Olive Films has created a new label, Olive Signature, which will focus on premium packaging, new film restorations, and a boatload of special features. The first two entries in this new series are Johnny Guitar and High Noon, the 1952 classic western which won four Academy Awards including a Best Actor win for Gary Cooper, and will be the focus of this review.
The Movie (4.5/5)
High Noon is an incredible film, with an all-star cast led by Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, and excellent direction and cinematography. So much has been written about High Noon from a critical stance, that I won’t break down the film piece by piece, but I really did enjoy the movie after seeing it for the first time on Blu-ray. Clearly, with the film winning multiple Academy Awards and being entered into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1989 for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, that speaks enough to its value as a film.
If you enjoy classic Westerns, you will love High Noon. Gary Cooper is excellent, the action is fun, and the visuals are excellent. High Noon reminded me a lot of the old Westerns that ran on TV in reruns for many years on Saturdays and Sundays, and it brought back a lot of great memories. I highly recommend High Noon if you have not seen it before, and there is no better Blu-ray available on the market than this Olive Signature Edition release.
The Video (5/5)
High Noon is an old film, with beautiful set pieces, excellent cinematography, and the black and white picture that was just at the end of its run in Hollywood. Presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, you will notice that the image is letterboxed, with black bars running on the left and right of your screen. However, you will quickly forget the letterboxed image, if that sort of thing annoys you (it does not bother me as it stays true to the original source) because the complete 4K restoration done by Olive Films for this new Signature Edition release is absolute perfection.
Black and white can look stunning on Blu-ray, and this 4K restoration delivers one of the finest black and white visuals on any Blu-ray that I own. Compared to black and white films like Psycho, Dr. Strangelove, 12 Angry Men, or even newer films like The Artist and Good Night and Good Luck, this release of High Noon is right on par. In fact, I would compare it best to the recent Criterion remaster of Dr. Strangelove, which is high, high praise. The contrast and black levels are excellent, creating a vast scale of color even in a black and white image. The brightness is excellent, and this remaster from Olive Films is one of the finest on the market. I highly recommend it, and this certainly bodes well for the future of the Olive Signature Edition lineup.
The Audio (4/5)
High Noon is presented in its original mono audio with an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio track. My score reflects the fact that I have an extremely powerful center speaker, the Prime Center channel from SVS, but I fear that the quality of audio on this Blu-ray release would be lost on lesser systems. My fear is especially geared towards those collectors who use TV speakers to listen to their movies. The TV speakers will likely not produce a great mono audio experience, so I highly recommend having at least a strong stereo system to listen to mono tracks like this. Ideally, you would have a 5.1 system, with a strong center channel, which will give you the best experience, but I feel that a solid soundbar could also be a viable option.
The dialogue on the mono track is strong, even with all of the other sound elements flowing through the single channel. The soundstage is actually quite immersive, with sound coming in from the left and right, and the DTS-HD Master Audio is extremely clear and concise. By deciding to stick with the original mono audio track, Olive Films has produced the most authentic at-home experience of High Noon available on the home media market.
Special Features/Packaging (5/5)
High Noon is one of the first two entries to the Olive Signature Edition label, so I was interested to see what this “premium packaging” was all about. Thankfully, I was very pleased. The movie comes packaged in a digipack/slipcase, made from a firm cardboard stock. Inside the digipack is a clear Blu-ray case, with a stunning blue Blu-ray logo which really pops on the clear background. On the inside, there is a single Blu-ray disc with some nice artwork, and a booklet full of essays and notes on the restoration and the film. It is excellent packaging, deserving of the “premium” tagline.
As for special features, this release is loaded. For starters, the new 4K restoration is always a nice added feature for any release. The rest of the special features are excellent and lengthy, and well worth the price of a Day One purchase. The visual essay, narrated by the late Anton Yelchin, is a little somber given recent events, but it was still my favorite piece. The full list of features are as follows.
- “A Ticking Clock” – Academy Award-nominee Mark Goldblatt on the editing of High Noon
- “A Stanley Kramer Production” – Michael Schlessinger on the eminent producer of High Noon
- “Imitation of Life: The Blacklist History of High Noon” – with historian Larry Ceplair and blacklisted screenwriter Walter Bernstein
- “Ulcers and Oscars: The Production History of High Noon” – a visual essay with rarely seen archival elements, narrated by Anton Yelchin
- “Uncitizened Kane” – an original essay by Sight and Sound editor Nick James
- Theatrical trailer
Technical Specs (click for technical FAQs)
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
I highly, highly recommend that collectors jump on the Olive Signature train early, and often. We reviewed Johnny Guitar as well, and it also received high marks. High Noon is no different, featuring an excellent 4K restoration and above average Mono audio track. The special features and packaging and well worth a purchase, and the film is a masterpiece and must-have for collectors. You can grab High Noon on Amazon for an extremely reasonable price for a release of this caliber, and I highly recommend you do so.