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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - May, 2012

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A Streetcar Named Desire (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

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Synopsis

During the time just after World War II, a teacher from Mississippi, Blanche DuBois, moves in with her sister, Stella, who lives with her husband in New Orleans' French Quarter.  We later come to find out that Blanche was ousted from her hometown for seducing one of her teenage students. Once she's moved in, it doesn't take long until Blanche begins clashing with her untrusting brother in law, played by the young, virile Marlon Brando.  So Blanche goes about trying to create a rift between her sister and Brando while she kindles a romance with one of Brando's friends played by Karl Malden.  Meanwhile, her sister, Stella, is pregnant and soon expecting.  What will happen with Blanche when Stella goes to the hospital to give birth to her first child?

 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 1951, Black and White, Unrated, 2 Hr 5 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
  • Starring: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden
  • Directed by Elia Kazan
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Suggested
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This American classic was based on the Tennessee Williams Broadway show by the same name.  The subject matter was considered quite extreme for cinema in its time.  As a result, the screenplay was toned down and only implies through inuendo much of the characters' atrocities.  This will mean that modern audiences unfamiliar with the story may be a little confused about what exactly is happening on screen.  The fabled "rape" scene is a great example of this.  It is so watered down that modern viewers are likely to walk away not sure as to what exactly happened there.  In any event, this film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won four - Best Supporting Actor (Malden), Best Actress (Leigh), Best Supporting Actress (Hunter) and Art Direction (B&W).  It is also number 47 on the AFI Top 100 List.  It is a dark and brooding character study that showcases amazing acting talents who were very well directed at the height of their careers.  This Blu-ray is a basic necessity for any serious collector and is highly recommended.

Technical

This is a fully restored version of a classic Warner Brothers title from the early 50's.  The movie is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.37:1.  The image is somewhat on the dark side while paradoxically managing to retain very analog-like gradations in the shadows.  And the picture is also a bit soft.  I still give it 4 stars because the transfer is apparently as good as the engineers could eek out from the source material.  The audio is DTS HD-Master Mono.  Most of the movie is set indoors in the house so the audio generally involves simple dialog with the occasional loud effect.  The sound is on the whole quite old-fashioned and lacking in dynamic or frequency extension.

Extras

This special edition restoration comes in a premium book-style package with 40 pages of screen shots and capsules regarding the film, its makers, the characters and the actors.  The set is also chock full of other extras - Audio Commentary with Producer Laurent Bouzereau, Karl Malden and historians Rudy Behlmer and Jeff Young; Elia Kazan: A Director's Journey; A Streetcar on Broadway; A Streetcar in Hollywood; Censorship and Desire;  North and the Music of the South; An Actor Named Brando; Marlon Brando Screen Test; Outtakes; Audio Outtakes and Trailers.