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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview about the film with NoŽl Coward scholar Barry Day
  • Episode of the Britsh television series The Southbank Show from 1992 on the life and career of Coward
  • Trailer

Blithe Spirit

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: David Lean
Starring: Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings, Kay Hammond, Margaret Rutherford, Hugh Wakefield, Joyce Carey
1945 | 96 Minutes | Licensor: ITV Global Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $99.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #606
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: March 27, 2012
Review Date: March 27, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

Blithe Spirit, David Lean's delightful film version of NoŽl Coward's theater sensation (onstage, it broke London box-office records before hitting Broadway), stars Rex Harrison as a novelist who cheekily invites a medium (Margaret Rutherford) to his house to conduct a sťance, hoping the experience will inspire a book he's working on. Things go decidedly not as planned when she summons the spirit of his dead first wife (Kay Hammond), a severe inconvenience for his current one (Constance Cummings). Employing Oscar-winning special effects to spruce up Coward's theatrical farce, Blithe Spirit is a sprightly supernatural comedy with winning performances.

Forum members rate this film 7/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Criterion has put together a 4-disc box set representing the collaborative work of playwright NoŽl Coward and director David Lean, calling it David Lean Directs NoŽl Coward. The third film in the set, Blithe Spirit, is presented here on a dual-layer disc in a new 1080p/24hz transfer in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

In association with ITV Studios Global Entertainment and StudioCanal the BFI conducted a vigorous restoration of Leanís first ten films, with funding from the David Lean Foundation. These restorations were used for all of the transfers in this set and were supplied to Criterion by ITV. All of them look exceptional.

Though the source materials were maybe a tad more problematic than what were used for This Happy Breed, the only other Technicolor film in the set, Blithe Spiritís transfer delivers just as sharp a presentation as that one. Detail and clarity is again superb and film grain is naturally rendered, never looking like noise. Colours are again nicely saturated and pop but it still keeps its Technicolor look.

All issues I could spot are really in the print, which presents some pulsating and a few blemishes. There is some colour separation to be found as well but itís not too bad. Again, like every other presentation in the Lean/Coward set, itís a beautiful, smooth looking presentation.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Similar to the other discs in this set the lossless linear PCM 1.0 mono track delivers clear, articulate dialogue but still shows its age. Itís a bit flat, the music can get a little edgy and rough in places, and you can make out some minor noise. Still, in the end, itís easy to hear and is perfectly fine for the film.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Each disc in the set contains its own set of supplements, with a few focusing specifically on the film contained on the disc. This review only concentrates on the supplements included on the disc of Blithe Spirit.

A common feature between all of the discs is an interview with Coward scholar Barry Day. This one is the shortest of the bunch, running about 11-minutes. In it Day defends the film but admits that there are many not fond of it and Coward was probably the biggest critic out of them all: he told Lean he had ďfucked upĒ the best thing he ever did. Lean was not a fan of the play and Day admits that Lean pretty much just ďfilmed the playĒ and points out the weaknesses, the primary one probably being Leanís sense of humour didnít match that of the playís. Day also talks about the original playís ending, which differed a great deal from the filmís, which adds what I guess you could was a ďhappier endingĒ. Judging by all of the negative energy that sounds to have been on set Iím amazed this film even turned out at all (even Harrison hated the script and disliked working with Margaret Rutherford.) Like every other interview in the set with Day he is again very dry but manages to still keep his pieces entertaining and informative.

Next, Criterion includes a 1992 episode of The Southbanks Show about NoŽl Coward, complete with horrendous 90ís television effects. The 51-minute episode is a typical biography, gathering new and archival interviews with friends, peers, family, scholars, and more, who all cover Cowardís long career. Included are interviews with actors John Gielgud, John Mills, director David Lean, his partner Graham Payn, and many more. The piece also includes older interviews with Coward himself, including footage from the Attenborough interview that was only included as audio on Criterionís In Which We Serve disc. The episode begins with his childhood, where his mother was preparing him already to become a showman of some sort (Coward says he was ďtrained to be a show off.Ē) And then it gets into some of his early acting roles and then his move to a playwright, where he of course wrote himself his own roles. It looks briefly at his music, despite the handicap of not being able to read or write music, and then his films during wartime, specifically In Which We Server and Brief Encounter. Despite the dated elements of the episode itís a great addition offering a wonderful examination of the manís life and work.

The supplements then conclude with the filmís theatrical trailer. The set also comes with a booklet with a number of essays, including one by Geoffrey OíBrien on Blithe Spirit.

In terms of supplements this disc is probably the weakest of the bunch in this category, but I again enjoyed the Day interview and was especially fond of the Coward biography.

6/10

CLOSING

The Lean/Coward set is a superb set overall and Blithe Spirit is another strong release within it. It has the weaker set of supplements but theyíre still worth going through, but like the other titles in the set it again delivers a beautiful looking transfer.


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