Out of Africa, with its lush, exotic scenery, is the kind of movie that really needs an outstanding high definition transfer. Thankfully, Universal has delivered a superb 1080p presentation. While I have not seen the earlier Blu-ray release, by most accounts it seems that transfer was less than satisfactory on a number of levels. I found very little to complain about with the new transfer, which boasts a high level of fine detail. The colors are warm and vibrant, especially during the many panoramic outdoor shots. Film grain appears natural and appropriate for a film of its era. This is an attractive transfer that does justice to David Watkin’s award-winning cinematography.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is very good without being particularly stunning. That’s okay though, because the original sound design didn’t call for sonic fireworks to begin with. The best thing about the soundtrack (and arguably the entire movie) is John Barry’s beautiful score. The music is mixed very well, subtly blending in with dialogue but full-bodied when featured on its own. Dialogue presents no problems. The African environments allow for the mix to show off an impressive array of quiet atmospheric sound effects and animal noises. Out of Africa won the Oscar for Best Sound and luckily those technicians have been honored with this disc’s solid audio presentation.
The supplemental features have been carried over from a previous DVD special edition, including a commentary track by director-producer Sydney Pollack. The video features are all presented in annoying standard definition. The feature-length documentary A Song of Africa takes a fairly deep look at the book from which the movie was adapted. The book’s author, Karen Blixen, is discussed at length. It’s an interesting piece for those who want to know more about the source material and the making of the movie. A 15 minute selection of deleted scenes is included, in pretty rough condition and presented in one, uninterrupted chunk. The hardcover digibook includes full color still photos and further information and trivia about the production.
Out of Africa is definitely not a crowd-pleaser. It’s a dry, slow, and ultimately depressing experience. But the star power of its two leads and its status as a Best Picture winner more or less guarantee the film continued interest.