For the 50th anniversary of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (1959), 20th Century Fox has rereleased the film on DVD and for the first time on Blu-ray. Since I have yet to make the leap to Blu-ray, this review will cover the DVD release.
Whether on the page, on stage, or onscreen, the story of Anne Frank and her family hiding from the Nazi’s in wartime Amsterdam packs an emotional wallop. You’d have to be made of stone not to be affected by it. Fifty years later, George Stevens’ film is still a powerful cinematic experience.
Millie Perkins’ central performance as Anne has come under fire ever since the film opened. Perkins’ portrays the character as a pesky teenager and thankfully not a saint. In her film debut, the young model lacks the shading and depth that other actors in the cast may have. But I personally think of Anne as the cipher through which this poignant tale is told, allowing the other characters to play out equally.
Since the film didn’t go through an expensive restoration process for the new release, I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular from the picture quality. That being said, the shadows and depths in William C. Mellor’s deservedly Oscar-winning cinematography seemed a bit richer than I remember. However, there were a couple of instances of continuity problems in the transfer where the picture stalls at the end of one scene before moving on to the next. And the penultimate scene between Anne and Peter (Richard Beymer) in the attic had a couple of seconds in which the picture became oddly pixelated. Ultimately, it didn’t ruin the power of the scene, but it was irritating nonetheless.
The score remains one of Alfred Newman’s finest compositions. Since the film originally played as a road show, I was pleased to hear the inclusion of the Overture and Exit Music, but I wish the Intermission and Entr’acte music had been added.
The DVD comes packaged in an “eco box.” There are large chunks of plastic missing from the front and back of the DVD case above and under the disc. While I applaud the attempts at making the packaging eco-friendly, one puncture through the outer artwork could ruin the DVD inside.
Extras include interviews with Shelley Winters (Mrs. Van Daan), Perkins and Diane Baker (Margot), and George Stevens, Jr., as well as a featurette on director Stevens during World War II, a Fox Movie Channel Fox Legacy episode, and a reading of correspondence from the time of the film. To access the special features, you’ll have to flip the disc over to Side B. Unfortunately, that information is only located on the thin little red band on the disc, and not listed anywhere on the DVD packaging or on Side A.
The main reason I purchased this new version of the film was to see the discussion of Newman’s score. Titled “The Sound and Music of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK,” the featurette begins with two minutes of information on the use of sound and silence in the film before seguing into Newman’s all-too-brief six-minute excerpt. Though it’s interesting to hear from sons David and Thomas about father Alfred’s working practices, the featurette doesn’t give us enough insight into the score itself. On the plus side, all of the extras are underscored by Newman’s beautiful music.
For such a milestone anniversary of a major film, Fox’s packaging is disappointing. Some of the features of the original DVD have morphed over onto the Blu-ray version and not the regular DVD anniversary release. At the very least, they could have included the film’s theatrical trailer.
Overall, I’d have to say that this new release of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK did not live up to my expectations. Thankfully, not even Fox’s lackluster treatment can diminish the power of George Stevens’ film and Alfred Newman’s score.
Film Score Click Track Film & Score [rating:5/5]