One of the greatest films ever made, Frank Capra’s delightful road trip romantic comedy It Happened One Night travels to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Sony. The first entry of Sony’s Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Vol 3 set, the film looks magnificent with a spectacular 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision transfer, clean audio, and a terrific set of bonus features. A genuine highlight of this new set, it’s an essential piece of classic cinema for any collection. Must Own
As we previously covered this title already, I’ll defer to my colleague M. Enois Duarte’s’ excellent review. But for a quick personal opinion of this amazing film - I love it to death. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert light up the screen in this delightful romantic comedy. Hollywood simply doesn’t make them like they used to - even though they tried remaking it in 1956’s You Can’t Run Away From It with Jack Lemmon and June Allyson. That was a well-meaning remake and it actually can be quite funny (you can watch it on this 4K disc!), but it’s nothing like the original. There’s good reason this is one of the few films to ever win the Acadamy Awards Grand Slam earning Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director - Frank Capra, Best Screenplay - Robert Riskin, Best Actor - Clark Gable, and Best Actress - Claudette Colbert. It’s charming from the first frame to the very last shot as Joshua’s horn tears down the walls of Jerico.
Here is Mr. Duarte’s fantastic review of It Happened One Night from the 2014 Criterion Collection Blu-ray
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
It Happened One Night drives onto 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for the first time with a new two-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray set exclusive to Sony’s Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Volume 3. Similar to the past volumes, this film gets its own two-disc case with slipcover and classic artwork for the insert art. The discs get their own bays without stacking. The 4K is pressed on a BD-100 disc with the film in 1080p pressed on a Region Free BD-50 disc. The discs load to static image main menus with standard navigation options and the bonus features panel along the right side of the screen.
Seeing as how this film is knocking on the door of its 90th birthday, I wasn’t expecting much of an upgrade over Criterion’s already fantastic 2014 Blu-ray release. One starts to believe that there’s a ceiling for improvements with features of this vintage, but this new 2160p Dolby Vision transfer shows that the roofline is quite high. Once again Sony outdoes itself with this magnificent release. On the baseline of fine detail, there isn’t a huge massive leap from the already excellent 2014 disc to this one, but if you watch long enough you start to see small details you never quite picked up on. For how many times I’ve seen this movie I never realized it was Ward Bond as the bus driver and not Nat Pendleton who I always assumed it was! Their voices are so similar it was easy to mistake the two, but now with the extra refinement and detail, it made it easier to spot John Wayne's frequent collaborator. Facial features and costuming all come in with beautiful clarity and a healthy cinematic grain structure.
The real pick-up for this release is the Dolby Vision HDR (and HDR10) pass that allows the film’s grayscale to fully come to life. Whites are brilliantly crisp while blacks are deep and inky with gorgeous shadow shading in between. Low light scenes like when Gable’s Peter and Colbert’s Elle are sleeping with the “Walls of Jerico” that first night is simply magnificent. Even with that slim light coming in through the windows you pick up more shadowy details than ever before. Naturally, there are a few soft shots - some intentional others simply a condition of the elements - but they’re hardly distracting and still look fantastic. I knew this was going to look very good, but I wasn’t expecting something this robust.
This release comes in with a pleasing DTS-HD MA mono track. Again at nearly 90 years of age, there is still some age-related anomalies like slight hiss present and some sound effects that don’t quite render well, but there are many attributes to this track that shine. Dialog is clean and clear without any issues. This is a film with many great speeches - mostly from Gable - and they all come through with terrific clarity. It was honestly a genuine pain to decide which clip to choose for the video sample! Scoring is on point without sounding shrill or tinny. Imaging may be restricted given its original mono recording, but it’s still plenty active and engaging - especially whenever there’s a crowd of people to fill the soundscape.
Not to sit back and let anything slip past them, Sony has done an excellent job of delivering some worthwhile extras. The biggest curiosity for some folks is going to be the inclusion of that 1956 remake You Can’t Run Away From It presented in HD with a terrific transfer with a serviceable Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. It’s nice to see Sony didn’t just throw it on the disc. I’d seen it years ago and thought it was alright and my esteem for the film hasn’t improved. It’s good, and certainly worth a look for the curious but like any remake of a genuine classic, it just doesn’t compare to the original. The rest of the bonus features are a mix of new and vintage materials that are well worth digging into.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc
Full stop, It Happened One Night is one of the finest American films ever made. It’s a joyful feature with romance, heart, humor, and is just a delight. Colbert and Gable light up the screen with their dynamic interplay and Frank Capra’s sharp direction and eye for naturally finding genuinely human moments for these amazing actors. Now as the opening piece of Sony’s Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Vol 3 - it picks up a gorgeous new Dolby Vision transfer with clean audio and a fine collection of worthwhile bonus features including the decent enough 1956 remake starring Jack Lemmon. This title alone may not be enough to warrant the purchase of this full set, but someday if Sony ever releases it solo definitely keep it on your radar! Must Own