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The Court Jester – Paramount Presents (Blu-ray Review)

A film’s 65th anniversary is just as good as any to finally make its debut on Blu-ray.  Such is the case of the Danny Kaye medieval musical comedy The Court Jester, which becomes the latest on the line of Paramount Presents titles, specializing in giving films their long awaited due on the format. While the film doesn’t tout any real sufficient supplemental material (Much of this production has long passed and was their any to begin with?), you should sleep on the restoration of the film, shot on the highly regarded VistaVision format of its time. There is a nice little fluff bit with Leonard Maltin giving a brief history on the film, so its not completely void of bonus features. The Court Jester arrives on Blu-ray January 25th. Pre-orders have been open, and you can use the paid Amazon Associates link at the bottom of the review if you choose, so you are able to secure yourself a brand new copy for new release day (Or close to, as we know how deliveries are right now).

Film

Former carnival performer Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye) and maid Jean (Glynis Johns) are assigned to protect the infant royal heir from tyrannical King Roderick I (Cecil Parker). While Jean takes the baby to an abbey, Hawkins gains access to the court by impersonating the king’s jester, unaware that the jester is really an assassin hired by scheming Sir Ravenhurst (Basil Rathbone). When Princess Gwendolyn (Angela Lansbury), falls for Hawkins, a witch secretly aids him in becoming a knight.

This review is my first experience with The Court Jester, a film which I met with some indifference upon its announcement to the Paramount Presents line. But I maintain my stance, that if its never been on Blu-ray before, I support its restoration and upgrade to the format. Whether or not one likes a film, it has its place in history and it has its appreciators and fans. This isn’t me saying The Court Jester is a bad film, merely I was unfamiliar with it and hadn’t seen it as something “in demand’ around my Blu-ray circles. If anything, this feels very much like Paramount making a Warner Archive type choice, and that’s very cool.

Now to my surprise, The Court Jester is a charming little film. It actually has some humor that is still quite funny today. And some, I THINK, might actually be some cleverly worded adult humor. You can never be sure as I’m watching this 65 years beyond the fact, but it entertained me in that aspect regardless. The film bounces and weaves its way through a bit of a silly plot with some memorable and goofy characters. You could easily see it working on the stage, but such is many big sound stage shot epics of its day.

Danny Kaye is a pretty strong lead. He pulls off the “handsome schmuck” role with such ease. It feels like the type of caricature that would evolve into something of what Bruce Campbell would do with Ash in The Evil Dead decades after this was released. He’s got a full quadrant approach that includes, comedy, acting, acrobatics and singing. Though, none of the songs in the film really stick, he’s quite good at attempting to sell them.

The Court Jester works and moves quickly to just be a pretty enjoyable time for all ages. Sure, it contains a young Angela Lansbury and Basic Rathbone is quite the villainous treat, but everyone here is game. There is even an all-timer moment where there’s a discussion about which cup a poison pill was dropped into. It would make even Abbott & Costello blush. This film was voted on an AFI list as one of the funniest of all time, and while I don’t have time to think of 100 better, I’ll just say I agree with the consideration.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  HOLY WOWZERS! The Court Jester‘s debut on Blu-ray is one for the ages! The film’s VistaVision look and restoration is gorgeous and something to really marvel at. The crisp clarity, texture and details on this are stunning. The costumes, castle walls, props and more all have such touchable looking visuals. The colors here are beautiful. This truly is a fantastic restoration job and transfer and something to recommend for collector nuts just to have and see.

Depth:  The way this was shot and care to the restoration really gives this frame a very big and open field look to it for both grand interiors and limited exteriors in the film. The scale feels large even on your TV and the pushback is good and three dimensional. Movements are cinematic and smooth with no blurring or jittering issues when it comes to the more rapid motions.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and close to natural. Its a very well lit film, but the shadows look lovely and don’t eat up all the details. Information is still discernible on darker follicles, surfaces and clothing. no crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: The all star of this transfer. The color palette is beautiful and bursts right of your screen. Its truly its own character and intoxicating on your eyeballs. Color performance in this film truly may have enhanced my viewing enjoyment.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Impressively with this VistaVison type of source, there is no flicker on it. Facial features and textures are discernible from any reasonable distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

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

Subtitles: English, English SDH, German, French

Dynamics:  The mono track here has been cleaned up very good and features a nice, crisp, balanced sound. Vocals take the forefront of the mix, but its depth and layering impresses with little intricacies like the whipping and chipping of swords. Or, just natural sounds have a full, natural texture to them. All in all, this is a very complimentary experience when watching the film.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp and the singing comes out with a decent blend with nice dynamics all its own.

Extras

The Court Jester, 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.

Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin On The Court Jester (HD, 7:03) – Famed critic and historian gives a rundown of the studio, the production and the performers in the film.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:24) – Its a real testament to the restoration quality of this film to check this out and just see the stunning difference here.

Summary

The Court Jester is a charming little film, with a lot of its humor surprisingly holding up to today’s measures. Paramount debuts it on Blu-ray with an absolutely dazzling restoration that is worth the purchase alone. Audio is more than adequate. Unfortunately the extras don’t offer much, but the knock out presentation is worthwhile enough to not have one too grumpy about that.

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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