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Imitation of Life (John Stahl, 1934)                             Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)

Based on the 1933 best-selling novel, Imitation of Life is one of the most beloved and respected stories of all-time. This emotionally charged drama chronicles the lives of two widows and their troubled daughters as they struggle to find true happiness in a world plagued by racism. The Imitation of Life 2-Movie Collection includes both versions of the film, the original 1934 Best Picture nominee starring Claudette Colbert and the 1959 masterpiece starring Lana Turner. With storylines tackling racism, romance, family, success and tragedy, Imitation of Life is a powerful story that still resonates with audiences today.

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Theatrical Release Dates: November 26th, 2934 /  April 30, 1959


Directed by John Stahl
US 1934

The first of two film version of Fannie Hurst's novel, 1934's Imitation of Life chronicles the friendship between two women--one white (Claudette Colbert), one black (Louise Beavers). Colbert is a widow with a baby daughter who hires Beavers, who also has a daughter, as a housekeeper. Colbert is a working girl who yearns to operate her own business, which she does thanks to Beavers' special pancake recipe. A family friend (Ned Sparks) suggests that the ladies form a corporation to merchandise the "Aunt Delilah" pancake mix, and within ten years both women are quite wealthy. Colbert's relationship with her teenaged daughter (Rochelle Hudson) is strained when both ladies vie for the attentions of the same man, but these problems are minor compared to the travails of Beavers, who not only must deal with the De Facto segregation of the 1930s but must also contend with her restless daughter (Fredi Washington), who resents being an African-American and attempts to pass for white. The heartbroken Beavers dies, and at her funeral her now-chastened daughter weeps out her apologies for turning her back on her mother. Imitation of Life was remade in 1959, its story glamorized and updated to accommodate star Lana Turner.

Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray

   

1934 Version:
Universal
Region FREE -
Blu-ray
1:50:37.464

Disc Size: 48,830,620,535 bytes

Feature Size: 22,087,845,888 bytes

Total Bitrate: 22.99 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1836 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1836 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 /
48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB

Imitation of Life (1934) Extras:
Theatrical Trailer (1:14)
Optional Feature Commentary with African-American Cultural Scholar Avery Clayton

Blu-ray Release Date: April 7th, 2015
Standard Blu-ray case

Chapters 18

 

 

 

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Directed by Douglas Sirk
US 1959

This glamorized remake of the 1934 film Imitation of Life bears only a passing resemblance to its source, the best-selling novel by Fannie Hurst. Originally, the heroine was a widowed mother who kept the wolf from the door by setting up a successful pancake business with her black housemaid. In the remake, Lana Turner stars as a would-be actress who is raising her daughter on her own. She chances to meet another single mother at the beach: African-American Juanita Moore. Moore goes to work as Turner's housekeeper, bringing her light-skinned daughter along. As Turner's stage career goes into high gear, Moore is saddled with the responsibility of raising both Turner's daughter and her own. Exposed to the advantages of the white world, Moore's grown-up daughter (Susan Kohner) passes for white, causing her mother a great deal of heartache. Meanwhile, Turner's grown daughter (Sandra Dee), neglected by her mother, seeks comfort in the arms of handsome photographer John Gavin. When Moore dies, her daughter realizes how selfish she's been; simultaneously, Turner awakens to the fact that she hasn't been much of a mother for her own daughter, whose romance has gone down the tubes.

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Comparison:

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

1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Covers

   

Distribution

Universal

Region 1 - NTSC

Universal
Region FREE -
Blu-ray
Runtime 2:04:20 2:04:33.299
Video 1.85:1.00 Letterboxed WideScreen / anamorphic
Average Bitrate: 6.62 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Disc Size: 48,830,620,535 bytes

Feature Size: 24,880,097,280 bytes

Total Bitrate: 22.99 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC

 

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

Bitrate:

DVD

 

 

Bitrate:

(1959) Blu-ray

 

 

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)  

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1850 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1850 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 /
48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB

Subtitles English (SDH), Spanish, French, None English (SDH), Spanish, French, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: UMVD

 

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

 

Edition Details:
• 4:3 Non-anamorphic picture-boxed Trailer - 2:29
• Recommendations: Trailer for 'Fried Green Tomatoes', 'One True Thing', 'Mask'

DVD Release Date: February 24, 2003
Keep Case
Chapters: 20

Release Information:
Studio: Universal

 

2.0:1 aspect ratio

Disc Size: 48,830,620,535 bytes

Feature Size: 24,880,097,280 bytes

Total Bitrate: 22.99 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC

 

Edition Details:
Imitation of Life (1959 extras):
• Lasting Legacy An Imitation of Life (31:40)
• Theatrical Trailer (2:20)
• Optional Feature Commentary with Film Historian Foster Hirsch

 

Blu-ray Release Date: April 7th, 2015
Standard Blu-ray case

Chapters 20

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray March 15': Firstly, Universal have put both films on one Blu-ray disc. They have the same bitrate (23 Mbps), both have lossless audio, optional subtitles and a commentary from the 2004 DVD package that also had both films.

This has an irremovable timeline when in 'pause' and I had trouble getting exact matches to some of the captures from the 1959 version.

The 1934 version looks wonderful - full of beautiful and evenly textured grain. I love the earlier film and had nothing but praise for my viewing experience. It has dark scenes with no noise and virtually no damage or marks. I was very pleased with the appearance. The audio is at the mercy of the film's age but dialogue is quite audible via the lossless DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel mono at 1836 kbps. There are optional subtitles on the region FREE disc. There is an informative commentary with African-American Cultural Scholar Avery Clayton and a trailer.

The 1959, Sirk, version was not well supported on SD - the film have a very thick, lens-softend appearance and on DVD the textures were more reminiscent of noise. It looked hazy and video-like. However the new 1080P Blu-ray has advanced significantly. It is in the 2.0:1 aspect ratio, shows more information in the frame on the sides - a shade less on the bottom of the frame, colors become richer, skin tones warmer and grain pleasingly textured. Although I have not seen the 1959 Imitation of Life theatrically, I can presume this Blu-ray is significantly closer to the appearance than the old DVD.

Audio is transferred via a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1850 kbps. The score was composed by Frank Skinner (Magnificent Obsession, Midnight Lace, All That Heaven Allows, and The Naked City to name a few) and the great Henry Mancini (Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation) with added music by Earl Grant singing Imitation of Life, Mahalia Jackson (Trouble of the World) among others. It sounds very good for the most part - the music is rich with some depth eclipsing the lesser power of the dialogue. There are optional subtitles on the region FREE Blu-ray disc.

The 1959 extras include a commentary with film historian Foster Hirsch and the 1/2 hour Lasting Legacy An Imitation of Life - the 2008 documentary with Academy award nominee Juanita Moore and respected historians reflecting upon the making of the films and examine the enduring themes of race, family and identity in this retrospective. There is also a trailer.

This is a super release - both films in 1080P, looking triumphantly superior for your home theater viewing, plus a commentary for each film AND these are both films that offer quite a long-lasting impression. Our highest recommendation!

*** 

ON THE 2003 DVD (1959 version): The anamorphic 1.85 image has its failings, but I was not put-off by its overall presentation. The sound was acceptable with minor hiss and crackling in spots. There were no extras to speak of and a commentary would have definitely enhanced the appreciation of this film for many. It could have been a lot better in the hands of Criterion, but I don't think the film really warrants the monetary expenditure that would be required.

Gary W. Tooze





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1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

 

 


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

 

Subtitle sample of Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 

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1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Universal - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Universal - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


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Distribution

Universal

Region 1 - NTSC

Universal
Region FREE -
Blu-ray

 


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