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Fox Home Entertainment presents
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

"You seem to be very earthly for a spirit."
- Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: April 06, 2003

Stars: Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders
Other Stars: Natalie Wood, Edna Best, Vanessa Brown, Anna Lee, Robert Coote, Isobel Elsom
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Manufacturer: Panasonic MDMC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suggestive dialogue)
Run Time: 01h:44m:20s
Release Date: April 01, 2003
UPC: 024543071426
Genre: romance


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-AB A-

DVD Review

It is a well-recognized principle of psychology that the unattainable tends to be more attractive than the attainable. What, then, could form the basis of a stronger attachment than two people who are completely unattainable for each other, to the point of being unable even to touch one another? That is the point of departure for this offbeat romance from beyond the grave, examining the curious relationship between a woman of flesh and blood and a bundle of ectoplasm.

The beautiful young widow Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) decides that she will take her daughter Anna (a very young Natalie Wood) and live near the seaside. She rents Gull Cottage, even though the place is haunted by the spirit of the dead sea captain Daniel Clegg (Rex Harrison). Despite initial antagonism between the two, a mutual attraction soon develops between the quick and the dead, but that attraction is threatened by the intervention of the dashing Miles Fairley (George Sanders), and Mrs. Muir is forced to choose between a living and a ghostly lover.

The dead man obviously has a head start in this love triangle when he's Rex Harrison. He and Tierney have a very definite chemistry together that really makes their romance crackle. Although set in turn-of-the-century Britain, there's a definite spirit of postwar America present here; Lucy Muir is headstrong and tired of living under the domination of others; she is determined to have her own will. Despite the rather jarring anachronistic combination of eras, the result works quite well, particularly since it would require a rather forceful personality not to be completely obliterated by the Captain's ego and temperament. At the same time, it seems as if it would require such a woman to hold his interest on land. One readily forgives the mixing of attitudes of different times.

Harrison is a delight in one of the title roles, and Tierney is perfectly winning. Sanders doesn't quite measure up, somehow managing to miss the necessary sleazy unctuousness that his character calls for. Little Natalie Wood does a fine job with her part, though she's not called upon to do too much. Robert Coote as the land agent, Coombe, is memorable with his tiny part as he attempts to dissuade Mrs. Muir from taking Gull Cottage. Backing this hearty ensemble is a sweeping score by Bernard Herrmann that perfectly sets the scene. The visuals are stunning, with gorgeous chiaroscuro painting of scenes throughout that lends the picture a Rembrandt-like quality. In particular, the script is noteworthy for its somewhat suggestive content that cleverly skirts the restrictions of the Hays Office and the Production Code, despite featuring a woman whose bedroom is also occupied by a man not her husband (even if he is dead). This facet of the story provides a number of amusing moments that are still entertaining to a modern audience.

While there are a few serious defects (the age makeup on Tierney toward the end is surprisingly poor), as a whole the film holds up quite well and will certainly gratify the romantics in the audience. This adaptation of R.A. Dick's novel of the same name is a definite classic that's worth viewing.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame black & white picture looks terrific on the whole. The opening shot unfortunately features a pan that contains significant video noise and shimmer, but thereafter picture quality settles down substantially. The source print is in excellent condition, with only the most occasional speckle to distract from the film. Blacks are very deep, and the greyscale range is gorgeous. Detail is fine throughout as well. This film may never have looked this good before.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanishyes
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Both a 2.0 mono and 2.0 stereo surround remix in English are provided. Both sound quite good, with a mild hiss but otherwise generally clean. Dialogue is clear throughout. The music score tends to be a bit on the shrill side on the stereo remix, but less so on the original mono track. The stereo version mainly benefits from a broader soundstage, but there's still very little in the way of noticeable directionality. The Spanish mono track sounds particularly terrible for some reason.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring All About Eve, An Affair to Remember, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Gentleman's Agreement, How Green Was My Valley
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:08m:58s

Extra Extras:
  1. Still gallery
Extras Review: Fox provides a plethora of valuable supplements to the feature. First are two different commentaries from a variety of scholars and historians, commenting on the history of the picture, the cinematography, the score and numerous other items. Although the four commentators appear to be recorded separately, the tracks are expertly edited so that there is no significant duplication of information between them. The participants are all enthusiastic about the feature and make excellent guides to the background, providing anecdotes and pointing out technical information in a lively and interesting manner. In addition, the disc includes a 58-minute episode of A&E's Biography on Rex Harrison. Although this tends to devolve into a recitation of the parade of Harrison's many wives, it does provide an interesting backdrop to his career.

A nice-looking trailer for this and the other Studio Classics films issued on DVD thus far is provided, as are small galleries of stills, lobby cards and posters. In all, a very satisfactory special edition disc.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

One of the great film romances, in a beautiful transfer with a ton of extras to boot. This is another big winner for Fox's Studio Classics series.`

 


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