical edition made it out in 2001.
Both were severely flawed, so the Blu-ray offers substantial improvements – especially in terms of visuals. Due to the limits of the source, there’s only so much the Blu-ray can do, but it seems clearer and more dynamic.
Picture demonstrates the more obvious step up, though, as the Criterion release appears much cleaner, tighter, bolder and more accurate. The Blu-ray stomps all over the prior DVDs.
Whereas the Jones DVDs lacked extras, the Criterion package includes a mix of materials – including two versions of the film. Here we find both the movie’s 1963 theatrical edition (2:08:49) as well as a 1989 Director’s Cut (2:01:41).
In 1989, director Tony Richardson apparently decided the film was too long so he edited it for reissue. He seems to have accomplished this via a mix of small trims, as the shorter Jones doesn’t appear to lose anything major. Whichever you prefer, you get your choice here, which I appreciate.
Note that while both versions offer identical visuals, they provide alternate soundtracks. The mono mix discussed above comes with the theatrical version, whereas the “Director’s Cut” delivers an LPCM stereo mix.
Don’t expect a lot from this track, as it didn’t expand horizons to a major degree. A few “action” scenes – like a deer hunt – offered mild blending/movement to the sides, but much of the audio still felt fairly monaural. Even score didn’t demonstrate a lot of breadth.
Audio quality largely remained similar, though the stereo track felt a bit weaker. Speech seemed a little more brittle, and the stereo version came across as a little “artificial” at times. Still, these weren’t substantial differences, so the stereo track didn’t seem significantly weaker than its mono counterpart.
On the “Theatrical” disc, we get a 1982 Dick Cavett Show interview with actor Albert Finney. In this four-minute, 32-second excerpt, Finney discusses his experiences during Jones as well as other aspects of the production. This becomes a decent clip but nothing terribly insightful.
An audio interview, Scoring Tom Jones provides a seven-minute, 53-second chat with composed John Addison. He covers his music in general as well as specifics about Jones. We find a good collection of notes here.
Finally, the “Theatrical” platter concludes with a 10-minute, 13-second Vanessa Redgrave Interview from 2017. Married to director Tony Richardson in 1963, Redgrave goes over aspects of society in the 1960s as well as her relationship with Richardson and his work. This turns into a fairly informative chat.
Over on the “Director’s Cut” disc, we open with an interview montage with cinematographer Walter Lassally. The 24-minute, 32-second reel mixes a 2004 piece with Lassally as well as a 2017 chat between Lassally and film critic Peter Cowie.
In this compilation, we learn about Lassally’s career, with a focus on Jones. The two segments offer a lot of good notes and this becomes probably the most enjoyable of the disc’s extras.
With The Influence of Tom Jones, we get a 22-minute, 18-second overview with film scholar Duncan Petrie. He gets into the history of Tony Richardson’s production company as well as aspects of the film’s creation. Petrie delivers a solid collection of facts and gives us a good sense of historical perspective.
Lastly, Re-Editing Tom Jones goes for 10 minutes, four seconds and features editor Robert Lambert. He examines the technical challenges related to the 1989 “Director’s Cut” as well as some of the changes. Though we get a few insights, we don’t learn as much about the creative decisions as I’d like.
A booklet finishes the set. A foldout 12-page affair, it mixes photos, credits and an essay from film professor Neil Sinyard. Though not one of Criterion’s best efforts, it completes matters on a satisfactory note.
Maybe someday I’ll figure out how Tom Jones found Oscar success, but it won’t happen today. The movie becomes a total dud, as it offers an inane experience free from charm or wit. The Blu-ray provides good picture as well as acceptable audio and a collection of supplements highlighted by two versions of the film. While I don’t care for Tom Jones, I feel pleased with this high-quality release.