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Directed by George Cukor

US 1954

 

Judy Garland is at her peak, pulling out all the stops, daring the gods in this dark, weighty fable of the price one pays to be at the top. This version, directed by Cukor, is lent all manner of mythic significance by Garland, teetering on the abyss before the slide. There would be other triumphs in concert, but this is the peak of her film career. Here she finally exposed her powerful dramatic range, coupled with the magnificent singing voice that she pushed further than anyone could imagine. Her genius is attached to an uncomfortable, intense plot that allows reason for the tremulous mannerisms and bottomless, dark eyes.

The plot essentially follows that of the original 1936 film (directed by William Wellman and starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March). A young singer (Garland) saves Norman Maine (James Mason), a star actor, from making a drunken fool of himself on stage. Later, a sober Norman hears her sing and decides to help this incredible talent get started in pictures. Eventually (after she changes her name from Esther Blodgett to Vicki Lester), he manages to get her the lead in a big musical. As Vicki's star rises, however, Norman's begins to fall. The two elope, but their happiness is short-lived, and Norman's drinking increases when he is cut by his studio. Frustrated by the fickleness of his public and "friends," he drunkenly interrupts the Oscar ceremonies where Vicki has won the award for Best Actress, humbly pleading for a job and accidentally slapping his wife during the presentation ceremony. Despite all Vicki's attempts to find Norman work in Hollywood, his slide cannot be stopped by his wife's love.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

 

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 24th, 1954

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Comparison:

Warner - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Warner - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT

DVD Box Cover

Distribution Warner - Region 1 - NTSC Warner - Region FREE- Blu-ray
Runtime 2:55:18 2:55:55.586
Video 2.55:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.92 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 38,256,667,193 bytes

Feature: 38,102,986,752 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.93 Mbps

Codec: VC-1 Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

DVD

Bitrate:

Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1)  DTS-HD Master Audio English 3820 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3820 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Subtitles English, French, none English, French, Spanish, none
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Warner

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 2.55:1

Edition Details:

• 3 alternate takes of The Man That Got Away musical number and 2 audio outtakes
• Hollywood premiere newsreel footage
• 1/2 hour Hollywood premiere TV special

• A Report by Jack Warner (6:22)
• Cocoanut Grove Premiere Party footage
• 1954 Warner Bros Exhibitors Reel
• Awards listings

• Trailers for 1937, 1954 and the 1975 versions

DVD Release Date: September 19th, 2000

Keep Case
Chapters: 54

Release Information:
Studio: Warner

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 38,256,667,193 bytes

Feature: 38,102,986,752 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.93 Mbps

Codec: VC-1 Video

Edition Details:

• 3-minute Introduction.
• 5 Deleted Scenes (22:24)
• 4 Alternate Takes(11:13)
• Outtake - Song: “When My Sugar Walks Down the Street” (:58)
Effects Reel
• A Report by Jack Warner (6:22)
• Newsreel Montage (7:53)
• Film Premiere Cinemascope (2:07) /TV Special in kinescope (29:48)
• Bugs Bunny Cartoon: A Star Is Bored (7:12)
Audio Vault:
- “Oliver on the Phone with the Director Discussing Norman” outtake (1:26)
- “Norman and Esther on the Roof of the Hotel Lancaster” (3:55)
- “December 42' Lux Theater Broadcast” (58:20)
- “Judy Garland Promotional” (3:01)
- “Recording Sessions”. (six songs totaling 40:42)
  • rehearsals of “Born in a Trunk” and “Someone at Last”
  •  extended versions of  “My Melancholy Baby”, “Someone”,, “Black Bottom” and “Swanee”
• Trailers for 1937, 1954 and the 1975 versions
• 44-page Digi-Booklet with photos and essays

Blu-ray Release Date: June 22nd, 2010

Blu-ray Digibook Case
Chapters: 54  

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Warner's original DVD, from 2000, was their first DVD-18 (double-sided dual layered) and it was an excellent package. I never considered at the time that the anamorphic image could be drastically improved. It has a few speckles and uneven shifts but otherwise looked very impressive in the SD-DVD medium.

On it's premiere, the 1954 version of A Star is Born ran approximately 3+ hours. It was then cut to 2 1/2 hours and the re-edit was altered on every available print of the film in existence. For 30+ years this truncated version was the only one accessible to fans. In 1983, film historian Ronald Haver pieced together the lost footage from a variety of sources to bring the film back to it's original running time. The recreation of the film is an incredibly impressive effort. Now, almost 10 years after it's initial DVD release it has been restoratively moved to new DVD and Blu-ray packages. Anticipation is high.

Colors, especially shades of red, are highly notable as are whites, blues and overall detail. The 1080P rendering has improved the film visually in a number of other important areas. The new transfer shows grain - perhaps not as much as I anticipated but the film textures still exist - in some scenes more than others. Both transfers show the film in the CinemaScope 2.55:1 aspect ratio but there is some differences with modest movement in the frame. Sometimes the DVD shows more information - sometimes the Blu-ray. The HD transfer has given the film a richness beyond the more vibrant colors and moving into the contrast. The film is represented a bit darker - appropriately so. Given the history of getting A Star is Born to this point, for home theater viewing, it has to be considered a triumph. There is some minor depth and it, more than, satisfied my expectations for video.

NOTE: Thomas noted to us in email that the DVD faces are slimmer (possibly vertically stretched) and the Blu-ray faces fatter (possibly horizontally stretched) - thanks Thomas! There was some variances with CinemaScope and I'm unsure which is 'more' correct.

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 3820 kbps sounds about as good as I expected. The music has some heavier depth but those anticipating some aggressive separations and range may be left wanting. The film is approaching it's 55th birthday. It seems to show a few inconsistencies but is otherwise spot-on. Garland's voice has a resonance not available on the DVD. The old DVD had English and French subtitles and the new hi-def disc also offers Spanish as well as two foreign language DUBs. My Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines world-wide.

The Blu-ray disc only houses the feature film - all extras are accessible on a second, single-layered DVD disc (coded for regions 1,2,3,4 in the NTSC standard). Much is duplicated from second side of the the 2000 DVD but there is still more for fans to enjoy including multiple deleted scenes and alternate takes - and a colorful introduction. In the 'Audio Vault' , we get an hour long, December 42', "Lux Theater Broadcast" and 6-songs worth of recording sessions including rehearsals of "Born in a Trunk” and "Someone at Last” and extended versions of "My Melancholy Baby”, "Someone”, "Black Bottom” and "Swanee”. There is also a Bugs Bunny cartoon. This is housed in a delightful 44-page Digi-Booklet with color photos and essays - one of the nicest I've seen.

Above all else this film has so much 'character' and, firstly, bringing it back from the abyss to full running time - then this exquisite restoration certainly makes a purchase one of the many highlights of the Blu-ray year. There will never be another star of Garland's caliber - and in keeping with the lack of appreciation at the time the release - A Star is Born was nominated for 6 Oscars... but did not win one. It was voted a place on the National Film Registry in 2000.

The Warner Blu-ray has a strong recommendation. It has great value especially for the price offered. You might feel you are buying a part of cinema history.

Gary W. Tooze

 


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Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 

 


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Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 

 


Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 

 


Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 

 


Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 

 


Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Warner - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

Distribution Warner - Region 1 - NTSC Warner - Region FREE- Blu-ray



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Gary Tooze