A crashing box office disappointment during its theatrical run–even after receiving 7 Oscar nods, including Best Picture–Frank Darabont’s 1994 adaptation of the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption became a runaway success on video. So successful, in fact, that its debut on DVD was a much-anticipated event. The good news is that the tale of unlikely friendship and hope in the most unfriendly and unhopeful setting of a prison is as spectacularly rewarding as it ever was. Roger Deakins’ nominated cinematography is beautiful in the widescreen digital format; for many, this will be the best the film has ever looked (being one of the few who saw the film in a theatre, the big screen is still tops). The sound mix is also impressive, lending Darabont’s words, so wonderfully delivered by stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, the clarity they so richly deserve.
However, the disc cannot help but be somewhat of a letdown, thanks to the skimpy supplements offered with what is widely considered a contemporary classic. The original theatrical trailer is included, and a gallery of production stills warmly evokes the emotion that permeates the film. The menus are static, but the accompaniment of Thomas Newman’s score is a classy touch. An even classier–not to mention welcome–touch would be a commentary track, but none is to be found; rumor has it that Freeman recorded one, but it was jettisoned because it took up too much space. One can only hope that it turns up in a superdeluxe special edition in the future. Until then, though, the Shawshank disc will have to suffice, and on its own simple merits, it does.

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