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1941 Blu-ray

United States
DigiPack Universal Studios | 1979 | 1 Movie, 2 Cuts | 146 min | Rated PG | No Release Date

1941 (Blu-ray)

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (27.18 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)

English SDH, French, Spanish

50GB Blu-ray Disc
Single disc (1 BD)


Region A (B, C untested)

1941 Pre-order

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Movie rating
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Blu-ray rating
Video 4.0 of 54.0
Audio 4.0 of 54.0
Extras 4.5 of 54.5
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Movie appeal




1941 Blu-ray delivers great video and audio in this excellent Blu-ray release

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, mass hysteria breaks out in Southern California, while the bumbling crew of a Japanese sub searches for Hollywood and an "honorable" target to destroy.

For more about 1941 and the 1941 Blu-ray release, see 1941 Blu-ray Review published by on where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.

Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Ned Beatty, John Belushi, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Christopher Lee
Director: Steven Spielberg

» See full cast & crew

1941 Blu-ray, Video Quality

  4.0 of 5

1941 was shot by veteran cinematographer William A. Fraker, who discusses the technical challenges of the massive shoot in "The Making of 1941". Probably the single biggest challenge for the film's cinematography was blending live-action footage with miniatures in a manner that looked convincing, a process that Spielberg also addresses in discussing the explosions intended to simulate the impact of the Japanese submarine's artillery shells. Smoke was a critical element in many of the miniature shots, which is one of the reasons why many of 1941's nighttime scenes are filled with fog, smoke and diffusion, all of which creates a challenge for any transfer to video. Previous versions of 1941 have suffered from poorly resolved grain and a variety of artifacts.

Universal's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray of 1941 offers a massive improvement over previous home video presentations, though not without some digital tinkering. The graininess is largely gone. Although grain is certainly visible, more so in some scenes than others, it has been largely tamed by what appears to my eye to be the application of sophisticated de-graining software of the kind now commonly used in digital intermediate suites. Note that I am not talking about the kind of detail stripping that is typically meant by "DNR". The image remains detailed and sharp, except in scenes where it shouldn't be (e.g., the many scenes on the deck of the surfaced Japanese sub, which are shrouded in fog). I did not detect any effort to simulate detail with artificial sharpening, which would most likely have coarsened the grain. Overall, Universal appears to have reined in their past tendency to transform film into video, while still managing to clean up a challenging film for modern tastes. Purists (including myself) may have wished for a more authentically grainy presentation, but this one isn't bad.

The colors are superb, ranging from the dingy interiors of the Japanese sub to the eye-popping primaries of the USO dance hall (and everything in between). Solid blacks are essential to the effective presentation of effects man A.D. Flowers' wonderful miniatures, and the disc provides them. Measured by the longer extended cut, Universal has mastered 1941 with an average bitrate of 27.18 Mbps, and it needs all of it.

It should be noted that the extended cut has retained the opening disclaimer from the Signature Laserdisc stating that frame jumps may be observed where scenes were reinserted. That was true on the laserdisc, but those jumps appear to have been digitally mended for Blu-ray. Either that, or I was too absorbed in the film. (If anyone spots these, please send me a time mark, and I will update the review.)

1941 Blu-ray, Audio Quality

  4.0 of 5

1941 was released in both stereo and a six-track mix for a 70mm blow-up. The Signature Laserdisc used the stereo mix, but the DVD had a 5.1 mix in Dolby Digital, which is encoded here in lossless DTS-HD MA. I cannot be certain whether this mix was derived from the 70mm version or represents a remix of the stereo, but I suspect the latter, because the additional footage in the extended version would have required a new 5.1 track in any case. The extended version still carries the disclaimer from the Signature Laserdisc cautioning that some lines of dialogue were distorted in the original recording and that sound effects have been "enhanced to take advantage of the improved dynamic range of today's home theater technology". However, the soundtrack of 1941 is so perpetually busy that I doubt that anyone except the original sound team could pick out the differences.

Times have changed, though. Viewers accustomed to the sonic assault of, say, a Transformers film will wonder why anyone complained about 1941 when it was released in 1979. The film's 5.1 remix is sufficiently conservative not to attempt to re-route sound effects all around the listening space, where they would no doubt be placed if the film were made today. Nevertheless, the aerial sequences, cannon fire and machine gun used by Sgt. Tree have sufficient punch and bass extension to make themselves felt, especially with contemporary home theater equipment. The dialogue can be slightly hollow and tinny at times, but it's always intelligible. John Williams' score, which has a great martial theme that could almost be taken seriously, has been reproduced with fine fidelity, and it is a critical element in lassoing the onscreen chaos and keeping it from running wild.

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