Last November I riffed about Tony Richardson‘s Tom Jones (’63) and the then-forthcoming Criterion Bluray. Right away there were concerns about whether the 4K remastering would significantly improve the look of the film, which, as shot by the late Walter Lassally (A Taste Of Honey, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner), always had a gamey, grainy, rough-hewn appearance.
HE commenter David Matychuk claimed that the laserdisc of Richardson’s recut version was “bad [with] weird colors and very murky in the night scenes.” Bob Cashill noted that “the lack of a decent-quality presentation has hindered Tom Jones‘ reputation for decades…the Criterion disc should correct that.”
Well, I finally watched it last night, and it’s a revelation — sharp and clean and fresh from the lab in ’63. Or like fresh milk from a cow. All my life I’ve been saying that Tom Jones is a great film but it looks a wee bit cruddy — no longer!
The Bluray delivers a certain unforced radiance — very celluloid-looking, of course, and no better or worse than what anyone with a good eyes would see, but quietly robust and alive with natural color. There’s no chance of discovering new detail in scenes that were shot at dusk and meant to look dark, of course, but when there’s decent indoor or outdoor light, wow! I actually sat up in my seat and leaned forward and started muttering “whoa, whoa, wait…this is good.” It delivers, in short, the kind of “bump” that I’m always looking for from a good Bluray.
The colors in the below Vimeo clip, a portion of an essay in which Duncan Petrie “discusses some of the creative choices that made Tom Jones so influential”, are close to what I saw last night but at the same time not quite. The Jones Bluray has to be seen — experienced — on a good 4K HDR monitor (preferably on a 60-inch screen or larger) to be fully appreciated. The YouTube capturing of the hunt sequence [after the jump] is how previous versions have looked for decades — i.e., muted, a bit brownish, not good enough.