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'Mary Poppins' Blu Ray not perfect, but VERY close!
on December 9, 2013
'Mary Poppins' from Disney Studios in 1964 was a groundbreaking film in many ways. Not only did it successful blend both live action and animation in new and exciting ways, it also featured a top notch stellar cast of old pros and extremely talented newcomers (many of whom we would soon be seeing LOTS more of) and the beautiful original music by the Sherman Brothers, the greatest songwriters that ever worked for Disney. With the songs sung by one of most beautiful voices of all time, the great Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins is entertainment at it's best.
While created primarily as a 'Family Film' there is something about 'Mary Poppins' that resonates with ALL age groups and speaks to me differently now at age 59 than when I first saw it in 1964 at the Northgate Cinema in Seattle. It is fun for the entire family and has plenty of Re-Watch-ability built right in.
With that said, this review will be focusing on the video and audio portions of the Blu ray presentation, and not the film itself.
'Mary Poppins" looks REALLY GOOD on Blu Ray. It is not perfect and simply can not be due to the sheer amount of old school optical effects that are achieved at the expense of both clarity and perceived picture resolution. I honestly did not except too much from this transfer and was happily surprised throughout the presentation.
I really must say that the work that went into this transfer must have been enormous. Almost all the dirt and debris has been cleared way along with print damage like scratches, etc. Color timing looks very good, perhaps the color saturation level is just a bit on the light side of things, but overall it is very natural looking. Contrast and Brightness levels are very good and the film looks spectacular in motion. Nice and smooth.....
The problem areas of this transfer all revolve around the special effects of the time which were mostly achieved optically, by printing multiple layers of negative onto a composite piece of film. By the time all the elements are inserted and printed, you might be looking at 4 or 5 generations and you have lost clarity with each one.
I was frankly shocked by how well Disney has handled this title. I was not expecting things to turn out as well as they did. However......... You can pretty much guess each time the film will dissolve (fade) into another scene as you are then at at least 2 layers and things will be noticeably "blurrier". Also, during much of the animation scenes with the human actors, you will notice the rotoscoping around the live actors and at times it is sloppy looking. This is NOT from the current Blu Ray transfer, but from the original effects process. Honestly, the film has been polished and cleaned up to the point where it only really slips badly visually a few times. For me, the worst looking segment was during the room cleaning sequence. Not ALL of it, just parts. If you have a critical eye, you will notice the weak spots immediately but soon realize they are perfectly acceptable within the framework of the full movie. MOST of it is great so there is enough wiggle room for those rather weaker looking moments.
No overuse of edge enhancement/sharpening or DNR can be seen. Technically this is a top notch transfer. Decent bit rate and no visible encoding artifacts that I could spot. Hats off to the team that accomplished this!
Still, I am truly only mentioning all this for those who buy the disc and then are bitterly disappointed that 'Mary Poppins" doesn't look "Perfect" on Blu Ray. The simple reason is IT CAN'T look perfect since it never WAS perfect. But Marty G is saying right now that this is the VERY BEST he has ever seen 'Mary Poppins" look on home video.
ON a scale of 1 to 5, I would say the Video quality 'Mary Poppins" is an average of 3.3/4 and at time hits 4.5 while at other times sinks down to perhaps 3.0. The visuals aren't all that consistent at times, but only someone who is really looking for it will notice it much.
OK, so the picture is pretty darn good, how about the sound?
The audio on 'Mary Poppins" is where this disc REALLY shines. The musical numbers especially just come to life in DTS HD-Master Audio 7.1 Surround. I was disappointed that the original Stereo mix is only presented in Dolby Digital but the re-purposed surround mix is quite good and I went with it. Decent surround activity and even some sub involvement, this is a lively mix that belies the age of the source elements. Nice job!
The original production sound lacks a bit in the dialogue department. Oh , you can hear everything, but it at times has a weak and canned sound to it. The techniques and limitations of the day are to blame I am sure. The music itself is wonderfully reproduced as are all the vocals. Foley and Ambient effects are nicely mixed to take advantage of the surround format and I found myself quite satisfied with the audio on this Blu ray disc.
Special features abound on this disc and the Supplements are quite extensive. Most are in SD, while a few are at least in wide screen with a 14 minute HD quasi-commercial (basically) for the new 'Saving Mr. Banks' film. Honestly though, the special feature are so numerous I don't have the time or space to write about all of them. Basically,. They are for the most part quite good and will interest all who love the film to begin with. Just the movie alone on Blu Ray is well worth the price, but the addition of this plethora of extras puts the icing right on top of the cake. Yes, you guessed it, they are Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious !! I had to say that once! (sorry)
'Mary Poppins' is a true classic that will entertain and delight for many years to come. This Blu Ray presentation gives you the very best rendering of both the video and audio available. While not perfect, it is a great film with a very ambitious Blu Ray transfer that SHOULD delight most fans. Looks very good, sounds even better! I had a huge smile on my face all during the screening. It's an amazing achievement!
Highly recommended by ME, Marty G!