Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 28th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1954
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Writer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Marius Goring, Valentina Cortese, Rossano Brazzi, Elizabeth Sellars, Warren Stevens, Franco Interlenghi, Mari Aldon
BluRay released: December 13th, 2016
Approximate running times: 130 Minutes
Aspect Ratios: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD 3.0 (Perspecta), DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Twilight Time
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95
The Barefoot Contessa was written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz whose other notable films include, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve and Cleopatra. Key collaborators on The Barefoot Contessa include, cinematographer Jack Cardiff (The Red Shoes, The African Queen) and composer Mario Nascimbene (Violent Summer, Girl with a Suitcase).
Four years after making the widely acclaimed All About Ave, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz would return to familiar ground with The Barefoot Contessa. And though both films are linked by their subject matter, the highs and lows of film industry. The Barefoot Contessa differs is one significant way, the majority of the film takes place outside of Hollywood and was actually filmed in Italy. With the bulk of the interior scenes being filmed at Cinecittà Studios. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s there was an influx of Hollywood films made in Italy and these films are now referred to as Hollywood on the Tiber.
Structurally the film begins at its protagonists’ funeral and from there her life story is recalled via flashbacks by those who knew her. The narrative is meticulously constructed and pacing is never an issues as key moments are given an ample amount of time to fully resonate. Another strength of this film’s narrative is how there are no grey area characters and how well defined all the key players are!
The thing that immediately draws you in while watching this film, is that it quickly becomes apparent that this is not a film that is going to play it safe and by the numbers. And nowhere is this more evident than is the way that Ava Gardner’s. He whole introduction is shown through the view point of the audience who is watching her perform. And though the use of the bookend opening / ending is something that had been used in countless other films. It is safe to say that the way in which it is used in the film further enhances this films moment of truth.
From a production stand point, there are not nay areas where this film is does not deliver and then some. With its visuals being another area where this film often excels and nowhere is more evident than in the moments involving Ava Gardner’s characters. Needless to say, this film ensures that its leading lady looks stunning throughout. And not to be overlooked is this film’s witty dialog which adds depth to the story at hand.
Without a doubt this film most durable asset is its rock solid cast which is headline by Humphrey Bogart’s (Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon) in the role of Harry Dawes, a once prominent filmmaker who has turned to alcoholic as his career started to decline. This is one of those rare times when Bogart gets to portray a character and their in no love interest angle. Neck in neck with Bogart’s performance is Ava Gardner (The Killers, Seven Days in May) in the role of Maria Vargas aka the Barfoot Contessa. She delivers an utterly convincing performance that perfect captures the essence of the character.
Other notable performances include, Edmond O’Brien (D.O.A., The Hitch-Hiker) an overly sweaty yes man named Oscar Muldoon who works for producer Kirk Edwards, Rossano Brazzi (South Pacific, The Italian Job) in the role of an impotent count named Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini who marries his mistress Maria Vargas, Valentina Cortese (Thieves’ Highway, The Girl Who Knew Too Much) in the role of the counts first wife and Warren Stevens (Forbidden Planet) in the role of Kirk Stevens, a billionaire oil tycoon who wants to make movies. Overall The Barefoot Contessa is an extraordinary melodrama that leaves its most potent revelation for its finale.
The Barefoot Contessa comes on a 50 GB dual layer (42.2 GB) BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The source used for this transfer is in superb shape. Black and contrast levels look strong throughout and flesh tones look accurate. Colors look nicely saturated and at times vibrant. Grain looks healthy and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with three audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English, DTS-HD 3.0 (Perspecta) mix in English and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. All three audio mixes sound, clean, clear and balanced throughout. With the strongest track being the “Perspecta” audio track from the film’s original release. Range wise all of the audio mixes get the job done and the ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented. Included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include, an option to view the Twilight Time catalog, an eight page booklet with an essay about the film written by Julie Kirgo, a stills gallery, MGM’s 90th Anniversary Trailer (2 minutes 4 seconds), a trailer for The Barefoot Contessa (1 minute 51 seconds), an option to listen to the Isolated score track and an audio commentary with film historians Julie Kirgo and David Del Valle.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, Ava Gardner & an in-depth discussion about her career, Humphrey Bogart, his character & his performance, key moments, personal tragedies that occurred during the making of this film, how Humphrey Bogart did not get along with Ava Gardner, how some of the events in the film are life imitating art, behind the scenes stories related to the cast and the film.
Overall Twilight Time gives The Barefoot Contessa its best home video release to date, highly recommended.
Note: This Blu-Ray release is a limited-edition release of 3,000 copies.