Diary Of Anne Frank: 50th Anniversary Edition (The) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (5th September 2009).
The Film

Making historical movies so close to a historical event brings a fair amount of criticism, always focused on whether or not the film was too soon to pay respect to the event. With “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1959) the questions become far less complicated, as the film was made a full 17 years after the original events of the attic annex and 14 years after World War II, but also a year before the Anne Frank House re-opened as a museum in Amsterdam. By making the film within Otto Frank’s lifetime, and based on such a widely publicized account, this 1959 edition draws little of my distain for trying to capitalize on the event or major actors (at least from a current perspective) but it also lends a degree of authenticity in the portrayals of people and situations.

Much of the story is already known, making the depiction by actors and directing all the more important to really bring the story to life. At the beginning of the film Otto Frank (Joseph Schildkraut) returns to the house that he and his family had hidden in to try and find any pieces of the time they spent together until he opens up Anne’s diary, pulling him back into the memories of the time in the attic. Anne (Millie Perkins) writes everything in her diary, from coming in to the attic, to the different troubles they had to deal with in getting enough food for the two families that were there. Some days are more playful, listening to music through a radio that was smuggled in, along with the fear of being in the attic during a British air raid on Amsterdam or the terror felt at a thief breaking into the store below fearing it was the Nazis coming to get them.

The story itself is a great framing story for the situation itself, and it’s well put together, but the biggest problem I found in the film was the casting, at least for the titular role. Millie Perkins is not a name I’ve heard before, not to say I know much about films of the 50’s, but her portrayal of Anne is fairly inconsistent. At points in the movie where it seems like there should be drama, her voice sounds too much like a bubblegum pop voiceover from a Disney movie. I understand that Perkins is supposed to be playing a 13-year old girl, even though she’s around 21 at the time of filming, meaning that the lighter tone of her voice may have been an attempt to make her sound younger but it seems like she doesn’t really get the gravity of situations, even though she nails some of the more lighthearted scenes pretty well.

The directing of the film in black and white still looks good though and the set design for the movie works, since they don’t try to go too far beyond the small space that the Frank family was confined to during that time. During the British air raid scene all you can see is the matte background painting of the city, not involving the camera in the action but keeping everything restrained inside of the attic annex rather than engaging in the outside world and drawing the viewer out of the locale of the film.

However like many older movies based on plays, the directing feels a lot more like stage directing and composition in terms of the way people will sometimes look out into camera or some of the blocking of actors when they move about the stage with a group of other people. Scenes where both families are trapped up in the annex and fear the thief coming into the apartment below are blocked out like a stage production. It doesn’t quite take anything away from the moment itself, but it feels so much like a theatre play in the scope and framing o the scene that it becomes mildly distracting.

Overall, “The Diary of Anne Frank” stands up well to the test of time and doesn’t come across as overly ambitious or too soon considering the timeframe, possibly because it has been 50 years since the film was originally released, but the framing of the story and the way it’s presented is very respectful and insightful to the events. I thought they could have changed a couple of the performances slightly to bring more effect, but like the directing, it seems like something more a part of the times rather than directly against the film itself.

Video

Presented in widescreen 2.35:1 black and white high-definition 1080p 24/fps with AVC MPEG-4 encoding @19 mbps the older film looks surprisingly clear. The nice contrast of black and white has come through cleanly and has a degree of crispness that I didn’t expect, along with a good amount of grain that helps to keep the film’s older weight. I’m really impressed at how clean the film is, I don’t think I saw a speck of anything on the transfer throughout the film, even films released in the past 10 years don’t always get this sort of treatment, let alone 50th anniversary films. But overall the clean-up and high-definition transfer of the film look really good, managing to keep the older feel of the film while upgrading it to high-definition.

Audio

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit that comes along with the film is similarly impressive, bookending the film with a blank screen and just the score, while providing good sound production to the entireity of the film itself. The big problem is that the film obviously wasn’t intended for the HD Master Audio and some of the movement of sound seem like a bit of a stretch, almost like they’re trying so hard to make the sound feel natural, you can see how the movie was created for less than 5.1 surround sound. Still the sound is clean and lacks any real blemishes to take down the track.
And now an abundance of other language transfers: in audio there is an English Dolby Digital 4.0 surround, Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, Castillian Spanish, Italian, German and Polish DTS 2.0 surround tracks. The subtitles include English for the hearing impaired, Latin Spanish, Latin Spanish text, Castilian Spanish, Castilian Spanish Text, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish and Polish. Also for all of these languages, there is also a subtitle track for the commentary in each language. Impressive subtitling.

Extras

This "50th Anniversary Edition" of the film brings together a good amount of extras including an audio commentary, a documentary, and nearly a dozen featurettes along with theatrical trailers and a couple of galleries.

First is the audio commentary with George Stevens Jr. and actressMillie Perkins, Stevens is the son of the director of the film and also second unit director and Millie is of course the one who played Anne Frank. The two do a fairly good job of talking about the film so many years later, Stevens focuses more on the facts surrounding production while Perkins deals with what it was like working on the set. It’s a fairly solid commentary track, even though they do drift off at points where it feels like they’re about to say more and just leave it out instead. Millie talks about meeting Otto Frank and what it was like working with some of the other actors on the production, while Stevens talks about production in Amsterdam and Hollywood in bringing the film together. It’s a nice commentary from insider perspectives on the film, but I’d also like to hear from some film historians in terms of the film’s effect in the times from an outsider perspective as well.

George Stevens in WWII” runs for 7 minutes and 40 seconds, this featurette talks with George Stevens Jr. about his father’s military service and filming world war two in color. There’s some really good footage of the second World War thrown into the mix for this featurette, transferred from a 16mm color film print of their different events. The way the film is in color seems a bit unreal considering how the time is associated with black and white footage, but it’s all a great look at World War II, including some color footage of Dachau.

“The Making of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank:’ A Son’s Memories” runs for 25 minutes and 5 seconds. Like the title says this featurette talks with George Stevens Jr., working as associate producer and assistant director on the film. The featurette is in equal parts dedicated to his father as it is to the filming of the movie itself, which is understandable considering it’s from the son's perspective, but it still has great coverage of all the events surrounding the making of the film and putting it together. There are even some old still photos of the casting and production process that get thrown into the mix.

“‘The Diary of Anne Frank:’ Memories from Millie Perkins and Diane Baker” runs for 25 minutes and 53 seconds. This featurette acts almost as an addendum to the making-of featurette, covering exclusively the actors from the perspectives of Diane Baker and Millie Perkins. Incredibly it still has some archive test footage of perkins and some behind-the-scenes footage on set. The interviews are good to hear how they got involved in the film, but the behind-the-scenes footage is really what drew my interest considering everything that went on for the film’s production in that era of films.

Shelley Winters and ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’” featurette runs for 7 minutes flat and is a compilation of highlights from a 1983 interview with Shelley Winters to talk about the director. Winters talks a bit about her acting philosophy and views concerning the film that she drew from Stevens. The interview seems to be conducted by Stevens' son. and they do a fair amount of talking about "The Diary of Anne Frank" as well, making a nice brief featurette about the actress’s view on film and Stevens as the director.

“The Sound and Music of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’” featurette runs for 7 minutes and 54 seconds, and is especially interesting to me since it seems so rare to see featurettes on the sound design of older films. It's a nice featurette that also deals with composer Alfred Newman’s sons who talk about their father’s legacy in the film and his score that does a good job of pushing the film’s tone.

“‘The Diary of Anne Frank:’ Correspondance” featurette runs for 13 minutes and 12 seconds. Again this featurette showcases George Stevens Jr. reading some letters related to the production of the film. There are some interesting letters between Stevens and Otto Frank who talk about Frank’s meeting of the actresses or just general correspondence about the film itself. Another good addition to the large amount of behind-the-scenes matieral that’s surprisingly included on this production.

“Fox Movie Channel Presents: Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman” runs for 14 minutes and 8 seconds. This featurette is the sort of thing that comes on between movies on the Fox Movie Channel and mostly features Tom Rothman talking a bit about the historical events and the production of the film. There’s not really any new information here if you’ve watched the previous featurettes, but it’s just another featurette to help bolster the strong showing and bringing in a few extra outsider facts.

“‘The Diary of Anne Frank: Echoes from the Past” runs for 1 hour, 30 minutes and 7 seconds. This featurette is essentially a feature-length documentary on the production of the diary of anne frank. This production is a bit older, narrated by Burt Reynolds and seems carried over from a VHS transfer considering how some of the notes will miss. If anything it makes you appreciate the quality of DVD and VHS transfers, though there are still some great extra and added in interviews that aren’t seen anywhere else. It’s still a quality production of a documentary that covers the entirety of "The Diary of Anne Frank", including descendants ofOtto Frank, and others. It seems made in the 80’s or early 90’s, but does a great job of covering the story of the Diary itself rather than just the film. There is a good amount of overlap between the pure facts of other featurettes and this, this documentary is incredibly well put together and professional, with some good interviews that you don’t see in any other featurettes.

“‘Diary of Anne Frank’ Excerpt from ‘George Stevens: A Filmmakers Legacy’” runs for 7 minutes and 59 seconds. This featurette takes a section of the apparent documentary on George Stevens covering this film as a part of his career. It’s an interesting segment that has overlap with other places, but is an interesting short dose of it, and again raises my respect for the transfer of the film considering the quality of the clips they use in this featurette.

George Stevens Press Conference” runs for 5 minutes and 1 second. This featurette is a complete version of a press conference with Stevens that has popped up at different points in the featurettes, it’s nice to see it in it’s full form even though by this point I think you will have seen the whole thing if you’ve watched the rest of the featurettes.

Millie Perkins Screen Test” runs for 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Much like the above featurette, this screen test featurette has been seen before, but it’s nice to see it in its full form.

Next are an assortment of Fox movietone news clips that are all fairly self explanatory in terms of content, but it’s again great to see all these different elements surrounding such an old film brought together, they include:

- “Millie Perkins, 18 to be Anne Frank in Film of Diary” runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.
- “Nobel Peace Prize to Belgian Priest” runs for 24 seconds.
- “Anne Frank Diary Star Readies for Film’s 1st Nights” 1 minute and 2 seconds.
- “Academy Award Highlights” 2 minutes and 7 seconds.
Millie Perkins Visits the Los Angeles County Museum of Art” 51 seconds.
- “Brilliant Turnout for L.A. Premiere and Anne Frank Diary” 1 minute and 8 seconds.

The theatrical trailer runs for 3 minutes and 11 seconds and the "International" theatrical trailer runs for 4 minutes and 32 seconds.

Finally are two galleries:

- "The Interactive Pressbook" gallery contains 14 images.
- "Behind-the-Scenes" gallery contains 57 images.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: A Audio: B+ Extras: A Overall: A-

 


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