Blu-ray Review: ‘The Great Gatsby’ (1974)

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Releasing on a single-disc Blu-ray package, the 1974 film "The Great Gatsby" serves as the third adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 classic novel about a handsome and enigmatic millionaire betrayed by the American Dream. The book's first film rendition was a silent movie from 1926, just a year after its publication. A second remake came out in 1949. A TV movie released in 2000 became the fourth adaptation. The fifth version is already set for a 2013 theatrical release.

For this particular adaptation, the novel was adapted for the screen by Francis Ford Coppola and the film was directed by Jack Clayton. The film stars Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, Scott Wilson, and Sam Waterston. It won the Oscars for Best Music and Best Costume Design. This romantic drama follows the account of a young man named Nick Carraway as he becomes a witness to a self-made millionaire's pomp, obsession, and tragedy. Fascinated by the mysterious and lavish life of his nouveau riche neighbor Jay Gatsby, Nick finds himself drawn into Gatsby's social circle at a time when this affluent man tries to win back his old love named Daisy.

Visuals

Set in the decadent 1920s, this cinematic piece showcases Gatsby's opulent lifestyle through an equally resplendent evocation of the period seen on screen. This sumptuous retelling of Fitzgerald's Jazz Age classic favors a lot of diffused lights throughout the picture. Fine detail is usually abundant and colors look accurate from start to end.

The Blu-ray encoding ably restores the clean and filmic appearance of this 1970s film. Its grain structure looks very much intact with no traces of digital manipulation ruining its exemplary texture. However, the dark parts in many shots often suffer from crushed blacks with little to no details to offer.

Audio

The package supplies a lossless five-channel track, along with an alternate Spanish mono track. The repurposed mix plays things quite conservatively, which is actually a good call because overdoing it means losing the original elements' main anchor to the dated presentation. The surround channels are subtly used for atmospheric sounds and musical score -- adding just enough sense of aural depth to the mix. Dialogue remains clear and intelligible throughout. Dynamic range has a few spikes in the more crowded sequences, but aural flaws detrimental to the track's overall quality are nowhere to be found.

Supplements

Unfortunately, the disc doesn't feature any form of supplements to perk up the release. At the very least, this Blu-ray offering provides subtitle options in English SDH, Spanish, and French.

Final Thoughts

On the surface, "The Great Gatsby" shines as a stately adaptation of its source novel. However, it focuses too much on the impeccable visuals that the pacing readily suffers early on in the story. It offers plenty of show, but it doesn't dig deep the way Fitzgerald's original material cloaks his social criticism within his involving tale. Like the characters, this cinematic rendition reveals a shallow and self-absorbed demeanor that lacks dramatic momentum. In any case, it is worth checking out for its good points and its attachment to a great American classic.

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