I confess: I've read the books, and I couldn't wait to see Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Hagrid on DVD again. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has its share of problems, though, and most of them involve pacing. I found myself thinking, "This is the most exciting part of the book, so why am I bored?" The answer is that, at 161 minutes, this movie is simply too long. I can't imagine why this thing needed to go longer than two hours.
The good news, though, is that The Chamber of Secrets is a joy to experience on DVD. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer does justice to the sweeping scenes of Hogwarts, and colors looked beautiful and lifelike. The Dolby EX soundtrack provides plenty of opportunity for your sub to do its stuff and makes nearly continuous use of your surrounds during the flying-car and Quidditch-match scenes.
This two-disc DVD set has a truly outstanding extras package. The basics, such as the trailer and a "Year One at Hogwarts" recap of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone are located on disc one. Disc two features hours of interactive bonuses and activities hosted by a lovely portrait of Filch and his cat. You can snoop your way around Dumbledore's office or see how you'd stand up to the basilisk in "The Chamber Challenge" game.
The film may have its faults, but this is the kind of DVD that all DVDs should aspire to be. If you liked the movie, the disc is a must-own.—Claire Lloyd
DVD: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir—20th Century Fox
A young widow, Mrs. Muir (Gene Tierney), moves into a sprawling house by the ocean and quickly discovers that it has a ghost: that of its previous owner, a surly, abrasive sea captain played by Rex Harrison. Rather than leave, though, Mrs. Muir befriends the ghost, who provides her with the companionship she desperately needs.
A quaint fantasy-romance, the film looks refreshed on its new DVD release. Although its 1.33:1 black-and-white picture lacks detail and sufficient contrast at times, it's generally very good at spotlighting the Oscar-winning cinematography. There are both a stereo and a mono version of the Dolby Digital audio. While the stereo track highlights Bernard Herrmann's score, the mono track is preferable for clear dialogue.
Fitting for a 1947 release, the extras delve deeply into the film's production and history. There are two separate commentary tracks: one with film editor/historian Greg Kimble and Herrmann estate manager Christopher Husted; the other with Jeanine Basinger, chairman of film studies at Wesleyan University, and Kenneth Geist, director Joseph Mankiewicz's biographer. Both tracks are so rich in detail that they warrant a second listen. Other additional content includes a Harrison A&E biography, the original theatrical trailer, and a stills gallery.—Christy Grosz