- Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
- Region: A
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- Blu-ray Release Date: February 1, 2011
- List Price: $34.95
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
All About Eve was the big Oscar winner of 1950, taking home 6 statuettes for best in picture, writing, directing, costume design, sound recording, and Supporting Actor(George Sanders). Surprisingly, both lead and supporting actresses, although nominated, returned home empty-handed. This initial Blu-ray offering shows today’s viewers what the buzz was all about. Joseph Mankiewicz wrote a tight script with every line contributing to the drama and, with a taut rein, directed an impressive line up of stage personalities. While this is ostensibly a film about the theater, little action occurs on the stage itself. Bette Davis (Margo Channing) plays an aging actress, a great example of art imitating life, and donates her life blood to this show. Her protégé, Anne Baxter (Eve Harrington) begins humbly and gradually insinuates herself into the role of leading lady, using the rest of the characters at some point to further her ambition. The remaining cast features debonair George Sanders (Allison Dewitt, theater critic), Margo’s confidante Celeste Holm (Karen Richards, wife of playwright Lloyd Richards, played by Hugh Marlowe), fiery Gary Merrill (Bill Simpson, director, and Margo’s lover) and a cameo appearance by aspiring actress Marilyn Monroe. Thelma Ritter turns in the character role of Margo’s attendant, Bertie, with her usual crusty delivery and great character actor, Gregory Ratoff plays the outlandish Broadway producer, Max Fabian.
The overall performance has the true feel of a theatrical ensemble, well rehearsed, each actor sensitive to each other’s character, and, yet, each remaining his or her own person. While the story unfolds as a series of flashbacks, they come from different characters and segue nicely, giving the plot near perfect linearity. The story of the understudy eventually displacing the star has some basis in an actual Broadway incident, published as The Wisdom of Eve, in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1946.
In spite of the film’s eponymous title, this is the Bette Davis show all the way. When she appears on screen, there is no question about who is the queen bee here. Over cocktails (a recurring activity throughout the film), Bette utters the unforgettable line: “Fasten your seat belts, it is going to be a bumpy night.” Rest assured, the actual bumps in this film are very few and very far between.
This is a 61 year-old film noir with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Having said that, the mastering and recovery of this senior citizen is nothing short of remarkable. While there is some graininess, the definition is mostly crisp throughout. Given the multitude of close ups, and there are multitudes, the actors’ features remain well defined. As nearly all of the action takes place indoors – apartments, restaurants, and backstage- the cinematography captures well the intimacy of the drama. It takes no stretch of the imagination to see what drew audiences to this movie and, fortunately, you are seeing it as fresh as the first day it was screened.
The DTS-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit) gives the original mono soundtrack a fresh treatment and the matrix effects provide a nice spread across the front proscenium. There is little audible material in the surround channels which is not an issue since this is a film about dialogue not action. This film’s receipt of a Best Sound Oscar is well deserved. The clarity of speech, so critical to the impact of this play, is outstanding and what little score there is well reproduced.
As befits a deluxe edition with its hardcover book and cast pictures, there is a treasure trove of extra features. Besides audio commentaries by author Sam Staggs, cast member Celeste Holm, Mankiewicz biographer Ken Geist, and one of Mankiewicz’s sons, Christopher, there are 2 documentaries about Manckiewicz himself, the backstory of the filming of Eve (aired on the AMC channel), the real story of Eve, and some Fox Movietone clips covering the many awards received by this film. All of these bear watching and contribute to the movie’s appreciation.
The Definitive Word
This film is a self-recommending American classic. In today’s cinema, where all too often it seems like actors phone in their parts, it is refreshing and exhilarating to see movie making at its highest level. There is not a weak link in this seamless and well directed ensemble, the sound recording is not just good for its time but excellent, and the camera work beyond reproach. All About Eve is one movie that film lovers should return to frequently as will I. Folks, it just doesn’t get any better than this.
Additional Screen Captures: