Picture: B- Sound: B- Extras: B+ Film: B+
The world of movies in
1956 was drastically changing with the introduction CinemaScope, now turning up
in theaters nationwide, moviegoers were seeing grander films. The format itself allowed for much more in
terms of detail, color, space, etc. A
larger format meant larger films, so what better than one of the biggest
conspiracies of all time, that being the story of Anastasia. The story revolves around making a girl
think or even act like she is the heir to the Russian thrown.
Interestingly enough this
film was Ingrid Bergman’s first American film in a few years. She was in exile due to her involvement with
Italian director Roberto Rossellini, who was responsible for Isabella Rossellini. In many ways Ingrid’s story is parallel
with that of Anastasia, as she must convince ‘her’ people that she is who they
always thought that she was. Evidently
the film was well-received as it earned Bergman her second Academy Award. Rounding off the superb cast is her equal,
Yul Brynner, who plays the man insisting the she return in an attempt to
reclaim the thrown. That year, he won
an Academy Award, but it was for The King and I.
The 2.35 x 1 CinemaScope
Transfer looks good, but not great. Although colors are better than what we have seen before either on
TV, VHS, and even LaserDisc, the biggest problem is the detail. Softness can be a bit of a problem from time
to time, with patterns having issues holding and making for an irritating viewing. The film was shot by Jack Hildyard, who had
just finished shooting for David Lean on Summertime featuring Katharine
Hepburn in one of her many superb roles.
In fact both Anastasia and Summertime were both written in part
by Arthur Laurents. Hildyard would
later work with Lean again in 1958 on The Bridge on the River Kwai, but
his ability to work in Scope essentially began here and demonstrates why
cinematographers quickly fell in love with the format.
The soundtrack is
presented in Dolby Digital 4.0, which essentially makes for a matrixed surround
channel, with both the left and right containing the same monophonic
signal. This is surprisingly one of the
better audio tracks for a film of this generation, and in 4.0, but has
limitations as well as a more centered mix.
With exception of some minor directional effects and music, the majority
of the sound is centered. This was
originally issued in 4-track magnetic stereo, which was standard on Fox’s
Fox decided to include a
handful of supplements with their Anastasia DVD. This is part of their
classics set, which all include decent amount of supplements making them worth
their weight in gold, most of the time.
The audio commentary provided is decent with writer Arthur Laurents
making it the most useful, considering he is still around. Going the extra mile here, we also have the
background of Anastasia from the A&E Biography series. This is one of the best supplements since it
helps us understand some of the points left out of the film, plus gives the
viewer some food for thought on some of the liberties with the film. There are also some other extras including
some on the films awards, etc. Perhaps
another nice asset is the film restoration comparison, which shows how the film
compares from its 1991 origins to its restored 1997 version. From there we are shown how improvements
have been made since 1997 for this DVD edition. Indeed much has changed to enhance the films color palette and
allow for a more accurate presentation.
Mistaken identity is a
common theme that has been told and retold in many mediums, including
film. We have seen how it has worked on
many levels in suspense thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock to the legendary stories
of the man in the iron mask. Fox even did
a cartoon version of Anastasia in 1997 with the voices of Kirsten Dunst
and Meg Ryan doing the lead, which even was credited to the CinemaScope
format. There have also been traces of
this story in HBO’s Rasputin from 1996 with Alan Rickman in the role of
the mad monk. This is the glossed over,
Hollywood version of Anastasia in all its full color and glory,
presented here in a noble transfer allowing us to see the early days of
CinemaScope and its advantages even has a young format.
- Nate Goss