THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR
Every time I see a Gene Tierney movie, I become more and more convinced that she was the most exquisitely beautiful woman to ever grace the silver screen. Her beauty was probably at its most captivating in Otto Preminger’s noir classic LAURA, but I’ve also become enraptured watching Gene Tierney in other films from the same period, such as HEAVEN CAN WAIT, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, THE RAZOR'S EDGE and THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR. Although every one of the Tierney’s films I’ve mentioned here deserves to be made available on DVD, it is THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR ($20) that is leading the charge in Fox’s Studio Classics line, with LAURA scheduled to make its debut later in 2003.
While I think the LAURA is one of the greatest films ever made, I am incredibly delighted by the DVD release of THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR because the film is not only features Gene Tierney, but because this wonderfully romantic fantasy is also favored with one of Bernard Herrmann’s most melodious and haunting scores. Set at the turn of the twentieth century, THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR tells the story of a young widow named Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney), who decides to escape from bothersome her in-laws by moving with her daughter and maid to an English seaside community. With only a small income, Lucy decides to rent a charming, but inexpensive property called Gull Cottage, even though the real estate agent tries to dissuade her from such a decision. Lucy quickly learns why the house is such a bargain- the former owner, one Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison), is the resident ghost now haunting Gull Cottage.
Not wanting to share his home with anyone, Captain Gregg tries to frighten Lucy into leaving Gull Cottage. Of course, the headstrong widow isn’t as easy to scare off as the previous occupants, which confounds the blustering ghost, who comes to respect Lucy’s resolve. The uneasy truce that exists between Lucy and the ghost quickly gives way to friendship, with Captain Gregg helping Lucy out of potential financial ruin, by "ghost writing" a biography of his experiences as a sea captain and turning over the rights to her. As Lucy and Captain Gregg spend more and more time together, ignites a genuine romantic spark, but the twosome have to face the reality that they exist in different worlds, which leads Lucy to a flesh and blood liaison with author Miles Fairley (George Sanders). The cast of THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR also features Edna Best, Anna Lee and a very young Natalie Wood.
20th Century Home Entertainment has made THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR available on DVD in a truly sublime 1.37:1 black and white presentation that is representative of its original theatrical aspect ratio. This truly fine transfer really shows off the beauty of Charles Lang's Oscar nominated cinematography. The image on the DVD is crisp, detailed and displays a very nice dimensional quality. Blacks are completely velvety and the whites appear clean and stable. Contrast has that silky quality of Hollywood glamour photography of the 1940s. The film elements used to create the transfer displays minor blemishes and an occasional scratch, but nothing that would really distract anyone from enjoying this classic romantic fantasy. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed throughout.
THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR comes with English Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural and stereo soundtrack options. The stereo version allows Bernard Herrmann’s score a bit more of a spread, without sounding artificial. Fidelity is about the same on the monaural track, which is pretty much on par for a movie released in 1947. There are limitations at the high and low ends, but the music is generally pleasing, with only a mild harshness in a couple of places. Dialogue is always completely understandable and the actors’ voices have a nice, melodious quality- particularly that "professional cad" George Sanders. French and Spanish monaural language tracks are included on the DVD, along with English and Spanish subtitles.
The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some very nice supplements. THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR features not one, but two running audio commentary tracks. On the first track one will find FX supervisor and film historian Greg Kimble and Christopher Husted, who is the manager of composer Bernard Herrmann's estate, while he second track features film professor Jeanine Bassinger and Mankiewicz biographer Kenneth Geist. Although assembled from individual participant commentaries, both tracks are rich in details on the movie and the personalities involved with the making of THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR. Also included on the DVD is Rex Harrison: The Man Who Would Be King, this is a forty-five minute profile of the actor’s life and career that originally aired on Biography. A still gallery, theatrical trailer and bonus trailers for other titles in the Studio Classics line close out the supplements.
THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR is a wonderful movie and personal favorite that features the incredibly beautiful Gene Tierney. Fox has done a marvelous job with the DVD, creating a presentation that any movie buff or DVD collector would be delighted to own. Highly recommended.
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