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New to Blu: Désirée + Bell, Book and Candle

This week’s for playing catch-up here at Wtf-Film, where I’ve been effectively useless for the past many days thanks to a particularly nasty season of allergies. Much to my disgrace I’ve as yet been unable to even cover Twilight Time’s fine Blu-ray issue of the equally fine Bite the Bullet, released alongside Demetrius and the Gladiators last month, even though the label’s latest round of limited editions has already arrived!

As such, here’s a quick peak at the Twilight Time’s two latest Blu-ray releases - Désirée, from 20th Century Fox in 1954, and Bell, Book and Candle, from Columbia in 1958 – to tide you over until your humble host can sweat out the full reviews. As always, these are available exclusively through ScreenArchives.com and their Amazon storefront, and are reviewed from screeners graciously provided by Twilight Time.

Those disappointed with the overall fidelity of last month’s Demetrius and the Gladiators can rest easy with Twilight Time’s latest offering from Fox – the studio’s restoration of Désirée, lavishly produced in extra-wide 2.55:1 CinemaScope and DeLuxe color, is up to the same high standards set by Sony’s Picnic and Fox’s own The Egyptian. The film’s vintage anamorphic lensing (and some intentional diffusion besides) doesn’t lend itself to particularly sharp visuals, but the texture of it is quite impressive. Damage is minimal and, aside from the comparatively ragged DeLuxe transitions, this is a magnificent looking and naturally film-like presentation. Twilight Time seem to have standardized their technical approach to Blu-ray, but with the sort of specs that should be standardized rather than the corner-cutting measures that are all too frequent in the industry. The 1080p Mpeg-4 AVC image is encoded at a robust average bitrate of 33.2 Mbps, and artifacts are of no issue. Audio is strong and accurate to the original release, presented in DTS-HD MA 4.0 stereo, though as usual for TT’s Fox catalog releases there are no subtitles. Supplements are limited to an excellent isolated score track (in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo), an original theatrical trailer (HD), and another essential set of liner notes by Julie Kirgo.

Sony’s recent restorations have all been at the top of their class and Bell, Book and Candle is no exception. The flat 1.85:1 image is every bit as precise as should be expected, with an appropriate level of detail, strong contrast, and an exceptionally rendered layer of film grain. Greens and reds show most prominently in Bell‘s Technicolor design, and are wonderfully saturated. The technical specs for the image are identical to those for Désirée - 1080p Mpeg-4 AVC-encoded at an average bitrate of 33.2 Mbps, and artifacts are so negligible as to go unnoticed. Audio is an unadorned DTS-HD MA 1.0 monophonic track that sounds very strong to these ears, and yes, optional English SDH subtitles are included. Supplements are a bit more robust this go around, and in addition to the expected isolated score (in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo - George Duning’s score for this film is lovely stuff, and essential listening), theatrical trailer (HD), and booklet of liner notes by Julie Kirgo, the release also features two brief documentary subjects – Bewitched, Bothered and Beautiful (10 minutes, SD) and Reflections in the Middle of the Night (15 minutes, SD).

Those of you who have been following my other Twilight Time reviews know what to expect of the label by now – Désirée and Bell, Book and Candle are well in keeping with the sort of quality the label has come to be known for, and make for a wonderful start to their second year in business.

The Blu-ray screenshots for this article were gathered by the means that has become standard for this site – full resolution .png images were captured in Totem Movie Player, and compressed to .jpg at a quality setting of 97% using the ImageMagick command line tool.

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