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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with critic Imogen Sara Smith
  • Trailer
  • An essay by novelist Megan Abbott

Leave Her to Heaven

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: John M. Stahl
1945 | 110 Minutes | Licensor: 20th Century Fox

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #1020
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: March 24, 2020
Review Date: March 18, 2020

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SYNOPSIS

Novelist Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) seems to have found the perfect woman in Ellen (Gene Tierney), a beautiful socialite who initiates a whirlwind romance and steers him into marriage before he can think twice. Yet the glassy surface of Ellenís devotion soon reveals monstrous depths, as Richard comes to realize that his wife is shockingly possessive and may be capable of destroying anyone who comes between them. A singular Hollywood masterpiece that draws freely from the womenís picture and film noir alike, Leave Her to Heaven boasts elegant direction by melodrama specialist John M. Stahl, blazing Technicolor cinematography by Leon Shamroy, and a chilling performance by Tierney, whose Ellen is a femme fatale unlike any other: a woman whose love is as pure as it is poisonous.


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents John M. Stahlís Leave Her to Heaven on Blu-ray, delivered in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc. Criterion uses the same 2013 2K restoration that Twilight Time used for their own Blu-ray edition, and it has been encoded here at 1080p/24hz. The original Technicolor negatives for the film were destroyed so the restoration was sourced from a 35mm color reversal internegative.

The Criterion differs in a few minor ways but the video presentation is, for the most part, the same as what the Twilight Time release presented. Colours are still a bit of a mixed bag (though I still think they look better than what the DVD offered), never really popping and with a warmer, yellow tint to the whole thing. The reds, in particular, are the most disappointing aspect, lacking a vibrancy I would have expected: Tierneyís red lipstick, or that red bathing suit in one quick scene, come off closer to a chestnut or similar colour. Black levels do look a bit better here, but some details still get lost in the darker scenes and theyíre still open to improvement.

Film grain can also look a little better, though there can be a certain waxiness during some close-ups. Some of the filmís finer details do seem to come through a bit better on the other hand: the fibers of the book pages that serve as title cards throughout the film are better defined, for example, but itís still a minor upgrade. Print damage isnít a concern (I donít recall any major blemishes) and the image is stable.

Again, not drastically different from the previous Blu-ray edition, but itís a fine presentation, still better than Foxís DVD edition, yet still open to some improvements.

7/10

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

The lossless PCM 1.0 monaural track is a fine enough one. A bit flat overall but dialogue is cleanly rendered and easy to hear, and background noise is not an issue. There are also no major signs of damage.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Surprisingly Criterion skimps over the features on this one, only offering one significant feature: a 27-minute interview with critic Imogen Sara Smith. Impressively, her discussion does a decent enough job of covering all of the bases around the film, going into detail about director John M. Stahl (who has very little written about him) and the types of films he made, pointing out some films she feels are worthwhile. Leave Her to Heaven is an outlier, though, the only film of his that can be considered ďnoir,Ē and she explains how the film builds off of and twists the sense of prosperity that followed the war, with Tierneyís character representing the nightmare version of the post-war housewife: always attentive and nurturing, though to a sinister degree. She praises Tierneyís performance and the Technicolor photography and how colour is employed to convey certain feelings. She does an impressive job, naturally moving through each topic, and itís a shame she wasnít commissioned to do a commentary instead.

The original trailer and an insertófeaturing an essay by novelist Megan Abbott on the character of Ellen and Tierneyís lookóclose this release off. Iím a bit stunned that Criterion didnít put more into considering the filmís legacy. Twilight Timeís Blu-ray and Foxís DVD edition both contained a commentary featuring Richard Schickel and actor Darryl Hickman and itís a little surprising Criterion didnít port it over, but Iím assuming they didnít think it was worth it: it was a dreadful track, with a disinterested Schickel just making his way through (Smith, in just 27-minutes, covers far more than this guy ever does) while a bitter Hickman complained about co-star Tierney and the filmís director. There were a couple of Movietone clips as well, but I canít say theyíre truly missed. So, yeah, I canít really so those supplements are a huge loss, but itís amazing Criterion never tried for more with their edition.

4/10

CLOSING

If you missed out on the Twilight Time edition the Criterion is worth picking up as the presentations donít differ that much (likewise, if you have the previous Blu-ray itís not worth picking this one up). Also, donít feel bad about missing out on the extras on that release: the commentary is dreadful and the other ones arenít worth it. That being said, considering the slim features on this one (one interview, a trailer, and an insert), Iíd wait to get it when itís on sale.


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