The Barefoot Contessa (Eureka! Masters of Cinema Blu-ray Review)

A high point in the already success-laden career of writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz ( A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve), and one of the most glamorous and extravagant films from Hollywood s Golden Age, The Barefoot Contessa is a tragic drama about the tumultuous rise and fall of fictional Hollywood actress Maria Vargas ( Ava Gardner).  Humphrey Bogart plays down on his luck writer and director Harry Dawes, reduced to working for an egotistical and abusive producer, Kirk Edwards (Warren Stevens). Whilst scouting for the female lead in his new movie, Dawes meets the beautiful and charismatic Maria Vargas, a barefooted flamenco dancer, in a Madrid night club and convinces her to star in his movie. Maria is an overnight sensation, but cannot find satisfaction in the shallow world of Hollywood, and the men in her life who treat her as nothing more than a commodity. 




The peculiar name of “The Barefoot Contessa” has taken different meanings throughout the years since the actual film’s release way back in 1954. As far as the film goes it stars Humphrey Bogart as Harry Dawes, a struggling writer-director of films, who is along with his boss, producer Kirk Edwards Warren Stevens), who has him on a short leash. Scouting for a new act they catch a show in Spain where they witness a performance by the famed and mysterious Maria Vargas (Ava Gardner). The men are blown away by her performance (which we as viewers never see), but the club guests go crazy for.

Harry Dawes is tasked with persuading her to come work for Edwards in the United States and after. Much persuasion agrees to this Shortly thereafter, Maria does become a star and all of the vices that come with stardom begin to take hold. Men want her and women want be her. This puts Dawes in a peculiar situation, because even though they are not romantically linked, he looks out for her and feels somewhat responsible for her since he’s the one that kind of discovered her. Being that Maria very free spirited she catches the eyes a wealthy Spanish playboy and eventually a Count.

The Barefoot Contessa is grand in scale and production – being that it was shot entirely in Italy and on Italian soundstages – gives the film obvious grandeur. I did find it amusing when Spanish was spoken by Italians and Americans – obviously not fluent in it, but it was cute. Ava got it in quite a few lines in Spanish, as well. This would also be one of Bogart’s final film since he would be dead in less than three years. Gardner’s career would continue on for many decades after.

Structurally, he film could also be considered a semi-genre tale. There are various elements that comprise the film like being parts comedy, drama, gangster, melodrama, romance, sweeping epic, etc. I had never watched The Barefoot Contessa and thought this Blu-ray was the perfect way to experience the film outside of a big screen revival.

Finally, if films of this scope are your thing, which they should be, considering the cast and production – the Masters of Cinema Blu-ray is the way to properly experience The Barefoot Contessa in all of its rich splendor. The Barefoot Contessa Eureka! Masters of Cinema is region B locked, so a region-free Blu-ray player is required for proper playback.  



Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1

Clarity/Detail: The Barefoot Contessa looks great on Blu-ray. The beautiful film-grain structure is retained. Sharpness and contrast levels are outstanding – the 35 mm print has never looked better.

Depth: Shot in technicolor – there are times where you’d be hard pressed that The Barefoot Contessa is a film and not an oil painting canvas come to life.

Black Levels: Black levels do not crush and remain deep and inky.

Color Reproduction: Colors are rich and vibrant. I mentioned that it was like an oil painting come to life before and I should add that depending on the setting it can look like a watercolor or pastel painting, as well.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are rather warm in some scenes throughout the film but look natural most of time. I’m thinking that some of the actors with fairer skin got slightly baked in the sun’s rays and the Technicolor transferred that over. No, I have not watched the Twilight Time release, therefore I cannot comment on that edition’s color grading.

Noise/Artifacts: There are a few instances of dirt here and there but there’s nothing intrusive.



Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English LPCM 2.0

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: The Barefoot Contessa has two listening options for your pleasure. There is a full DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless track and a high resolution LPCM 2.0 (24kHz/24-bit) option. I started the film with the 5.1 lossless track in mind but switched it over to the 2.0 track and feel that was the correct choice. The sound-field became that much more rich and expansive. The 5.1 elements came off a bit thin for my ears.

Low Frequency Extension: It’s not that type of film. Rarely did it ever switch on during the 5.1 playback, but it did fire up with the 2.0 playback channel (I kept my subwoofer setting on).

Surround Sound Presentation: The film is front loaded, so the rear surround channels don’t always get the full depth of what’s going on in the front outside of ambience (the 20-minutes I watched it in 5.1). The 2.0 track does not have surround.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue levels are clean and crisp. I was able to hear every spoken word perfectly.


The primary special feature is the audio commentary by film historians Julie Kirgo and David Del Valle. It’s  fun commentary as they speak on the film more as fan than stuffy film historian-know-it-alls. It’s a cool commentary. The theatrical trailer rounds out the special features. A

  • Audio commentary with film historians Julie Kirgo and David Del Valle
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • A collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Glenn Kenny; and rare archival material.



The Barefoot Contessa is a wonderful film. The Masters of Cinema release will likely be the best we will ever get when it comes down to it. The video looks great and the sound quality is top notch. The special features are light, but that’s okay. Please be advised that the Eureka! Masters of Cinema Blu-ray of The Barefoot Contessa is region B locked. A region-free Blu-ray player is required for proper playback. The Barefoot Contessa is recommended.



The Barefoot Contessa is released on

Blu-ray & DVD March 12, 2018!




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