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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

The Diary of Anne Frank [Blu-ray]

 

(George Stevens, 1959)

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: 20th Century Fox

Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: FREE (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:59:31.802

Disc Size: 48,339,051,462 bytes

Feature Size: 36,464,388,096 bytes

Average Bitrate: 18.621 Mbps

Chapters: 34

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 16th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.4:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2993 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2993 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 4.0 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
DTS Audio German 448 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Italian 448 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Polish 448 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Spanish 448 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish & Polish, none

 

Extras:

• Audio commentary with George Stevens Jr. and Millie Perkins

• (new) George Stevens in World War II (7:40)

• (new) The Making of The Diary of Anne Frank: A Son’s Memories  (25:05)

• (new) The Diary of Anne Frank: Memories from Millie Perkins and Diane Baker (25:53)

• (new) Shelley Winters Remembers The Diary of Anne Frank  (7:00)

• (new) The Score of The Diary of Anne Frank – a look at the legendary composer Alfred Newman  (7:54)

• (new) The Diary of Anne Frank: Correspondence between George Stevens and his son (13:12)

• (new) Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman  (14:08)

• Diary of Anne Frank: Echoes from the Past  (1:30:07)

• Diary of Anne Frank: Excerpt from “George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey”  (8:00)

• George Stevens Press Conference  (5:00)

• Millie Perkins Screen Test  (2:20)

• Movietone News:  (6:44)

o Millie Perkins to be Anne Frank in Film of Diary

o Nobel Peace Prize to Belgian Priest

o Anne Frank Diary Star Readies For Film’s First Nights

o Academy Award Highlights

o Millie Perkins Visits the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

o Brilliant Turnout For L.A. Premiere Anne Frank Diary

• Theatrical Trailers in SD

• Interactive Pressbook Gallery

• Behind-the-scenes Gallery

 

Exclusive to Blu-ray:

• none

 

 

Comment:

The Diary of Anne Frank was the first Schindler's List, the first story about the plight of the Jews under the Nazi occupation to reach international attention.  In the relatively immediate aftermath of WWII, the publication of the diary, especially in the U.S., and its manifestation as a play, was to give a face to the victims of the holocaust.  But to us, a half-century later, Anne's diary is perhaps more telling as a story of courage and heroism of those ordinary citizens who defied the Nazis in order to help their fellow humans as well as those who refused to give up despite what must have seemed an interminable oppression.

 

Spielberg bookends Schindler with the concept of continuity, as if to say that Schindler makes continuity possible, and that continuity is what Jewishness is all about.  The link to Anne Frank is that the courage of others, as it is in Polanski's The Pianist, makes continuity possible.  Both are statements about the true function of civilization.

 

The director, George Stevens, remembered more famously for A Place in the Sun, Shane, Giant and Swing Time, served in the Armed Forces during WWII photographing the Allied European invasion and the liberation of Paris, and was among the first to enter Dachau concentration camp.  Naturally, this informed Stevens' sensitivity for the filming of The Diary.

 

Stevens made a number of important decisions about his production: to film it in black & white, to keep mostly to a single set – more like the play and less like a typical movie – and to use an unknown in the part of Anne.  That turned out to be teen model Millie Perkins (who, in the movie, at times bears a fascinating resemblance to Giant and A Place in the Sun star, Elizabeth Taylor).  Millie went on to a career in TV, seen most recently in 2006 in The Young and the Restless. Joseph Schildkraut as Otto provides the rudder for the film; Millie, the heart and soul.  Not a trained actress, she acquits herself quite well.  The film, though bordering on sentimentality, is nonetheless a moving and sometimes suspenseful portrait of affection, humanity, dreams and loss.

 

 

 

The Movie: 8

The film opens with Anne's father returning alone to the house where his family was secreted for two years during the German occupation of Holland.  The two people who hid Otto, his wife and two daughters, along with four others, offer him Anne's diary that somehow escaped the attention of those who arrested the self-imprisoned families.  Otto once again lives through the siege through Anne's words.  The movie, therefore, as is noted in one of the bonus features, is a fictionalized version of a diary, which, in turn, is a teenager's view of the frightening world around her.  Somehow, in such a world, Anne makes space to grow through much the same joys and pains of any adolescent.

 

Image: 7/8  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

 

After some soft and fuzzy moments (a close-up pf Anne's diary is frightful), the image looks pretty good.  There are occasional speckles, particularly in the opening reel, but in such numbers as to go unnoticed once into the movie.  Grayscale and clarity of focus varies from scene to scene, but is generally appropriate to the probable intentions.  I suspect that the source material would require restoration to fix the contrast, but sharpness is likely to be the result of the CinemaScope process itself.  A friendly grain lies over the image, as it should.  I don't spy edge enhancement or artifacts or DNR.  There seems to be a slight green cast to the image in some scenes, but is easily ignored.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/8

There isn't a whole lot of difference between the original 4.0 DD and the DTS HD-MA 5.1, which means you can go right to the uncompressed audio without feeling like you're violating purist principles.  On the other hand, the soundtrack is something of an odd duck in that it makes little if any use of rear channels – too bad, in that it would have been nice to have the distant bombing and soldiers marching in the street below conveyed to take advantage of the surrounds.  But it was not be in 1959, so we should not complain about the present transfer.  Alfred Newman's score gets the best of it, especially in the Entrance and Exit music.  The Diary of Anne Frank is pretty much dialogue-driven and that remains clear and emotionally pure.

 

Operations: 7

Fox offers a lovely menu page, easily and sensibly navigable.  My only complaint – and one that obtains in most videos with many extra features – is that Newman's wonderful music is made stultifying by excessive repetition each time we return for a new bonus segment. 

 

 

 

Extras: 9

The NEW Bonus Features for the 50th Anniversary Edition are duplicated on the new DVD, but the other features, since it is only a single disc, are not.  Most of the new features come with an introduction by George Stevens Jr who places the material that follows in context.  The man clearly admires his father, an admiration not at all misplaced. 

 

All of the extra features, new and old, are in 480p, and are of passable to good quality.  Of the new pieces you should check out "George Stevens in World War II" to learn about the director's mission in Europe, and "The Score of the Diary of Anne Frank" which reviews briefly the career of composer Alfred Newman and looks at how the soundtrack mixed music and effects. Tom Rothman's discussion of the film for Fox Legacy serves as a good introduction.  Of course, there's a good deal of repetition among the features, but for sheer breadth of scope, nothing quite reaches the level of "Echoes from the Past", a comprehensive 90-minute documentary about the real people of the story and the times in which they lived.

 

 

Recommendation: 8

Many people today, being used to sound bytes and fast cutting, would find the pace of the movie a little trying, but I think if you can let yourself go – maybe try a little Mozart before you watch to reset your internal clock – you will find much that rewards.  Steven's movie is a lot like watching a filmed play in the movement, postures and line readings of its actors, except that he finds some extraordinary cracks and crevices through which to watch the action, making everything that much more claustrophobic. The high definition image is satisfying, if not always sharp and perfectly contrasted. Audio is more or less mono, but opens up for the music and effects.  Extra features are exhaustive and excellent.

 

Leonard Norwitz
July 18th, 2009

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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