Letter From An Unknown Woman – Blu-ray Review

Letter From An Unknown Woman is a 1948 American drama romance film that was directed by Max Ophuls. It was based on the novella of the same name by Stefan Zweig. The film stars Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan, May Christians and Marcel Journet.

Taking place in Vienna in the early twentieth century, Lisa, a teenager living in an apartment building, becomes fascinated by a new tenant, concert pianist Stefan Brand. Stefan is making a name for himself through his energetic performances. Lisa becomes obsessed with Stefan, staying up late to listen to him play, and sneaking into his apartment and admiring him from a distance. Despite her actions, they only meet once and Stefan takes little notice of her.

In 1992, Letter From An Unknown Woman was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

The Film Itself (4.5/5):

To be honest, I was a bit hesitant when I saw Letter From An Unknown Woman arrive at my doorstep.  I’m not too big into dramatic romances, but I figured that I’d give this movie its fair chance.  That said, I was pleasantly surprised with this film, the story that it presents and how very well detailed it gets and maintains itself throughout.  The overall synopsis of soulmates that is given with this film, it is completely understandable why it is not only considered to be a classic, but why it was selected by the US National Film Registry for preservation.

Picture Quality (5/5):

Presented in an all new scan, Letter From An Unknown Woman looked absolutely beautiful as it played out across my living room television.  While it’s not only offering a significantly cleaner look into the story that was originally told in the late 1940s, but it does everything possible to maintain the overall original presentation that audiences of that time experienced.  Offering clean and clear black and white offsets, this movie was simply beautiful.

Audio Quality (4/5):

Letter From An Unknown Woman comes packaged with a Mono audio track that has been completely restored from its original track.  While it’s not an immersive track by any means, some films are not meant to offer an immersive experience audiences, and this one is one of those.  Everything from the dialogue to the overall musical accompaniment sounded absolutely beautiful as it played across my home theater system, and with the work that was put into this audio track, you can understand that those who worked on the remastering process did everything possible to help retain the original feel that the older audio track once provided.

The Packaging (3.5/5):

Letter From An Unknown Woman comes packaged in your standard single disc Blu-ray amaray case, but clear.  Within that case is the standard Blu-ray copy of the film, the disc featuring no artwork but bears similar color scheming and text font to the case art.  There are no DVD copies included nor are there any digital copy redemption pamphlets available with this release.  Inside the case, a copy of the short essay titled I’ve Seen You Somewhere Before: Soulmates In Ophuls’s Letter From An Unknown Woman by Molly Haskell is included.  There is a slipcover that’s been provided, but not your standard slipcover.  It is made of a thicker cardboard and the case slides in from the side to help in protecting the case.


Special Features (4.5/5):

Continuing on in the tradition that we’ve been seeing from Olive Films’ Signature Edition line, Letter From An Unknown Woman comes packaged with a lot of additional content that not only allows an expanded look into the film at hand, but some of the research efforts that have gone into the film at play.  Included with this release is:

  • Feature Audio Commentary By Max Ophuls Expert Lutz Bacher
  • A Deal Made In A Turkish Bath – Interview With Oscar-Winning Documentarian Marcel Ophuls
  • An Independent Woman: Changing Sensibilities In A Post-War Hollywood – Interview With Professor Dana Polan
  • Ophulsesque: The Look Of Letter From An Unknown Woman – With Cinematographers Ben Kasulke & Sean Price Williams
  • Letter From An Unknown Woman: Passion’s Triumph – Visual Essay By Film Scholar Tag Gallagher
  • Essay By Film Critic Molly Haskell

Technical Specs:


Codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Original Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1


English: Mono


English SDH


Original Film: 87 minutes

Final Thoughts:

I am absolutely beyond grateful for the folks over at Olive Films and them giving me the opportunity to review Letter From An Unknown Woman.  For this film is one that I normally wouldn’t have picked up on my own and can completely understand why this movie is considered a classic in a sense.  The story that we’re given with this movie is one that starts off with a solid foundation and is carried out beautifully as the movie progresses.  The overall visual and audible presentation of this release is absolutely stellar and shines on pretty much any television in this day in age.  I tested the visual quality on both my 4K TV with upconversion and my standard 1080p television and really couldn’t notice much of a difference in the quality.  The picture offers sharp and distinct blacks that beautifully offset the whites.  The remastered audio track sounds crisp and clean and does everything imaginable to offer an all out original experience.  There’s a lot of quality special features that have been included.  If you’re considering grabbing this release of Letter From An Unknown Woman for your collection, I would hands down recommend it.  It was just recently released on the 5th, so grab it while it’s still immediately available!

Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.