Blu-ray Review: Gone With the Wind (70th Anniversary)

ON
Photo: Warner Home Video

An immaculate and beautiful presentation wrapped in a red velvet box, Warner Home Video’s 70th Anniversary Blu-ray release of Gone With the Wind is a must for any avid film fan or Gone With the Wind fanatic, and I can only assume all of us know one or more of the latter and are obviously all members of the former. Not only is the packaged presentation some of the best I have seen from the studio, the film itself has never looked better and I can’t imagine it ever will, at least not on home video.

When it comes to Blu-ray high-definition we are really getting down to the true essence of today’s films and when we’re talking about restoring a 70-year-old film onto the new media, one of my primary concerns was the expectation of too much grain, primarily in the lavish colors. Fortunately none of that is visible here and there is by no means any visible digital tweaking, at least not to my untrained eyes. Thanks to DVD Beaver we have comparable screen captures directly below to show you the difference between this latest Blu-ray release and 2004’s very impressive four-disc set (which I reviewed here), and I am blown away by the improvements.

A screen capture from the 2004 release of Gone With the Wind, mouse over for a comparison to the 2009 Blu-ray edition
Photo: Warner Home Video courtesy of DVD Beaver

Above is initially a still from the 2004 four-disc restored release, and it was an impressive release, but by rolling your mouse over the image you can see just how impressive the Blu-ray version is. A green tint to the image is gone, whites are whiter and the picture itself is much more natural looking. Vivien Leigh’s skin isn’t as blown out and you can see a notable difference in the shadow across her face.

As if it wasn’t already evident, the picture is immaculate, and the film itself is a stunner. The other MAJOR benefit I see when it comes to this release is the fact the film itself is now offered on one disc and one disc alone. I know it’s a lazy-American kind of thing to say, but I don’t like it when I have to get up in the middle of a movie and switch to a second disc. It’s the number one reason I bought the Kingdom of Heaven director’s cut on Blu-ray and one of the main reasons I can’t wait for films such as Titanic and the extended versions of Lord of the Rings on Blu-ray. There is just something about having it all on one disc that appeals to me and is a big selling point.

As far as the special features are concerned, I’m honestly not bowled over, that is in terms of getting anything all that “new” is concerned. Everything from the four-disc set is here and still in standard definition along with only a few new bonuses, but hardly anything worth getting excited over.

Among the new “features” are the 68-minute “1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year” which was first shown on TCM in 2009, Moviola: The Scarlett O’Hara Wars made-for-TV movie, “Gone with the Wind: The Legend Lives On” documentary doing exactly as its title insinuates and the 6-hour MGM: When The Lion Roars documentary, which is presented on a dual-sided disc of its own. The 1939 piece is rather general but enjoyable as Kenneth Branagh narrates a quick glimpse at what is rather unanimously considered the best year in Hollywood. The made-for-TV movie was, in my honest opinion, terrible and When The Lion Roars just felt extraordinarily dated. You can get my opinion on all the carried over features in my 2004 review, but the highlight of that bunch remains the “The Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind” two-hour documentary.

Looking into the extra goodies included in the set we are talking about a hard-bound book with color prints and photos from the production accompanied by a few words peppered throughout, reprinted interoffice memos, a reprint of the original 20-page souvenir program, 10 postcard size watercolor art prints and a CD soundtrack sampler with eight songs from the score. I put together the video you see to the right looking at all of these goodies specifically, which is a probably the best way to help you decide if such extras are something you think you need or want. Of course, we all don’t really need them, but they make for an exciting altogether package.

Most importantly, with a set like this you have to ask yourself what kind of fan are you of this film and who are you buying it for?

I have a friend who would absolutely love this set as a Christmas present. Buying this for her would probably make her holiday season as it has all the necessary extras to entertain a rabid fan of this film for hours, and that’s even though I know she already owns the four-disc set. I also think any film fan will want this on their shelf as it is the definitive version of this film. The logical next step is digital high-definition streaming delivery, which isn’t going to be available for some time from now and even then who knows what kind of overall quality we are talking about once it’s initially available.

When the conversation turns to the best films of all-time, Gone With the Wind is always part of the conversation, and for good reason and Warner Home Video has brought it to fans in the best possible format. Now, I’m sure there is going to be a single-disc Blu-ray edition some time in the future, just as a single-disc version of both Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz are coming to Blu-ray this holiday season. So you just need to ask yourself, what kind of fan are you of this movie and can you wait until a slightly cheaper version is available without all the frills and gimmicks. Right now the Blu-ray is available at Amazon for $45.49, and in my opinion that’s a very good price for everything you get. Click here if you want to buy yourself a copy now.