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The Original Restored Version of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE ($35) fills in many of the holes left in the story due to the censorship of Tennessee William's steamy work. In the fifties, the type of sexuality found in William's play was forbidden on the screen. Unfortunately, the characters and situations of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE are overtly sexual, thus some of the pivotal aspects of the story were only alluded to, or omitted from the version of the film released back in 1951... this left the film with some levels ambiguity concerning the characters and how the story ultimately plays out. In 1993, Warner Bros. re-issued A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE theatrically. This re-issue also restored several minutes of footage that was cut from the film due to the prevailing censorship of the time. The footage restored in 1993 removes any doubts about the true nature of the tragedy that unfolds during the course of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE.

Vivien Leigh triumphs in the role of Blanche Dubois, a fading southern belle, who walks the precarious line of sanity. When Blanche goes to live with her sister and her sister's brutish husband, Blanche's fragile mind and the façade she has built around her self slowly begins to crumble. Watching Blanche's slow disintegration at the hands of her brother-in-law is heartbreaking. Vivien Leigh's performance has lost nothing to the years- it remains riveting. Marlon Brando gives an early, yet astounding, performance as Blanche's brother-in-law. Brando brings all of his screen charisma and sexual magnetism to the role of Stanley, the unrefined brute who leads Blanche to her ultimate downfall. Kim Hunter's performance as Blanche's sister Stella is also enhanced by the restored footage. In this version Hunter's Stella displays a truly earthy sexuality- something that was minimized in the censored version of the film. In the film's most memorable scene, when Stanley calls to Stella after a drunken fight, her submission to him becomes completely wanton in the restored version. Karl Malden's performance as Mitch, Stanley's lonely friend who falls in love with Blanche, is one of unusual sensitivity and feeling. This is quite possibly the finest role of Karl Malden's long career; he is truly outstanding.

Of the four leads, only Marlon Brando was excluded from an acting Oscar, even though his performance certainly deserved one. Vivien Leigh's Best Actress award was the second time for which the British actress won an Oscar for portraying a southerner. Her first Oscar win was for GONE WITH THE WIND. With A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, Leigh makes the role of Blanche Dubois as much her own as she did Scarlet O'Hara. Hunter and Malden's supporting Oscars were for roles that were so indelible, it’s hard to think of them as only supporting characters in this marvelous film. Director Elia Kazan's brilliant work was also recognized with an Oscar nomination. The cast of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE also includes Rudy Bond, Nick Dennis, Peg Hillias, Wright King, Richard Garrick, Ann Dere, Edna Thomas and Mickey Kuhn.

Warner Home Video has made A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE is offered up with an excellent 1080p black and white presentation that will please fans of this film classic. Harry Stradling’s smooth, dark, shadowy cinematography is beautifully rendered here. The image appears sharp and well defined, but there are some shots that display a bit softness- due to the optical processing work. The image has a fine gained quality of an older motion picture and demonstrates terrific levels of texturing. Grayscale is quite impressive, offering deep rich blacks, pure whites and all shades in between. Contrast is generally very smooth, with occasional harsh highlights. The elements from which A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE has been transferred appear to have been digitally scrubbed of blemishes, without compromise to the grain structure.

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Considering that A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE is more than sixty years old, the sound quality still impresses. Sure, there are modest limitations in fidelity, but the track is a very strong performer. Alex North’s music comes across with good sense of character. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves a generally smooth quality to the soundtrack. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese Dolby Digital monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Croatian, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with actor Karl Malden, and film historians Rudy Behlmer and Jeff Young. Next up is Elia Kazan: A Director’s Journey; an hour and fifteen-minute documentary by film critic/historian Richard Schickel that looks at the career of the legendary director. Featurettes and other programs include the following: A Streetcar On Broadway (twenty two minutes), A Streetcar In Hollywood (twenty eight minutes), Censorship And Desire (sixteen minutes), North And The Music Of The South (nine minutes) and An Actor Named Brando (nine minutes). A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE features book styled packaging that contains forty-four pages of photos and production notes.

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE is a cinematic classic that has been beautifully rendered in high definition. Highly recommended.


A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) [Blu-ray] (2006)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2012 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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