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Harold and Maude [Blu-ray]
(Hal Ashby, 1971)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Paramount Pictures
Video: Criterion Collection Spine # 608 / Masters of Cinema - Spine # 83
Region: 'A' /Region 'B' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Runtime: 1:31:44.415 / 1:31:31.486
Disc Size: 38,425,602,802 bytes / 34,501,803,982 bytes
Feature Size: 28,763,080,704 bytes / 28,942,951,872 bytes
Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps / 35.22 Mbps
Chapters: 23 / 25
Case: Transparent Blu-ray case(both)
Release date: June 12th, 2012 / July 14th, 2014
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps
2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
English (SDH), none
• Audio commentary by Hal Ashby biographer Nick Dawson and producer
Charles B. Mulvehill
• Liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Matt Zoller Seitz; a 1971 New York Times profile of star Ruth Gordon; and two excerpted interviews, one from 1997 with star Bud Cort and cinematographer John Alonzo and one from 2001 with executive producer Mildred Lewis
• New and exclusive video discussion of the film by critic David
Description: With the idiosyncratic American fable Harold and Maude, countercultural director Hal Ashby fashioned what would become the cult classic of its era. Working from a script by Colin Higgins, Ashby tells the story of the emotional and romantic bond between a death-obsessed young man (Bud Cort) from a wealthy family and a devil-may-care, bohemian octogenarian (Ruth Gordon). Equal parts gallows humor and romantic innocence, Harold and Maude dissolves the line between darkness and light along with the ones that separate people by class, gender, and age, and it features indelible performances and a remarkable soundtrack by Cat Stevens.
Like Bob Rafelson, a director similarly obsessed with the trials and tribulations of the children of the rich, Ashby forever treads the thin line between whimsy and absurdity and 'tough' sentimentality and black comedy. Harold and Maude is the story of a rich teenager (Cort) obsessed with death - his favourite pastime is trying out different mock suicides - who is finally liberated by his (intimate) friendship with Ruth Gordon, an 80-year-old funeral freak. It is most successful when it keeps to the tone of an insane fairystory set up at the beginning of the movie.Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE
A box office failure upon its initial release in 1971 which slowly but surely amassed a global cult following, Harold and Maude (1971) is one of those cinematic oddities that is hard to imagine being made within the confines of today's film industry. It certainly wasn't any less unusual for the era in which it was made except that the film's quirky tone that shifted from black comedy to anti-establishment satire and the inspired casting of Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon gave it a resonance for young audiences that was further enhanced by the music of Cat Stevens who was at the height of his pop music career in 1972.Excerpt from TCM located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Harold and Maude is transferred via the Criterion Blu-ray with a very high bitrate. There is some wonderful grain visible in a very consistent layer throughout the film. Contrast is excellent - as are the colors which showcase some vibrant reds and accurate skin tones. This is dual-layering captures that 70's look with a very appealing film-like appearance. Harold and Maude has a lot of darker lit sequences and the 1080P handles them exceptionally well with no digital noise. The image is impeccably clean and I can find no flaws in the transfer. It looks as it should; delightful.
Surprisingly, there are differences, albeit minor, in the video despite the parity of the robustness of the transfers (both dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate.) The Masters of Cinema shows both more grain and tighter visuals. Zooming in we can see the Criterion is marginally softer. This would be notable by toggling between the large (linked) captures. Colors match up exactly with a few scenes showing minutely cooler skin tones on the MoC. Most systems won't note the differences - but they are there. This also looked very impressive.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
We have healthy linear PCM tracks for both stereo and mono. Sounds clean and clear. There are no effects to speak of but the Cat Stevens songs - "Where Do the Children Play?", "On the Road to Find Out", "Don't Be Shy" etc.- that fill the film sound impressively crisp. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.
Like the Criterion MoC offer the option of linear PCM tracks for both stereo and mono. I can't distinguish any differences (sampling Cat Stevens on both packages). The UK Blu-ray also offers optional English subtitles. It is region 'B'-locked.
Included as a supplements is an audio commentary, recorded by the Criterion Collection in 2011, featuring Nick Dawson, author of Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel and Harold and Maude producer Chares B. Mulvehill covering many aspects of the production and Ashby the man. We get two illustrated audio excerpts from the 70's American Film Institute seminars - one from Hal Ashby running 13-minutes, sharing his thoughts about Harold and Maude and the second, from 1979, has Colin Higgins and the screenwriter speaks of recollections of the writing and making of Harold and Maude. There is also a 2011 11-minute interview with acclaimed singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) who discusses the landmark soundtrack for Harold and Maude. The package has a liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Matt Zoller Seitz; a 1971 New York Times profile of star Ruth Gordon; and two excerpted interviews, one from 1997 with star Bud Cort and cinematographer John Alonzo and one from 2001 with executive producer Mildred Lewis.
Masters of Cinema offer the same audio commentary by Hal Ashby biographer Nick Dawson and producer Charles B. Mulvehill (from 2011) as found on the Criterion Blu-ray but add a new 26-minute video discussion of the film by critic David Cairns and another of their extensive liner notes booklets - a 40-page one featuring archival interviews with director Hal Ashby and writer-producer Colin Higgins, a 1971 profile of star Ruth Gordon, and rare archival imagery.
Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Wonderful film experience and the Masters of Cinema Blu-ray matches or exceeds the Criterion.Whole-heartedly recommended!
May 2nd, 2012
June 23rd, 2014
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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