Criterion’s “Devil in a Blue Dress” 4K mini-review
Updated: Jul 21, 2022
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
(1) The handsome Denzel Washington plays ex-GI Easy Rawlins, who scans the newspaper want-ads for a new job after getting laid off. (2) Jennifer Beals plays the mysterious Daphne Monet.
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“DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS” – THE CRITERION COLLECTION
4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray; 1995; R for violence, sexuality, and language
DENZEL WASHINGTON pops off the screen in The Criterion Collection’s 4K Ultra HD presentation of “Devil in a Blue Dress,” writer/director Carl Franklin’s adaptation of the Walter Mosley novel.
It’s post-World War II Los Angeles, and many African-Americans have migrated to the City of Angels looking for higher-paying jobs. Ex-GI Easy Rawlins (Washington), just laid off from Champion Aircraft, is in a bar scanning the newspaper want ads when he’s introduced to a white man willing to pay good money to find a missing white woman. His search takes Easy to places he never expected to go.
(1) The vibrant Central Avenue was the heart of the African-American community in Los Angeles, with an active rhythm and blues and jazz music scene. (2) Easy Rawlins is told by his boss at Champion Aircraft that he’s being replaced by a guy willing to work two shifts. (3) Tom Sizemore plays Dewitt Albright. (4) Smoking was such a part of the 1940s, as Ms. Monet meets Mr. Rawlins. (5) Rawlins needs money to pay the mortgage for his manicured home in Central L.A.
The new 4K scan of the original camera negative (1.85:1 aspect ratio) was handled by Sony Pictures technology specialist James Owsley using the Scanity film scanner. The 4K master extracts a good dose of natural film grain throughout – which is more evident during the many darker interiors and nighttime scenes. The overall clarity is very good on the enclosed Blu-ray also sourced from the same master, but the 4K disc takes it to a much higher level – especially the wide shots from the foreground to the background and the many close-ups from cinematographer Tak Fujimoto (“The Silence of the Lambs,” “The Sixth Sense”).
Colorist David Bernstein of Roundabout Entertainment handled the HDR grading with standard HDR10, and the more advanced Dolby Vision provides excellent shadow detail while keeping the highlights in check. The 4K disc is slightly darker than the 1080p disc, which adds to the film noir storyline and the earthy color palette of browns and blues which are rich and saturated – while providing excellent facial toning.
The encoded six-channel DTS-HD Master was remastered from the original six-track magnetic source and provides a front and center soundtrack from the heavy dialogue-driven story. Gun blast effects are nicely distributed to your surround speakers and Elmer Bernstein’s (“The Magnificent Seven,” “To Kill a Mockingbird”) relaxed score and ‘40s era favorites from T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Witherspoon, Duke Ellington, Pee Wee Crayton and Thelonious Monk’s original version of “Round Midnight.”
(1) LAPD detectives question Rawlins about an overnight murder. (2) The color brown dominates the “Devil in a Blue Dress” palette. (3) The breakout performance for Don Cheadle, as small-time crook Mouse Alexander. (4) The HDR toning provides excellent shadow detail. (5) Rawlins’ peaceful neighborhood.