Three Wicked Melodramas from Gainsborough Pictures
During the 1940s, realism reigned in British cinema—but not at Gainsborough Pictures. The studio, which had been around since the twenties, found new success with a series of pleasurably preposterous costume melodramas. Audiences ate up these overheated films, which featured a stable of charismatic stars, including James Mason, Margaret Lockwood, Stewart Granger, and Phyllis Calvert. Though the movies were immensely profitable in wartime and immediately after, Gainsborough did not outlive the decade. This set brings together a trio of the studio’s most popular films from this era—florid, visceral tales of secret identities, multiple personalities, and romantic betrayals.
Three Wicked Melodramas from Gainsborough Pictures is the 36th set in Criterion’s Eclipse line, presenting three films from the British studio: The Man in Grey, Madonna of the Seven Moons, and The Wicked Lady. Each film is presented in its original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 on individual dual-layer DVDs. None of the transfers have been window boxed.
As is fairly typical (at least lately) restoration work is minimal, if it’s been done at all. All three films present heavy damage including (but not limited to) scratches, blotches, stains, burns, mold, tram lines, frame jumps, and pulsating. The Man in Grey may present the most damage, with pulsating and flickering getting especially heavy for a bit around 38-minutes in, and scratches and marks are always present throughout the rest of the film. It doesn’t completely mar the image but I can’t think of a moment where there was nothing present. The other films at least have moments where damage isn’t as impeding or noticeable but you never get a chance to forget it’s there.
But the transfers themselves are all quite sharp, so digital artifacts thankfully don’t further harm the image. When allowed the image is sharp with a stunning amount of detail, save for The Wicked Lady, which has a softer look than the other films. Contrast looks decent if more on the lighter gray side. And though some compression noise is present in places the transfers are otherwise stable and for DVD they look surprisingly clean.
The materials haven’t received much in the way of restoration by the looks of it but thankfully Criterion’s transfers deliver them as best they can and they still manage to come off rather filmic in the end.
All three films present Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks and all three films are about the same: they are are hollow, lack any depth, and present a noticeable hiss along with a few audio drops in places. Yet having said that the dialogue is easy to hear, if flat itself. Obviously a product of their age but it still doesn’t sound like any restoration work has gone into them.
Again we get nothing in the way of supplements except for some liner notes by Michael Koresky, which go over the films and Gainsborough Studios.
Disappointingly all three films show their age in their audio and video presentations, but Criterion at least didn’t slack on the digital transfers themselves, which hold up surprisingly well and even look good upscaled.