Written on the Wind
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Bathed in lurid Technicolor, melodrama maestro Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind is the stylishly debauched tale of a Texas oil magnate brought down by the excesses of his spoiled offspring. Features an all-star quartet that includes Robert Stack as a pistol-packin’ alcoholic playboy; Lauren Bacall as his long-suffering wife; Rock Hudson as his earthy best friend; and Dorothy Malone (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance) as his nymphomaniac sister.
The Criterion Collection's original DVD edition for Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind presents the film on a single-layer disc in the aspect ratio of around 1.75:1 (listed on the back as 1.77:1) and has been enhanced for widescreen televisions. The standard-definition presentation has been transferred from a 35mm interpositive.
The presentation holds up decently for what it is, but as expected it's more than open for improvement. Though some restoration effort appears to have been put into it the end results are still limited by the technology of the time, with some large marks, scratches and stains remaining. These marks are infrequent, however, and the image is mostly clean. Impressively, the disc does manage to render the colours quite well, with some very strong blues, violets, and reds, though bleeding can occur when some of the bolder colours meet. Black levels are okay, but crushing can be an issue in the darker sequences.
Compression isn't terrible but, even for the format, it can be more of an issue in some of the film's lowlit shots and the image can come off incredibly noisy. There can be some minor ringing around darker object over bright backgrounds as well. The image is smooth in motion, and I can't say any other artifacts stood out.
For a standard-definition presentation from 2001 it's not bad, but the film was severely due for an upgrade.
The Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural soundtrack can get a little bit harsh when it reaches for the higher ends, but outside of that it's clean. Dialogue is clear, music has adequate fidelity and range, and though there is some faint background noise (which is to be expected) there is no severe damage present.
Both of Criterion's DVD editions for Written on the Wind and All That Heaven Allows (released together in 2001) didn't receive the elaborate special editions one would have probably expected, but Wind got especially overlooked, simply receiving a text gallery about Sirk's work called The Melodrama Archive alongside the trailers for both Written on the Wind and All That Heaven Allows. The text gallery is broken up into three periods of Sirk's career, covering his German work, his early work in America, and then his work specifically at Universal. The gallery works its way through his films and features notes on them along with excerpts from texts on the films (including material from Sirk) and large collections of photographs, ranging from film stills to posters and lobby cards. It's actually not a bad crash course on Sirk's work, but I've always been a bit gobsmacked that Criterion couldn't be bothered to include any features specific to the film itself, outside of a short essay by Laura Mulvey, found in the included insert.
An underwhelming "special edition" for the film that only features a text gallery going through Sirk's career. The presentation is fine for the time.