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THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL ($20) is probably one of the best movies about Hollywood produced during the golden days of the studio system. Thanks to director Vincente Minnelli, cinematographer Robert Surtees and the production values of MGM, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL has the high gloss quality of a major studio production, but the movie never glosses over the seamier side of Hollywood and moviemaking. This high caliber film is not only thoroughly entertaining; it also took home an Academy Awards for Best Screenplay, as well as being recognized by the Academy for its technical achievements in black and white cinematography, art direction and costume design.

In THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, Kirk Douglas portrays ruthless movie producer Jonathan Shields, whose career is traced in flashback, from the perspective of three of the people that Shields stepped on, on his way up the ladder of Hollywood success. Barry Sullivan portrays prominent director Fred Amiel, who started out in the business alongside Shields in Hollywood’s poverty row, only to have the rug pulled out from under him by Shields, when the producer claims Amiel’s project for his own. Lana Turner portrays Georgia Lorrison, the alcoholic daughter of a famous actor, whom Shields transforms into a star before breaking her heart. Dick Powell plays James Lee Bartlow, a novelist that Shields brings to Hollywood to turn into a screenwriter- at the expense of the woman he loves. Much of the success of THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL can be traced to the film’s uniformly first-rate performances. It is interesting to note, that although Douglas and Turner certainly do some of their finest work of their careers in THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, the Academy chose to honor actress Gloria Grahame with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her brief, but compelling, performance. The supporting cast of THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL includes Walter Pidgeon, Gilbert Roland, Leo G. Carroll, Vanessa Brown, Paul Stewart, Sammy White, Elaine Stewart and Ivan Triesault.

Warner Home Video has made THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL available on DVD in a glorious looking black and white transfer that frames the film in its proper full screen aspect ratio. The rich, glossy and finely detailed image truly shows off the beauty of Robert Surtees’ Academy Award winning cinematography, as well as the intricacies of the film’s production and costume designs. Blacks have a wonderfully velvet like quality and the whites are flawlessly reproduced. Contrast is truly excellent and the picture displays a marvelous grayscale. The image on the DVD has tremendous depth and serves as a reminder of why black and white cinematography could be so completely captivating. Of course, there are a few blemishes on the film element to remind one that THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is half a century old, but there is nothing to distract the viewer from the intensity this finely polished gem. Digital compression artifacts are well disguise throughout the course of the movie.

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is presented on DVD with a good sounding Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Whatever frequency limitations there are in these fifty-year-old recordings, do not render the sound harsh or tinny. Additionally, neither background hiss nor audible distortions became apparent when a respectable amount of amplification was applied to the soundtrack. Dialogue is always crisp and completely understandable, plus David Raksin’s marvelous score always sounded quite pleasant. A French monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features as well as the instructions to flip the DVD over for the supplemental materials. Coming as a nice surprise on the second side of the DVD is the ninety-minute documentary entitled Lana Turner… A Daughter’s Memoir, which originally aired on the Turner Classic Movie channel. Narrated by Robert Wagner, the documentary traces Lana Turner’s career in the movies, starting at age sixteen, as well as her turbulent private life. Extensive scoring session cues, which allow one to appreciate the beauty of the film’s superb score, have also been provided on the DVD. Other supplements include a theatrical trailer for THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, a trailer for the film’s "quasi-sequel" TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN, a brief credits listing and a list of the film’s Academy Awards.

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is a Hollywood classic about the golden days Hollywood that removes all the tinsel from Tinseltown. This motion picture belongs in every film’s buffs collection and Warner’s fine presentation makes this a DVD truly worth owning. Personally, I hope Warner follows this release with even more classics from director Vincente Minnelli. I know I’d love to own THE BAND WAGON, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, SOME CAME RUNNING, HOME FROM THE HILL, LUST FOR LIFE, THE COBWEB and TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER on DVD, not to mention a remastered, 16:9 enhanced collector's edition of BRIGADOON.


The Bad and the Beautiful


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2002 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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