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Nightmare Alley (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Nominated for four Academy Awards this year, Guillermo del Toro’s remake of the 1947’s Nightmare Alley will be coming to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray on March 22nd. Currently playing on Hulu and HBO Max, the film was released over the Christmas holiday season last year to much acclaim abut little in the dollars. However, its been great seeing the distributors still getting these films out there and seen. And even better, still giving us the physical media option as well. Nightmare Alley will come equipped with a Dolby Atmos track as well as three little featurettes to go along with a digital code. You can see for yourself why del Toro is one of the best we have when you order it for yourself. You can do so using the paid Amazon Associates link following the review below.

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Film

When charismatic but down-on-his-luck Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) endears himself to clairvoyant Zeena (Toni Collette) and her has-been mentalist husband Pete (David Strathairn) at a traveling carnival, he crafts a golden ticket to success, using this newly acquired knowledge to grift the wealthy elite of 1940s New York society. With the virtuous Molly (Rooney Mara) loyally by his side, Stanton plots to con a dangerous tycoon (Richard Jenkins) with the aid of a mysterious psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) who might be his most formidable opponent yet.

Guillermo del Toro is just a damn fine filmmaker and I’m not sure I’ll never be interested or enjoy checking out one of his films. Nightmare Alley was no different, and an impressive new look and fleshing out of the 1947 film’s story and characters. Its a noir tale in the highest order with no monsters and no tricks, but oozing with style and period appreciation. The cast of this is just as top tier as its director and crew, making this a fun one to sit and chew on.

This past winter I sat in on the Out Now with Aaron and Abe episode discussing the film, along with Scott Mendelson of Forbes, where I had a great discussion on the film. You can listen to that here:

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail Nightmare Alley debuts on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray as a native 4K title, looking pretty stunning. There’s an elegance to the film and its transferred here in this image. The noir and period nature come through greatly with great color saturation and the handling of blacks in the frame. There’s an incredible sense of depth and sharpness to the picture that help the cinematography feel quite large.

Depth: The depth of field on this transfer is great. It really gives off the nice scale of the theatrical presentation but in the home viewing space. Nightmare Alley is a movie that plays and looks big and you get that here. All with some great spacing and pushback on environments exterior and interior. Movements are cinematic and smooth with no issues coming from any sort of blur or jitter.

Black Levels: Black levels are natural and rich. They are a true star of this transfer. Shadows, shading and the ability to handle maintaining details and textures on darker fabrics and the darker areas of the frame in nighttime or dark room sequences is impressive. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite strong with a good sense of elegance to them. Reds and greens are standouts. Lights, flames and such have a nice HDR glow to them.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from open to close of the film. Facial features and textures are looking through a window clear and quite strong  from any distance a character is in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Nightmare Alley comes with a pretty terrific Dolby Atmos track to bring del Toro’s world to life. With The King’s Man, West Side Story and now Nightmare Alley, its starting to prove the 20th Century Studios home releases have a different approach to the Atmos mixing than the Disney branch. The volume is noticeably louder and the subwoofer impact stronger. All in that is a good mix here that provides a really nice sense of authenticity to the period nature of the film.

Height: From above you get some neat contributions, but it stands rather to keep accurate to the screen and not add any sort of silly or distracting stretches to what you’re watching.

Low Frequency Extension: The film strikes with good power when needed, nothing overbearing but complimentary and decently impactful. Nothing room shaking but a good jolt with car crashing, bullets firing, drums hitting or electricity surging.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a pretty solid mix around here with every environment feeling very genuine and lifelike with the contributions from side and rear channels that really track on screen and offscreen actions. Movement rolls with good power and translates onscreen activity wonderfully.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

Nightmare Alley comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a redeemable digital code. All bonus features are found on the standard Blu-ray disc.

Del Toro’s Neo-Noir (HD, 11:19) – A little featurette where Del Toro and cast (Dafoe, Collette, Perlman, Blanchett, Jenkins) talk about the world of Del Toro and what they bring to the film as their characters and what the world of the carnival is like. Has some behind the scenes footage in it as well.

Beneath The Tarp (HD, 8:26) – This featurette goes over the set creation and design on the film.

What Exists In The Fringe (HD, 5:23) – In this feature, del Toro talks about how they wanted to make the period aspect of the film feel genuine and goes over the enormous amount of wardrobe for the film and to make it feel not like they just took everything from a catalog of the era.

Summary

Nightmare Alley is a terrific example of old school star power, ensemble and top tier director working to make some great adult programming in the highest degree. Unfortunately, people don’t seek out variety much anymore. Anywho, they can own it if they want to, with a great presentation in audio and video. The extras are a little too fast and fluffy, but perhaps down the line Criterion can get their hands on this like they have his other works. An easy recommend on the film alone.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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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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