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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Miracle of the Bells [Blu-ray]


(Irving Pichel, 1948)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: RKO Radio Pictures

Video: Olive Films



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

Runtime: 2:00:20.213

Disc Size: 23,633,969,058 bytes

Feature Size: 23,563,333,632 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.98 Mbps

Chapters: 9

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 14th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 840 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 840 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)






• None





Description: Hollywood press agent Bill Dunnigan (Fred MacMurray) attempts to carry out a deathbed promise he made to the only girl he ever loved, an aspiring actress names Olga Treskovna (Alida Valli), who dies after completing her first and only film. As promised, Bill takes her body to the Pennsylvania coal town of her birth for the funeral arrangements. To arouse public interest, and get the reluctant studio to release the film, he enlists the aid of local priest Father Paul (Frank Sinatra) and asks all the local churches to ring their bells for three days. Studio head, Marcus Harris (Lee J. Cobb) wants to reshoot the film with a movie star, rather than risk losing a fortune on an "unknown" whom he can no longer groom for stardom. Her story becomes a national phenomenon, but will this man-made miracle convince Harris to change his mind or will it take a genuine miracle. Irving Pichel (The Most Dangerous Game) directs this wonderful, heartwarming classic that recalls such films as Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary. Ben Hecht and Quentin Reynolds adapted the best-selling novel by Russell Janney.



The Film:

Casting Frank Sinatra as a Pennsylvania priest is but one of the many miscalculations made by the producers of Miracle of the Bells. Adapted by Ben Hecht and Quentin Reynolds from the best-selling novel by Russell Janney, the story revolves around an aspiring actress named Olga Treskovna (Alida Valli). Escaping the sooty environs of Coaltown, Pennsylvania, Olga heads to Hollywood, where through a series of incredible circumstances she manages to land the highly coveted leading role in a film based on the life of Joan of Arc. Tragically, Olga dies suddenly after wrapping up the film's final scene. Producer Marcus Harris (Lee J. Cobb) wants to reshoot the film with another, better-known actress, rather than risk losing a fortune on an "unknown" whom he can no longer groom for stardom. But press agent Bill Dunnigan (Fred MacMurray), who has journeyed to Coaltown to learn Olga's life story, tries to persuade Harris to release Joan of Arc as filmed, and to this end he enlists the aid of local priest Father Paul (Sinatra). To show their support for the late, lamented Olga, all the churches of all denominations in Coaltown ring their bells, nonstop, for three days. This man-made miracle not only convinces Harris to change his mind, but leads to a genuine miracle at the fadeout. Reviewers were unanimous in condemning Miracle of the Bells as a pretentious failure: the kindest comments ranged from "mawkish" to "nauseating." The picture hasn't improved much with age, but should be seen at least once on the strength of its cast alone. If it is seen, however, it's best to stick with the original black-and-white version and avoid the colorized TV print.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Frank Sinatra as a priest? It was a casting stretch even in the late 1940's, years before he refined his image as the ultimate swinger and leader of the Beverly Hills "Rat Pack." But that's the role Sinatra plays in RKO's The Miracle of the Bells (1948), a sentimental drama about a miracle that happens when a glamorous movie star (Alida Valli, then billed simply as Valli) is laid to rest in her humble coal-mining hometown. The movie co-stars Fred MacMurray as a cynical publicist who is changed by the miraculous events.

As The Miracle of the Bells was being made, Sinatra was already coming under fire for alleged associations with gangsters - especially Charlie "Lucky" Luciano, described by Sinatra biographer Kitty Kelley as "a ruthless killer and master racketeer." Newspaper columnist Robert Ruark scolded Sinatra, who still enjoyed a huge following of excitable young fans. Ruark wrote that the performer seemed "to be setting a most peculiar example for his hordes of pimply, shrieking slaves, who are alleged to regard him with the same awe as a practicing Mohammedan for the Prophet." Sinatra publicist George Evans leapt at the opportunity to launder Sinatra's image by announcing that he not only had been cast as a Catholic priest in The Miracle of the Bells but would donate his $100,000 salary to the church.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

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

The Miracle of the Bells has a, predictably, modest Blu-ray transfer from Olive Films. This is only single-layered and contrast looks to have some layering that benefits the detail. There are a few speckles and minor grain is visible. There is no real depth but it does look consistent and a step above SD. It is typical for Olive - with no digital manipulation and a direct transfer from, probably, the best source. The Blu-ray gave me a decent, if not dramatically stellar, viewing.


















Audio :

The audio is transferred in a DTS-HD mono track at 840 kbps. There are no demonstrative effects. The score is by Leigh Harline, who has done a number of Noirs like The Las Vegas Story, They Live By Night, The Big Steal, The Woman on Pier 13 etc. It all sounds consistent and clean without any depth. There are no subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

No supplements - not even a trailer which is the bare-bones route that Olive are going with most of their releases.



While I had some trouble with Sinatra as a priest I still liked the film. There is a rumor that Ben Hecht took the screenplay assignment on condition he didn't have to read the book. Quentin Reynolds, who is credited onscreen as screenwriter, supposedly read the book and reported its contents to Hecht. I wouldn't say anything was out of place and the story is a sweet one. The Olive Blu-ray (does its job in exporting a decent 1080P and lossless, original, audio for the film presentation. I'd recommend - not to all tastes but a simple, pleasant film. 

Gary Tooze

May 9th, 2013

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
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Gary W. Tooze






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