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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Harper [Blu-ray]

 

(Jack Smight, 1966)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Gershwin-Kastner Productions

Video: Warner Archive

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:00:48.699 

Disc Size: 39,041,754,527 bytes

Feature Size: 37,488,961,536 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 33

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 27th, 2017

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.4:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1999 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1999 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2028 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2028 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• Commentary with screenwriter William Goldman
Trailer (3:47)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Paul Newman memorably plays the title role in this box-office hit based on Ross MacDonald’s The Moving Target. The first detective film in Newman’s then 23-film career, Harper revitalized the genre. Newman’s sleuth chews gum fast…and slips out of jams ever faster as he unravels a twisted case of kidnapping and murder. William Goldman’s clever script throws quips and a parade of LA-LA-Land characters Harper’s way. There’s a woman of means (Lauren Bacall), a gun-toting attorney (Arthur Hill), a poolside gigolo (Robert Wagner), a boozy ex-starlet (Shelley Winters), a jazz junkie (Julie Harris), Harper’s estranged wife (Janet Leigh) and the unholy order of the Temple of the Clouds (led by Strother Martin). Each may possess a clue. Or a bullet for Harper.

 

 

The Film:

Screenwriter William Goldman has claimed that Paul Newman agreed to do Harper, the film that established the grateful writer's career, only because he was working unhappily on Lady L. (1965) in Europe, and was looking for something as unlike that film as possible. He stars as Lew Harper, a hip L.A. private dick whose business has gotten so bad that he's re-using his coffee grounds. At the suggestion of his friend, attorney Albert Graves (Arthur Hill), the detective takes on the investigation of the disappearance of the wealthy husband of waspish cripple Elaine Sampson (Lauren Bacall). After finding a photograph of former actress Fay Estabrook (Shelley Winters), Harper locates the alcoholic actress in a bar, plies her with booze, and takes her home to search her apartment while she's unconscious. There he takes a call which leads him to another bar to meet Betty Fraley (Julie Harris), a singer with a heroin problem. To curtail his inquisitive behavior, some large and unpleasant gentleman beat him up outside the saloon. Hoping for sympathy from his soon to be ex-wife (Janet Leigh), who has just filed divorce papers, the weary detective is much more successful than he has any right to expect.

Excerpt from B+N located HERE

The man with the barbed wire soul turned himself into the first of the compassionate private eyes when Paul Newman took on the role of Lew Harper, a private eye trying to find a missing millionaire amidst the lush life and low life of Los Angeles in Harper (1966). The result was a memorable success - one of Newman's biggest hits of the '60s and a film that helped establish his reputation as one of the screen's coolest stars.

Harper entered the world as Lew Archer, the hero of a series of books started by mystery writer Ross Macdonald in 1949 with The Moving Target. The series has been hailed for adding psychological depth to the detective genre and made Macdonald one of the best-selling authors of mystery novels. As a result, he has been consistently ranked among such giants as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. In fact, one critic dubbed Hammett, Chandler and Macdonald the "Holy Trinity of hardboiled detective fiction," with Macdonald as the Holy Ghost, a title that stuck.

That didn't stop Newman from changing the name of Macdonald's most famous detective, however. Struck by his success in two films beginning with the letter "h" - The Hustler (1961) and Hud (1963), Newman asked that the private eye's name be changed from Archer to Harper. Aside from that, the film remained true to Macdonald's vision and helped bring him new readers. The role became so associated with Newman that he would play Harper nine years later in The Drowning Pool (1976).

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

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

Harper arrives on Blu-ray from The Warner Archive looking sweet. This is a dual-layered transfer with a max'ed out bitrate. The image is a shade brighter than the previous DVD and may even lose a sliver of information on the left edge but it generally looks excellent overall in the 2.4:1 aspect ratio. There is plenty of depth and nice color separation. This Blu-ray image isn't dynamically crisp but carries some film textures well. Zooming in indicates that there are some inconsistencies - perhaps with the contrast - but for most people this will look impressive on their systems - a solid notch ahead of the SD.

 

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

 

1) Warner (Paul Newman Collection - Reviewed HERE) - Region 1,2,3,4 - NTSC - TOP

2) Warner Archive - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Warner (Paul Newman Collection - Reviewed HERE) - Region 1,2,3,4 - NTSC - TOP

2) Warner Archive - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The audio is rendered in a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1999 kbps (24-bit). The audio effects for the film are modest - minor gunplay, aggression, loud music bar scene - but it has a score by Johnny Mandel (I Want to Live! Pretty Poison, Point Blank, Deathtrap, M*A*S*H, That Cold Day in the Park, Heaven with a Gun, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea,etc.) that adds to the film with a unique flavor suiting the Beverly Hills, Malibu and L.A. locales. Some may recall André Previn's Livin' Alone sung by Julie Harris. The hardboiled mood is maintained by the music and Warner include optional English subtitles (see sample) in, shouting, CAPITALS and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

 

Extras :

There is the same, excellent, William Goldman commentary as found on the 2006 Paul Newman Collection DVD boxset (Reviewed HERE). He is so frank and open discussing his work and what he remembers about the production. He includes opinions on his own work - only feeling pride at Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Princess Bride. I loved hearing his comments on... everything. There is also a theatrical trailer.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Harper is a delicious neo-noir and is an appealing detective-crime-thriller yarn with a stacked cast starring Newman, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris, Janet Leigh, Pamela Tiffin, Robert Wagner, Robert Webber, Shelley Winters, Strother Martin and others. I also appreciated the nostalgic 60's feel - Harper's thin ties, sports car, it's edginess and the sexy gals. This is something you can really curl up to with a load of popcorn - for a double feature Friday night followed by The Drowning Pool. Recommended!

Gary Tooze

February 25th, 2018


 




 

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