Fox // 1959 // 179 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 1st, 2009
Three hours worth of cramped hiding...in high-def!
George Stevens' iconic film adaptation receives an overstuffed Blu-ray, for its 50th anniversary edition.
With Europe in the clutches of Nazism and Jews being carted off to concentration camps, 13-year-old Anne Frank (Millie Perkins) joins her family and others in a secret hiding place, dodging the Gestapo, keeping quiet, splitting scraps of food, defusing tensions, and watching their Jewish neighbors disappear around them. This continues for three hours or so, with Anne documenting all the ups and downs in her diary.
Brand me a Philistine, but wow is this movie long. Like old-school long, the kind of epic-length feature that tests the bladder resilience of camels. Not surprising, of course, since it's an adaptation of a stage play, and it certainly feels that way. The script is heavily dialogue-driven, the pacing methodical, and the production almost entirely set in the apartment. Nothing wrong with that, because that's how Anne Frank rolls.
Investing time into this will yield a powerful connection with the story, stunning in the dramatic and emotional punch. Though the single-setting is tough on the attention span, there's another angle that advances the tone. The claustrophobic nature of this true-life ordeal comes across in a hugely effective manner.
Not to resurrect your middle school English class memories, but Holy Crap can you imagine? Two years holding your breath, listening to the radio for any hints of the Allied invasion, suspecting one another of pilfering food, never knowing when the Gestapo is going to break down the door. Creating this atmosphere is what The Diary of Anne Frank excels at.
The real question for fans of the film is this: is it worth the Blu-ray upgrade? Well, maybe there are more important questions, like whether to default on your mortgage, send your children to private school, or turn yourself into the authorities, but whatever. This is a solid Blu-ray.
Black and white doesn't do much to trumpet the visual complexity of high-definition. What you lose in color, you gain significantly in cleanness of transfer. For a 50 year-old release, The Diary of Anne Frank looks terrific, flush with detail and sharp contrast, the shadows and lighting leaping out of the screen. Sound, unfortunately, does not fare as well. The disc sports a DTS-HD Master Audio track, but the audio is just too front-loaded and shrill to take advantage.
The high point of this release are the stellar extras. A commentary with George Stevens Jr. and Millie Perkins opens up into an epic, HD documentary, broken up into several segments dealing with separate elements of the film. The whole thing runs 90 minutes and is a must-see. After that, you've got a Fox Movie Channel spotlight, another large documentary called "The Diary of Anne Frank: Echoes from the Past," an excerpt from "George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey," footage of George Stevens' press conference, and Millie Perkins' screen test. Excellent stuff and worthy of the special edition moniker.
The film's a behemoth, but the pull of the story is inescapable. For fans, I strongly recommend a look at this Blu-ray.
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 2.0 Stereo (Spanish, Castilian)
* Dolby Digital 4.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Latin)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 179 Minutes
Release Year: 1959
MPAA Rating: Not Rated