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The Ghost and Mrs. Muir Blu-ray Review

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) movie poster The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Theatrical Release: June 26, 1947 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz / Writers: Philip Dunne (screenplay), R.A. Dick (novel)

Cast: Gene Tierney (Lucy Muir), Rex Harrison (Captain Daniel Gregg), George Sanders (Miles Fairley), Edna Best (Martha Huggins), Vanessa Brown (Anna Muir - Adult), Anna Lee (Mrs. Fairley), Robert Coote (Mr. Coombs), Natalie Wood (Anna Muir - Child), Isobel Elsom (Angelica Muir), Victoria Horne (Eva Muir)

Buy The Ghost and Mrs. Muir from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD

Today, film ghosts rarely venture outside the horror genre,
but it wasn't always that way. Two of the biggest blockbusters of the late 20th century used them for comedy and romantic drama. While Ghostbusters harked back to a tradition that included Abbott and Costello and The Three Stooges, Ghost more resembled the supernatural films of the 1940s and perhaps most directly the 1947 release The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

Adapted from the 1945 novel by R.A. Dick, the nom de plume of Irish author Josephine Leslie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir seems like an off-shoot of the Gothic drama, a genre then thriving in Hollywood. Such films and the books they were based on often explored the strange, mysterious impact of the recently-deceased. This tale does away with such poetry and subtlety to live up to its title and feature an actual ghost of the completely anthropomorphic variety.

Rex Harrison plays the Ghost, Captain Daniel Gregg. Gene Tierney is Mrs. Muir, the young widow who buys the Captain's haunted former house.

In England at the turn of the 20th century, a year after the death of her husband, young widow Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) decides that she, her daughter Anna (Natalie Wood), and their housekeeper (Edna Best) will move out of the house of her mother- and sister-in-law. Despite the warnings of a realtor, Lucy buys Gull Cottage, a reasonably-priced home which has the stigma of having been haunted for the four years since its previous owner, Captain Gregg, died of an apparent suicide. Maniacal laughter is soon heard, but Lucy already has her heart set on the place and won't let a little otherworldly presence shake her.

On the first night there, Lucy is visited by Captain Gregg himself (Rex Harrison), who only speaks to and is seen by those he chooses. Lucy asks him not to disturb young Anna and he agrees, so long as she keeps the best bedroom and hangs his portrait there. The salty seaman has one other request, which is for Lucy, whom he calls Lucia, to tell his "unvarnished" story that he dictates to her. Lucy/Lucia does just that and surprises a publisher with Blood and Swash.

In the process, Lucy also catches the eye of Miles Fairley (George Sanders), a smooth operator who writes popular children's books under the name Uncle Neddy and paints on the side. The two display romantic interest in one another, but where does the ghost fit in?

Children's author Miles Fairley seems like an okay chap, but when does George Sanders play someone who isn't a bit dastardly? The same year she won attention for "Miracle on 34th Street", Natalie Wood played Anna, the young daughter of the titular Mrs. Muir (Gene Tierney).

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is a familiar title. Perhaps you know the book or maybe the 1968-70 sitcom that ran a season on NBC and a second on ABC. But it seems the film carries prestige above both of those incarnations. Though only nominated for a black and white cinematography Oscar, this film has risen to classic status. That may reflect the career of its director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Mankiewicz, a longtime writer and producer, had just started directing a year earlier. Within a few years, he would have four Academy Awards to his name for both writing and directing A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve.
Though his name is not widely known or celebrated today, Mankiewicz rose Hollywood's ranks and was the kind of filmmaker entrusted with major productions, like MGM's Julius Caesar starring Marlon Brando and Fox's Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor.

Mankiewicz made a quick impression on audiences and the industry with his deft, nimble work. Ghost could easily play as farce, but the director doesn't allow that to happen, keeping comedy, fantasy, and visual effects to a minimum. Yes, the prospect of a ghost contacting a living human being is far-fetched, but beyond that, nothing in the film stretches belief. The romance isn't mushy, the biography aspect isn't preposterous, and the love triangle isn't excessively contrived. The film is fast-moving and able to present these invented dilemmas with conviction, even when it stretches to give the happy ending desired.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir reached Blu-ray earlier this month after being one of eight classic movies, two representing each decade from the 1930s through '60s, chosen by public vote in Fox's "Voice Your Choice" campaign.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 1.0 DTS-HD MA (English, Italian), 5.1 DTS (French),
Dolby Mono 1.0 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Eco-Friendly Blue Keepcase
Still available on DVD ($14.98 SRP; April 1, 2003)

VIDEO and AUDIO

The good news for those who have been awaiting this release is that The Ghost and Mrs. Muir looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray. The dynamite 1.33:1 black and white transfer is sharp, spotless, and void of even minor imperfections. While the film has long been distinguished, it's still a surprise for what is one of octet of catalog titles given seemingly routine release to boast a transfer that would make Criterion envious. I've been highly pleased with the few other classic Fox Blu-rays I've encountered, but it's still a treat to encounter such a sterling presentation of a nearly 70-year-old film.

Sound is offered in a variety of languages and formats. The two English options are 5.1 and 1.0 DTS-HD master audio. I listened to the default 5.1 remix and it featured some peaks and valleys as score flared. Not surprisingly given the age, it didn't sound like a modern 5.1 mix, channel separation being mild. On occasion the rear channels seem to dispense atmosphere a little too loud. The monaural mix is truer to the film's design and may be the more suitable listen, but aside from purists, the default track shouldn't draw much anger.

The trailer asks a question that the title "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" seems to answer. The Blu-ray's cover and menu image have more traces of color than the black and white film itself.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

As on Fox's 2003 DVD, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is joined by two audio commentaries.

The first is led by fan/film historian/modern-day visual effects supervisor Greg Kimble, who speaks consistently with regard to what's onscreen.

Christopher Husted, the manager of the estate of composer Bernard Herrmann, joins in from time to time to speak of Herrmann's work on the film and other classics.

The second commentary is provided by Wesleyan University Film Studies chairman Jeanine Basinger, with occasional input from Joseph L. Mankiewicz biographer Kenneth Geist on the direction. Recorded separately, they offer further screen-specific historical perspective and analysis. It's not terribly exciting, though it is informative.

The Blu-ray's only other inclusion is the film's original theatrical trailer (2:39). Presented in rough-looking standard definition, it asks whether the Captain is a ghost or real (a question that is never in doubt in the movie), while celebrating this as a major event film anticipated from the moment the novel was published.

Sadly, two additional items from the DVD do not make it to the Blu-ray. A stills gallery holding more than 150 images unsurprisingly isn't converted, but the 45-minute A&E biography "Rex Harrison: The Man Who Would Be King" is a pretty major loss. Fox regularly licenses extras from the cable network, so the casualty is both unusual and disappointing. Trailers for other Fox classics are also dropped, though to no great loss.

The menu simply attaches score to a wide rendering of the cover art. The disc supports bookmarking and also gives you the chance to resume playback. The eco-friendly keepcase is not joined by any inserts or slipcover.

Captain Gregg (Rex Harrison) dictates to Lucy (Gene Tierney) the unvarnished story of his life as a seaman in "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is an enjoyable film that tastefully presents material that could have been sudsy or outlandish in other hands. This 1940s classic gets a delightful remastering on Blu-ray, though it's a shame that it loses some of its DVD bonus material.

Buy The Ghost and Mrs. Muir from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD

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Related Reviews:
New to Blu-ray: The Call of the Wild Mary Poppins Oliver! Nashville Grey Gardens
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz: A Letter to Three Wives
Rex Harrison: Night Train to Munich | George Sanders: Rebecca Samson and Delilah | Natalie Wood: Gypsy
1940s on Blu-ray: The Uninvited I Married a Witch The Best Years of Our Lives Beauty and the Beast
Ghost Ghost Town Blackbeard's Ghost

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Reviewed December 23, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1947 20th Century Fox Pictures and 2013 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
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