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As a movie buff, I am absolutely delighted anytime a Bette Davis film becomes available on DVD. NOW, VOYAGER ($20) is certainly one of the best movies Davis made while she was at Warner Bros. (heck they’re all good) and this DVD is even more of a treat because the quality of the presentation is nothing short of astonishing. In NOW, VOYAGER, Davis portrays Charlotte Vale, the beaten down daughter of a wealthy, but rigid matron of proper Boston family. When we first encounter Charlotte, she is a dumpy old maid on the verge of a nervous breakdown; due to the continuous browbeating she receives from her mother (Gladys Cooper). Other family members intercede on Charlotte’s behalf, having her meet with Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains), a psychiatrist who takes her away to his "place in the country" to recuperate.

After a three-month stay, Charlotte is mentally sound, but still not ready to face her domineering mother. Instead of going home, Charlotte undertakes a complete makeover and embarks on a cruise to South America. Although somewhat reclusive, Charlotte does engage in some sightseeing and meets up with Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid), an unhappily married fellow passenger, who is traveling alone on business. Spending most of their time together, Charlotte and Jerry begin a romance that is fated to end when he departs the ship in Rio. Having been made stronger by her relationship with Jerry, Charlotte returns home to face her mother as a completely changed person. Much of NOW, VOYAGER plays like a melodramatic soap opera, but the film benefits from the sharp direction of Irving Rapper, as well as the first rate performances by Davis, Henreid, Rains and Cooper. The solid cast also includes Bonita Granville, John Loder, Ilka Chase, Lee Patrick, Franklin Pangborn, Katherine Alexander, James Rennie, Mary Wickes and Janis Wilson.

Warner Home Video has made NOW, VOYAGER available on DVD in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. The terrific black and white transfer and digital restoration serve to make NOW, VOYAGER look as though it were a brand new movie. In fact, I’d have to say that NOW, VOYAGER is one of the most gorgeous black and white DVDs that I’ve ever had the supreme pleasure to view. The image is utterly flawless- crisp and vividly detailed, without so much as a nick, scratch or spec of debris to be found anywhere during the presentation. Black are perfectly inky, while the whites are pure and completely stable. Contrast is phenomenally smooth and the picture produces numerous distinct shades of gray. The cleanly authored DVD doesn’t betray any signs of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is excellent when one considers that NOW, VOYAGER is almost sixty years old. There are some limitations in the fidelity of these old recording, but for the most part they are clean sounding and free from distortion. Dialogue is always crisp and easy to understand. As for the music, Max Steiner’s Academy Award winning score sounds quite good, even with more than a fair amount of amplification. Subtitles have been encoded onto the DVD in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Max Steiner’s underscores the basic interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Musical cues from the original scoring session are included on the DVD, along with a theatrical trailer and a biography for leading lady Bette Davis.

NOW, VOYAGER is a film classic that belongs in the collection of every serious movie fan. Warner Home Video’s presentation is nothing short of miraculous, making this a must own DVD for anyone even slightly interested in the material. Absolutely recommended.


Now, Voyager


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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