Gone with the WindGone with the Wind on Blu-ray disc

A gorgeously overblown soap opera, Gone With the Wind isn’t nearly as good a movie as history has judged it. But despite that, it’s a glorious spectacle that really does belong in every movie collector’s library. And if you're such a collector, chances are you'll find this Ultimate Collector's Edition a spectacular addition to your library.

As Warners' publicity department describes this classic: "Period romance. War epic. Family saga. Popular fiction adapted with crowd-pleasing brilliance. Star acting aglow with charisma and passion. Moviemaking craft at its height. These are sublimely joined in the words Gone with the Wind.

This dynamic and durable screen entertainment of the Civil War-era South comes home with the renewed splendor of a New 70th-Anniversary Digital Transfer capturing a higher-resolution image from Restored Picture Elements than ever before possible. David O. Selznick’s monumental production of Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book can now enthrall new generations of home viewers with a majestic vibrance that befits one of Hollywood’s greatest achievements."

And other than the film being a bit of an overblown tart, this new, five disc set does, indeed, feature a beautifully restored version of the movie and it looks so good it almost seems as if it were shot yesterday – except that most of the cast members have been dead for years! And of course it comes from before the days of widescreen, so you'll have to live with "keyholing," those black bars to the left and right of the picture.

That's hardly roughing, it, however, and given the movie's epic scale we recommend you watch it on the biggest screen you can.

GWTW follows spoiled rich girl Scarlett O’Hara, a woman not averse to lying and cheating and manipulating people to get by. She's a rotten, terrible person, who should never be looked upon as a role model, unless you’re looking to point out a horrible example of a human being. Everything is all about her – you’d think she was Barack Obama’s inspiration!

Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) is a guy magnet who has to beat the fellahs off with a stick. Despite that, she has her sights and her ego set on a more unattainable target, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), a neighbor who at the film’s opening is about to marry Melanie Hamilton (Olivia DeHavilland), a woman who’s so nice you sometimes want to slap some sense into her.

But then along comes the U.S. Civil War and the end of the Civilization of the South, which is suddenly gone with the wind (hey, what a great idea for a title!).

We undoubtedly need not dwell on the plot, since by now it is so well known that it barely needs an introduction. Suffice it to say that Gone With the Wind is everything an epic should be, other than widescreen, with production values and performances second to none. The cast is outstanding, the film looks like a million dollars, and who can argue with Max Steiner’s score?

What’s important is this new Blu-ray 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition of this classic. And it's a doozie!

The boxed set contains a beautiful, velvet-covered box, four discs in all (one of which contains the sprawling movie itself, one of which contains the extras, one of which is a CD music sampler, and one of which is a six hour DVD retrospective called MGM: When the Lion Roars). It's one heck of a set.

We though the restoration of the movie as seen on an earlier DVD release was spectacular, featuring a gorgeous image and better audio quality than we'd expect from a 1939-vintage movie, though we did think the volume was a little low on the soundtrack. Still, it's extremely well done overall and the Blu-ray version, from whatever source it came, looks even better. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who's compared DVD's and Blu-ray discs together, though. One thing we loved about it was the "old fashioned" Technicolor look that comes through brightly and clearly.

Other special materials include a commemorative 52 page booklet featuring production art and photos, which is done very nicely. There's also some archival communication - i.e. some telegrams and other notes - from producer Selznick, a reproduction of the movie's original program from 1939 nad a pile of featurettes, including three hours of stuff that's new to this collection.

In all, it's a this marvelous set:

Gone With the Wind, from Warner Home Entertainment
238 min. 1080p Full Frame (1.33:1), Dolby TrueHD
Starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland
Produced by David O. Selznick
Written by Sidney Howard, Directed by Victor Fleming

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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