The Best Years of Our Lives Blu-ray Review
Following the end of World War II, Hollywood produced many a film dealing with the war and its effects. Most of the films dealt with the war itself, showing our brave fighting men taking on the evil axis powers and triumphing. Then came THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. Released in 1946, a year after World War II ended, the film was one of the first to deal with what happened to the men and boys that came home from battle and had to adjust to a world that was doing its best to adjust as well.
We meet Al (March), Fred (Andrews) and Homer (Harold Russell) as they come home to Boone City, the hometown they share. Al intends to pick up his life where he left it, back in the banking business. Fred is unsure of his plans. And Homer…Homer lost both of his hands and now must contemplate life forever scarred. But things don’t go as planned for any of them.
Nominated for eight Academy Awards, and winner of seven, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES is a film that not only entertains but educates. We all have hidden things in our lives and this film forces our three servicemen to uncover and confront them. Sure, Al likes to drink. Who doesn’t? Fred has always had a short temper. Homer has always been shy. But it’s more than that. Having the benefit of seeing the film almost seven decades after it was released, it’s much easier to diagnose and understand things. Fred obviously struggles with what is known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, something that was unheard of then. Homer learns, and teaches others, that he is just as valuable a person with his hooked prosthesis then if he had hands.
The cast is top notch, with both March and Russell taking home Oscars as Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively. This was Russell’s first film role. While in the army he suffered and accident that cost him both hands. So impressive was Russell’s performance that the Academy also awarded him an Honorary Oscar for his work, making him the ONLY actor to win two Academy Awards for the same performance in the same film. Russell later auctioned off one of his Oscars to pay for his wife’s health issues. The film also boasts a surprising dramatic performance by Virginia Mayo, who up until then was known as a light comedienne. As Fred’s wife with a heart of coal she is coldly calculating here. Myrna Loy is perfectly cast as Al’s jaded wife, as is Teresa Wright as Al’s daughter, Peggy. Finally, Cathy O’Donnell is heartbreaking as, literally, the girl next door who loves Homer and continues to do so in spite of his injuries.
The film also took home Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Wyler’s second out of three directing Oscars out of an amazing twelve nominations), Best Screenplay, Editing and Musical Score. Well deserved recognition of such a fine and important film.
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: Presented in its original 1:37.1 aspect ratio, the print here is clean and sharp. There is no muting of the various black and white elements.
Audio: With a soundtrack presented in DTS Master Audio Mono there is no distortion or overlapping of dialogue. The musical score does not overwhelm.
There extras here are the same as those that appeared on the film’s first DVD release in the late 1990’s:
Introduction by Virginia Mayo (1:11): The actress talks about her surprise at being cast in the film and jokes that it was her dramatic performance that won William Wyler the directing Oscar.
Interviews with Virginia Mayo and Teresa Wright (7:22): The two co-stars share some fun bits about the production of the film.