The Jazz Singer digibook is a fantastic release with a wonderful and historical film to go along with a plethora of special features and short films that anyone interested in the era will absolutely love. The audio and video transfers are also wonderfully restored which has never looked or sounded better.
Genre(s): Musical, Drama
Warner Bros. | NR – 96 min. – $35.99 | January 8, 2013
Directed by: Alan Crosland
Writer(s): Samson Raphaelson (play); Alfred A. Cohn (adaptation)
Cast: Al Jolson, May McAvoy, Warner Oland, Eugenie Besserer
Theatrical Release Date: October 6, 1927
Features: Commentary, Documentary, Collection of Short Features, Radio Theatre Broadcast, Trailer
Number of Discs: 3 (1 BD, 2 DVDs)
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 1.0)
Video: 1080p/Full Frame 1.39
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 20.4 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 4.0/5
Outline (from back cover): When The Jazz Singer was released in theaters, the future of Hollywood changed. For the first time in a feature film, an actor spoke on screen, stunning audiences and leaving the silent era behind. Al Jolson was the history-making actor, playing the son of a Jewish cantor (WARNER OLAND) who must defy his rabbi father in order to pursue his dream of being in show business.
Quick Hit Review: Often time, older movies tend to only merit viewing for historical reasons and indeed, The Jazz Singer has significant history behind it as described above. But taking a step back, it’s a well done movie that also gives a glimpse at the acting style not to mention intermixing the silent portions with those with audio, and done seamlessly. It’s also amusing to see the over-acting done as a way to show the audience dramatic moments given there is no dialogue. All in all, this is a captivating movie that I doubt many people in the general public has even seen, but it’s well worth checking out.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.75/5
This digibook release comes with an 88-page booklet containing pictures, essays and behind-the-scenes accounts on the movie including critics’ quotes. It’s certainly one of the better books I’ve come across, though the entire case is on the thick side. Unless otherwise noted, features on the Blu-ray disc are in standard definition.
Disc 1 (Blu-ray):
Commentary – This track features film historian Ron Hutchinson and bandleader Vince Giordano discussing the historical significance of The Jazz Singer as well as providing insights into the film itself.
There are several short features including: Al Jolson in A Plantation Act (9:59) which features Jolson performing in blackface which is not only uncomfortable but also just plain creepy; An Intimate Dinner in Celebration of Warner Bros.’ Silver Jubilee (11:15), a short film celebrating Warner’s 25th anniversary; I Love to Singa (8:15) is a Merrie Melodies cartoon featuring new members of an owl family with musical talents, save for their fourth child who loves jazz; Hollywood Handicap (10:19; SD) from the MGM library is about an auction featuring song and dance; A Day at Santa Anita (18:03) is a 1937 drama in technicolor taking place at the stables and has many stars of the day (including Jolson); finally there a Lux Radio Theatre Broadcast (58:20) of “The Jazz Singer”.
The theatrical trailer (7:10) is also included on the disc.
Disc 2 (DVD):
The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk (85:14) is a fascinating documentary on how talking pictures revolutionized cinema, how some studios fought back and how certain silent film stars’ careers were altered.
There are several early Vitaphone and other talkie short features: Gold Diggers of Broadway Excerpts (15:45), The Voice from the Screen (15:31), Finding His Voice (10:46), The Voice That Thrilled the World (18:04), Okay for Sound (19:46), and When Talkies Were Young (20:22).
Disc 3 (DVD):
This disc includes more than 3½ hours worth of rare, historic Vitaphone comedy and music shorts. All told, there are 24 of these short films to peruse either individually or with a “Play All” option.
VIDEO – 4.75/5
The Jazz Singer makes its debut on Blu-ray in incredible 1080p high-definition, presented with a 1.39 full frame aspect ratio. Outside of a couple shots which presumably was only available in the archives, this transfer is absolutely stunning with amazing detail levels and very limited flickering. There is some grain or noise but otherwise this transfer is clean of debris and scratches making it near perfect and another classic film to be restored and categorized for future generations to view.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track is, as you might imagine, not exactly immersive yet it’s still incredible when the sound does enter. The clarity here is impressive with minimal spikes and showcasing Jolson’s voice. While I doubt there’s a large difference between a standard Dolby Digital track and this one, its still was nicely restored.
OVERALL – 4.5/5
Overall, The Jazz Singer digibook is a fantastic release with a wonderful and historical film to go along with a plethora of special features and short films that anyone interested in the era will absolutely love. The audio and video transfers are also wonderfully restored which has never looked or sounded better. With only a $35.99 MSRP, it’s well worth grabbing at $25 or under.