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The Barefoot Contessa [Blu-ray]
(Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1954)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: United Artists
Video: Twilight Time
Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 45,335,622,137 bytes
Feature Size: 44,171,907,072 bytes
Video Bitrate: 29.99 Mbps
Case: Transparent Blu-ray case
Release date: January, 2017
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3562 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3562 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 2365 kbps 3.0 / 48 kHz / 2365 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 3.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 2063 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2063 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 2029 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2029
kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 2050 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2050 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
• English (SDH), None
•Audio Commentary with Film Historians Julie Kirgo and David Del Valle
• Isolated Score Track
• Stills Gallery from the David Del Valle Archive
• Original Theatrical Trailer (1:52)
• Liner notes by Julie Kirgo
Limited to 3,000 Copies!
Description: Writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz gives us a bitter tale of stardom won and wasted in The Barefoot Contessa (1954), a film ā clef about a Rita Hayworth-style Spanish dancer (Ava Gardner) who becomes an international movie star. Her sympathetic guide is a writer/director/ Mankiewicz surrogate (Humphrey Bogart); Edmond O’Brien won a Best Supporting Actor OscarŪ playing the public relations lackey of a Howard Hughes-like mogul (Warren Stevens); and the film is stunningly photographed by the one and only Jack Cardiff (The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus).
Washed-up film director Harry Dawes (Humphrey Bogart) gets a second chance at stardom when he discovers stunning peasant Maria Vargas (Ava Gardner) dancing in a nightclub in Madrid, Spain. Goaded by his producer, strong-arming Wall Street financier Kirk Edwards (Warren Stevens), Harry convinces her to screen test for, and then star in, his next big picture. But as Edwards' possessive nature and the realities of stardom weigh on Maria, she seeks a genuine lover with whom she can escape.Excerpt from MRQE located HERE
Like The Bad and the Beautiful, this starts with a funeral, then moves into flashback with three different guides to the scandalous life of a movie queen who started in the Spanish slums and liked to keep her feet in the dirt. Not as incisive as Minnelli's film, but still a heady Mankiewicz brew of Hollywood trash and wit. Also something of a film ā clef, in which the millionaire producer is Howard Hughes, there are disguised caricatures (Farouk, the Duke of Windsor), and the Contessa herself is a tactful mixture (mostly Rita Hayworth).Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE
Originally, Mankiewicz had planned to cast an unknown in the female lead, but after looking at the young Joan Collins and Rosanna Podesta, he decided to go with a star. With her exotic beauty and earthy sexuality, Ava Gardner quickly emerged as the only possible choice. There was just one problem. She was under contract at MGM, where Mankiewicz had just made Julius Caesar and burned a few bridges. When he approached them about borrowing Gardner, they stuck him for $200,000 - twice what he was paying the film's top billed star, Humphrey Bogart - plus ten percent of the gross. Gardner ended up costing Mankiewicz $1 million, while MGM only had to pay her contracted weekly salary, which came to $60,000. But she was well worth the cost when she contributed some of the most memorable scenes in the film - and her career - in particular, a flamenco dance to the film's best-selling theme. Although she had never danced on screen before, Gardner rehearsed the number for three weeks. When the playback machine broke during filming, she didn't miss a step, dancing as the extras clapped out the beat.Excerpt from TCM located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The Barefoot Contessa comes to Twilight Time Blu-ray in a dual-layered, 1080P transfer with their usual high bitrate. The visuals are reasonable but not overwhelming. We received two comments in email about this: "an imperfect transfer (numerous instances of out of register layers of one of final 3-strip Technicolor films) yet glorious Jack Cardiff cinematography enhancing a haunting story enhanced by some of the most engagingly literate dialogue Mankiewicz ever wrote." (Thanks Simon) and "To me, it is a travesty that Twilight Zone issued "The Barefoot Contessa," a masterpiece from Joseph Mankiewicz IMO, in 1.78:1. (Ed. actually 1.85:1) I've always seen it open matte in Academy ratio and to me it's balanced perfectly that way. From my point of view, thank goodness there is a 1.33:1 DVD. It was shot in a transition period that in practice issued some films in widescreen, others in Academy, and some in both. Mankiewicz had the clout to get his film out in the ratio he wanted." (Thanks Peter.) Yes, the colors have some misalignment but reds look glorious. 1954 does seem too early for widescreen although I believe it was the fledgling time for CinemaScope and VistaVision. Frankly, I don't know but suggest it may have been ambiguous - being shown in both 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 theatrically (depending on the theatre's equipment) but I'm unsure of how it was composed when shot by Jack Cardiff. I'm sure a solid case can be made for 1.33:1. This Blu-ray has some inconsistency but generally looks pleasing in 1080P with a few marks and skin-tine fluctuations. There is depth and composition didn't seem hindered (although sometimes tight) in 1.85:1.
Robert Furmanek told us in email: 'The film began production in Rome in January 1954 and was composed during principal photography for widescreen. When released in October 1954, the AR listed in the trades (Variety, Boxoffice, Exhibitor) was 1.75:1."(Thanks Bob!)
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
The Barefoot Contessa used 'Perspecta' sound. Described on Wikipedia as - Introduced as a "directional sound system" rather than a true stereophonic sound system, Perspecta did not use discretely recorded sound signals. Instead, three sub-audible tones at 30 Hz, 35 Hz, and 40 Hz are mixed appropriately and embedded in a monaural optical soundtrack, in addition to the audible sound. Twilight Time try to cover the bases offering three choices; a robust DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround at 3562 kbps - and similar encodes in 3.0 channel and a 2.0 channel stereo (all three in 24-bit). I watched in the 3.0 channel and heard some surprising, and pleasing, channel separations. A felt this, more modest than 5.1, was probably as close to authentic as I was going to find.The score by Mario Nascimbene (Barabbas, A Farewell to Arms, Love in the City) gains some benefit from the uncompressed transfer and plays subtly in the background - also available a an isolated option. There are optional English subtitles (sample above) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE.
Twilight Time add an interesting audio commentary with film historians Julie Kirgo and David Del Valle covering much about the production, Mankiewicz and cast. Great detail and educational. There is, also, their usual isolated score track plus a stills gallery from the David Del Valle Archive, an original theatrical trailer and the package has liner notes by Julie Kirgo and is limited to 3,000 Copies.
January 17th, 2017
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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