(2006/WGBH/BBC + 1944/20th Century Fox)
Picture: C+ Sound: C+ Extras: D/C+ Episodes: B- Film: C+
Bronte’s Jane Eyre has more
adaptations shot on film and video than most of the Bronte Sister’s works. The story is all too familiar, which is why
it is a classic. The first version we
reviewed can be found at the following link:
has done a whole new version in HD, while Fox has issued their 1944 version and
though they have their moments, neither are as good or as interesting as the
1973 version we covered. The new 2006
BBC production offers Ruth Wilson in a decent performance as Jane and an
effective Toby Stephens as Edward Rochester.
The 1944 version originally intended for direct production by David O.
Selznick stars Joan Fontaine as Jane and Orson Welles as an unusual Rochester.
version just drags a bit, is not shot with as much energy or has production
design that is as rich. Locations are
not bad, but this only works in parts, feels like we have seen it all before
and takes forever to pick up. It tampers
with the book in odd ways, but seems purist as compared to the liberties the
1944 version directed by the capable Robert Stevenson and written by no less
than Aldous Huxley (!), Stevenson and John Houseman. Selznick skipped direct participation fearing
he was repeating his work on Rebecca
by Alfred Hitchcock. He still sent his
famous memos to producer William Goetz for “guidance” anyhow.
96 minutes, it has less time to do anything with the book the way the two BBC
mini-series did, but has some oddball moments that make it worth a look. It also has the efficiency of the Classical
Hollywood machine behind it which chops up classics, but adds interesting
moments to them. Selznick should have
just cancelled this and Welles seems out of his element, which is rare. Other cast including Margaret O’Brien, Agnes
Moorehead and uncredited appearances by Erskine Sanford and Elizabeth Taylor
are a plus.
there is playback, which is about even despite 62 year time span between
them. Though the elements can be dated
at times, the 1.33 X 1 black and white image on the 1944 version was shot by
George Barnes (Bulldog Drummond, Gold Diggers Of 1935, Rebecca, Meet John Doe, Spellbound)
who gives the film a distinct look to some extent. However, it is not his best work, but a
professional job with great grasp of film imaging just the same. The 2006 version is shot in soft-looking
digital High Definition and has limited color, sometimes looking as
monochromatic as the 1944 film. Few of its
shots are memorable.
Digital 2.0 Stereo is available on both versions, with a 2.0 Mono option on the
1944 film and no surrounds on the 2006 version.
The 2006 version also has a flat sound mix and mixed music, while all
soundtracks (four if you count the Spanish and French Mono) sound good for
their age and sport one of the earliest feature films scores of the immortal
Bernard Herrmann. So if 2006 is flat and
clear, 1944 is somewhat aged, with character and exceptional music. This includes an isolated score/sound f/x
track, while the WGBH version has no extras.
on the Fox DVD include a WWII film Stevenson did for the federal government
called Know Your Ally Britain, two audio commentaries (one with
director Jim McBride & Margaret O’Brien, the other with film historians
Nick Redman, Steven Smith & Julie Kirge), a making of featurette, storyboards,
three stills galleries, restoration comparison and the original theatrical
trailer. Scholars will want to see both,
the 1944 version is more loaded with extras and music fans will like the
Herrmann score alone, but the 2006 mini-series covers the book better. The 1973 version is still the best so far.
- Nicholas Sheffo