My heart skipped a beat when I first glanced at Dr. Svet Atanasov‘s Bluray.com review of the new 12 Angry Men Bluray from the UK branch of MGM/20th Century Fox. I thought for a second that this transfer might not look as grainy as the Criterion Bluray version. I find pronounced grain distracting; always have, always will. You want to see a version that looks really good without any noticable grain? Watch the free YouTube version. I’m serious.
But my heart sank when I read the following: “The basic characteristics of the high-definition transfer used for this European release appear virtually identical to those of the high-definition transfer Criterion used for their Blu-ray release of Sidney Lumet‘s classic film in the United States. Only compression is marginally better on the Criterion release.”
From my review of the Criterion’s Twelve Angry Men Bluray: “I’ve never seen such rich inky blacks and delicious needlepoint detail in the fine textures of the shirts and the beard follicles and sweat beads on E.G. Marshall‘s face and the weave in Jack Warden‘s straw hat. It’s the finest-looking version of this 1957 classic I’ve ever seen. It’s like sitting in front of a movie screen, in the fourth or fifth row.
“But it’s also one of the most overwhelming grainstorm experiences I’ve had in a long time. Almost every shot is blanketed with digital mosquitoes…billions upon billions of swirling micro-gnats. It was ridiculous at first, but it got a little better when I turned the sharpness levels down from eight to two.
“I realize that it’s a tradeoff — to get the deeper tones and better detail and the celluloid complexity you have to accept the mosquitoes because they’re part of the image, but man…I wanted to get out the bug spray and slap on the insect repellent.”
Henry Fonda in a scene from 12 Angry Men — Bluray version.
The same scene on the 2007 DVD.