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Love Story – Paramount Presents (Blu-ray Review)

Every so often, the Paramount Presents line does a double dip and improves the quality of a past classic. They started the line with two of them and recently did Trading Places. Now, for its 50th anniversary, they are putting out a new edition of 1971’s phenomenon Love Story starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal.  Its a film that was quite well regarding and an awards darling during its time, but seems to have a reflection on it as being a bit plain despite how groundbreaking it was seen at the time. Perhaps this new release will bring a restored discussion on the film. Paramount has given the film a new 4K restoration as well as a couple new featurettes, one with Leonard Maltin and the other a TCM introduction from a time it was on television. It’ll release in time to have it for some Valentine’s Day movies watching (If you’re not like me and watching Valentine’s Day themed slashers all day) on February 9th. You can order yourself a copy from the paid Amazon Associates link following the review.

Film

When wealthy Harvard University law student Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal) meets Jenny Cavilleri (Ali MacGraw), a middle-class girl who is studying music at Radcliffe College, it’s love at first sight. Despite the protests of Oliver’s father (Ray Milland), the young couple marry. Oliver finds a job at a legal firm in New York City, but their happy life comes crashing down when it’s discovered that Jenny has a terminal illness. Together, they try to cope with the situation as best they can.

Love Story was quite a phenomenon when it came out, both as a book and as a film. It launched Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal into stardom as they say “overnight”. Known for the line “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”, the film is one that truly is pretty cut and dry when it comes to its story. Granted, upon arrival, the film was found to be pretty groundbreaking in many aspects that need to be realized when viewing it now.

The film pretty much just has us checking in with the characters throughout their relationship in different moments of progression of challenge. A series of scenes so to speak. It really feels like it leaves a lot on the actors to make this movie what it is. And typically when Ryan O’Neal is involved, that might not be the best solution. However, credit where credit is due, the man is terrific in Love Story. His Oscar nominated performance was an important one for cinema as he was willing to showcase the vulnerability of his character which was not common and actually a bit dangerous for a more tough guy actor to do. MacGraw is the one who gets to have the fun here and she just tears right through this film like she’s about to conquer the world. She works well with O’Neal, but the thunder in this film is all hers.

One knock I will have against it, is that many of these scenes end up feeling very repetitive. I’m not sure it that’s some sort of understated mission statement about relationships. But as a film, a lot of the time I feel like we had just worked our way past a certain issue only to have it sort of restart again with just everyone wearing different clothes in a different place. No, its not the EXACT same thing, but the beats, the characters motivations and such all feel similar. Plus, we have very specific score to this film that constantly looms up and hits its chorus moment constantly as if to make sure you were humming it from the theater to the record store afterward in 1971.

Arthur Hiller’s film isn’t one of any complexity or really going for anything deep or exploratory. Its primarily voyeurism on a young couple’s relationship that hopes you invest in it, the two characters and then have a sad at the end. And back in 1971, it worked in spades. Does it now? I’d say 50 years (Oh my) later it likely can still have the same effect on a number of people. Its also got a very nice, classic look and vibe to it and fits the mold more with the films that would define the 1970s than the hangover of the 1960s which gives it an instant leg up. Is it required viewing? I’m not sure, but anyone interested in film history and notable moments from every decade should seek out Love Story at least once.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  With its brand new 4K restoration, Love Story looks like a gorgeously restored print. It really displays its sort of dark, 1970s look brilliantly. There’s a healthy layer of grain intact. Its an image that features plenty of honest detail and texture. Depth is quite impressive with everything looking wholly three dimensional in its appearance. I have not own or seen the original release from Paramount, but the picture included on this release is pretty outstanding.

Depth:  There is a very good depth of field on display here. Watching our pair wander through a college campus is wonderful and interiors such as the hockey rink feel good to scale. Character movements are cinematic and smooth with no motion distortion issues present.

Black Levels:  As mentioned, black levels are deep and hit the natural highs of a 4K transfer. No information that isn’t intended to be shrouded in darkness or shadow is hidden. Hair follicles, textures, patterns and more still show their finer points even in the darkest fabrics and surfaces. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are very natural to that sort of super regular degree, but they are flush and bold in appearance. Nothing really popping out, but strong appearance of striking reds while also having very rustic and true feeling wood colors, grass and such.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Facial features and textures are easily discernible from any reasonable distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Audio Format(s): English Restored 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Restored 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, German 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, French 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Japanese 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, German, French, Japanese

Dynamics: Love Story comes with a “restored” 5.1 track, though not having the original release, I don’t know if it said that on that track as well.  However, this one could have been the Restored mono in lossless and given a similar impact (And without the surround expectations). Its good for what it does and represents the movie well, but the 5.1 never really makes its case for being here.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Not much to contribute here. There are some light thumps from natural sound effects like doors closing or a hockey skirmish. But, the subwoofer kind of coasts through this.

Surround Sound Presentation: Its a very front heavy track. There isn’t much to go on here except for some decent ambient moments coming from the rear channels.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Plenty audible and really the star of the film…unless its that damn score.

Extras

Love Story, in first pressing, comes with a slip cover that folds open to reveal the original poster art for the film. It also comes with a redeemable digital copy. Kudos to this one, it actually retained all the bonus features from the previous release and ADDED on top of that.

Audio Commentary

  • By Director Arthur Hiller

Play with TCM Introduction by Ben Mankiewicz (HD, 3:28) – Pull straight from the broadcast of the film from whatever year it was Valentine’s Day. Its your typical, wonderful intro as made famous by the network. He does mention that they’ll talk about something “after the movie”, but that is not included on the disc.

Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Love Story (HD, 6:26) – Maltin gives a brief history on the film, the cinema going climate of the time, the direct and stars of the film and serves as a nice little introduction.

Love Story: A Classic Remembered (SD, 14:51) – A vintage retrospective featurette that features Arthur Hiller and is accompanied by narration.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:57)

Summary

Love Story remains a staple of the cinematic history of romantic movie, itself being a phenomenon that I can only imagine was somewhat of a light Titanic of its day. Paramount Presents gives it a brand new edition that I can’t imagine isn’t an improvement over the old one (As mentioned earlier, I have no experience with that disc). One of the things I particularly loved about it is the Ben Mankiewicz introduction that was one of the bonus features. I’d love it if that was included more often and I’m surprised Criterion hasn’t done more of that. Also, the movie looks beautiful in its new transfer. A definite upgrade or must own for film collectors.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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