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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Harold and Maude [Blu-ray]

 

(Hal Ashby, 1971)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Paramount Pictures

Video: Criterion Collection Spine # 608

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:31:44.415

Disc Size: 38,425,602,802 bytes

Feature Size: 28,763,080,704 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 23

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 12th, 2012

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

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

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• Audio commentary by Hal Ashby biographer Nick Dawson and producer Charles B. Mulvehill
• Illustrated audio excerpts of seminars by Ashby (13:17) and writer-producer Colin Higgins (13:09)
• New interview with songwriter Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) - 11:05

 

Bitrate:

 

 

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.

 

 

The Film:

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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

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.

 

Extras :

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.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I didn't take to Harold and Maude when I saw it on DVD, years ago, but once again a Blu-ray viewing has uncovered latent appreciation. The performances are so important - as well as the writing. The Criterion Blu-ray gave me a warm, comforting presentation that is an easy recommendation. Buy with confidence! 

Gary Tooze

May 2nd, 2012

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.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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