Gone With the Wind 4-disc Collector's Edition

Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard, Hattie McDaniel, Thomas Mitchell, Butterfly McQueen. Directed by Victor Fleming. Aspect ratio: 1.33:1. Dolby Digital 5.1. 238 minutes. 1939. Warner Home Video DVE065917. G. $39.92.

Picture ****

Sound ** 1/2

Film ***

The accolades and awards given to the film Gone With the Wind are too numerous to mention, but are well deserved. This 1939 epic is the amazing story of Scarlett O'Hara, and her dramatic transformation from a blushing coquette to a woman against the backdrop of the Civil War. Based on the book by Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind begins before the war, when Scarlett is occupied with the things that a teenage girl should rightfully be occupied with: flirting, going to parties, dancing, and making the object of her affections, Ashley Wilkes, jealous. That all changes when the men begin to talk of war at a barbecue, the same day she finds out that Ashley is to marry his cousin, Melanie. The men go off to war, leaving Scarlett to fend for herself.

Rhett Butler, a dashing rogue and shrewd businessman who doesn't believe in the war and finds a way out of it, instantly takes a liking to Scarlett. He understands her and her self-motivated goals and reluctantly watches as she marries two men she doesn't love, while pining away for "her Ashley."

Over the 238 minutes of this sprawling drama, the lovely and conniving Scarlett works her way through personal tragedies and triumphs during the Civil War and the Reconstruction. But she finally comes to realize that her real love is the love of Tara, the plantation she grew up on. Because, as her father tells her at the film's beginning, "it's the only thing that lasts."

MGM originally released Gone With the Wind on DVD in 1998, then Warner Brothers re-released the DVD with the same transfer. This 4-disc version has been remastered, with what Warner is calling "Ultra Resolution," a process they used to clean up the picture. I've never seen the film look this good: The colors are lush, the images almost three-dimensional. The costumes come across beautifully and the crimson flames of Atlanta burning jump off the screen. Of course, there is a bit of troubling grain that can be expected from a film of this age, especially in scenes where you can see a lot of sky.

The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is primarily focused in the front speakers, with not much happening in the rear surround channels (no surprise, since the original recording was mono). That being said, both the dialogue and Max Steiner's beautiful music score came across clearly.

While my synopsis cannot begin to do this intricate, almost 4-hour epic justice. The DVD set does, with four discs packed with goodies. Discs 1 and 2 contain commentary by historian Rudy Behlmer on the film's historical accuracy. Among other things, Disc 3 contains The Making of a Legend, a 1989 documentary made by director David O. Selznick's sons and narrated by Christopher Plummer. It also give us Restoring a Legend, which shows you how they restored the film and the "Ultra Resolution" process used for this new video presentation. Melanie Remembers on Disc 4, in which de Havilland gives her personal recollections of the film, was created especially for this DVD, and there are also featurettes on Clark Cable and Vivien Leigh.

Containing the best epic film ever made, with the best DVD presentation available, this 4-disc set is a must-have. It will take you back to the days when Hollywood really knew how to make an epic. They just don't make films like this anymore.—KR