Writing a synopsis for Gone with the Wind must be as silly an exercise as doing onefor King Kong or Casablanca. But for what it’s worth, this is the tumultuous sagaof Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), spoiled southern belle at Tara, whose life is turned upsidedown by two things: Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and the Civil War. Her love affair(s) with Rhettare almost as fiery as the chaos of war, and in that crucible she is forced into becoming a self-suffici…nt woman who sees beyond her own pleasures.
This is soap opera on a truly mythic scale, often imitated, never equalled, and still (adjustingfor inflation), they untouchable box-office champ (Titanic is a pallid contender bycomparison). Everything about the film is bigger-than-life, from the characters to the eye-popping colours. Its four-hour running time is the blink of an eye, and it has lost none of itspower to grip an audience (at a screening a few years ago, I hear teenage viewers gasp in horrorat some of the plot twists — no resistance there to a film from 1939). This is Hollywood at thezenith of its powers.
The score is presented in the original mono and the remastered 5.1. The latter is as good asa remix of a 65-year-old film can reasonably be expected to be. The sweeping Max Steiner scorein particular sounds as lavish as one might hope. There are no surround voices, so the dialogueescapes the usual curse of remixed scores.
Here is where the new release is nothing short of stunning. The colours have been restoredto their full Technicolor magnificence, and are so brilliant, with contrasts so strong, you’ll beslammed to the back of the room. The image is extremely sharp, and the grain, though present,is held to a minimum. There are plenty of 21st-Century films that don’t even come close tolooking this good. The 1.33:1 fullscreen ratio is, of course, the film’s original format.
Four discs, and the features are nothing short of comprehensive. Historian Rudy Behlmertakes on the immense task of the audio commentary on the first two discs, and he goes intometiculous detail, covering even such apparently minor elements as the Selznick studio sign thatbegins the picture.
Disc 3 focuses on the film itself. “The Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind” is a two-hour documentary narrated by Christopher Plummer, and containing plenty of vintage interviewswith such behind-the-scenes players as George Cuckor. “Restoring a Legend” is a 17-minutefeaturette looking at how the movie now looks as wonderful as it does. There are three vintageshorts: newsreels of the 1961 re-release and the original premiere, and a short called “The OldSouth” that was released in 1939 to provide audiences with the context of the movie. Roundingthings out are the International Prologue (a crawl explaining the origins of the Civil War), someclips of the foreign language versions, five theatrical trailers (for the film’s various re-releases)and an awards list.
Disc 4 looks at the cast in considerable detail. Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and Olivia deHavilland get their documentaries (the first two are profiles, while de Havilland’s is a memoir).Some 16 members of the supporting cast receive individual featurettes (divided up by where thecharacters were most prominent in the film: Tara, Twelve Oaks or Atlanta). There’s evensomething called “Exit” – a little final word to complete the DVD experience. Then, if you wanta little bit more, there’s a preview for The Polar Express. The menu’s main screen isscored and has slide show-style animation.
A towering classic, treated as it richly deserves. Releases don’t get much better than this.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- “The Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind” Feature-Length Documentary
- “Restoring a Legend” Featurette
- 1939 and 1961 Premiere Newsreels
- International Prologue
- Foreign Language Version Clips
- Theatrical Trailers
- Awards List
- “Melanie Remembers: Reflections by Olivia de Havilland”
- “Gable: The King Rememberd” Documentary
- “Vivien Leigh: Scarlett and Beyond” Documentary
- Supporting Players Featuettes
- Polar Express Preview