Recapturing The Four Seasons

Another reason why my eye's been on Spain recently: an exclusive new release of a great, long unreleased catalog title available nowhere else in the world.  In this case, I'm talking about Alan Alda's 1981 charmer The Four Seasons, which debuted on blu from Divisa in November.  Divisa isn't among one of the more infamous labels like Resen or Llamentol, so I'm thinking, please, please, please let this be a legit release and not some shady bootleg upconverting the Universal DVD.  Well, nobody else is gonna do a review, so what the Hell, I bit the bullet.
To be clear, Alda doesn't just star in this, he wrote and directed it.  He's actually made several films, and like the characters he typically plays onscreen, they're all smart and likeable, if not dynamic spotlight stealers.  The Four Seasons is easily his masterpiece, following a group of characters across each of the four seasons, each started with a themed montage and set to the obvious Vivaldi concerti.  In fact, I don't know why this sticks with me, but I remember watching an episode of Inside the Actor's Studio where host James Lipton presented this as his favorite movie of all time.  I wouldn't got that far, but I can see why this would be someone's favorite.  It's a genuinely funny comedy that harbors more dramatic substance than any of Alda's other films (Betsy's Wedding is cute, but it's not operating on this level), handling plot developments more thoughtfully and seriously than you'd expect.  It's a film where a divorce rips through every character on screen, but manages to make you empathize with both parties.  That's partly because the entire cast - including Carol Burnett, Sandy Dennis, Jack Weston and even Alda's daughters - is wonderful, ensuring every character is robustly fleshed out, but also just good writing.  There are plenty of little points where you'll think you can predict the obvious cliched shorthand the script is going to take, but instead each time it does something more interesting and realistic.
The film was a low budget, break-out success for Alda, so much so that CBS actually followed the film up with a 13-episode series, which Alda produced, starring Weston and Tony Roberts that ran in 1984.  It was a sequel, where Weston and his recast wife moved to LA and found several married friends much like the ones he left behind.  Alan's two daughters also reprised their roles, and Alda was in the pilot as his character from the film trying to convince Jack to stay.  It would make a great inclusion if The Four Seasons ever got a special edition.  I can imagine a sweet reunion featurette with Alda and Burnett laughing as they reminisce about the beautiful locations they filmed on... but in 2021, this obscure Spanish blu is the whole story, and I doubt there's much more on the horizon, so let's at least see what we've got.
2005 Universal DVD top; 2020 Divisa BD bottom.
Happily, this is not a bootleg or an upconvert of the DVD.  But it's a pretty lackluster BD upgrade, that's clearly using the same old master as the DVD.  I wouldn't be surprised if labels in other countries considered a Four Seasons blu, looked at Universal's master and declared it beneath their standards - hence no previous blu.  But in lieu of somebody actually putting in the money and work to remaster this film, I'd rather have this than no BD option.  Both discs are properly matted to 1.85:1, but the blu fixes a teensy amount of vertical stretch, thus revealing slivers more along the top and bottom.  And it's in genuine 1080p, looking at least a little sharper as it sheds clumpy SD artifacts.  But it still has its visual junk, with grain clumpy or absent depending where in the frame you look.  This is a single-layer BD, but I don't know if a larger encode would help, or if that's as good as that master gets.  There are also halos and other evidence of edge enhancement baked in, so again, this is an old master, surely only made with DVD in mind.   The upgrade is easy to miss, but at least it is in HD.
Also, the audio is lossless, giving us both the original English and a Spanish dub in DTS-HD.  The original DVD had the original English, Spanish and French mono tracks with optional English, Spanish and French dubs.  The blu just has the aforementioned tracks with optional Spanish subs.  The menu tries to stick you with the Spanish subs if you play the English audio, but they're not actually forced; you can switch them on and off at any point with your remote.

The DVD is 100% barebones, without even a trailer.  The blu doesn't have the trailer either, but someone at least cared enough to create a little stills gallery with high res art and promo photos.
Oh, and no, this isn't a BD-R; it's a properly pressed disc.  I believe this to be a 100% legit, fully licensed release, just like the recent Australian BDs of titles like Ordinary People and Top Secret!, where they're putting out what's available.  We're just hitting the bottom of the big studios' barrels.  This is definitely not a high quality release to get excited for, but at least we have something on the market now that's preferable to the old DVDs.  It makes you wonder what other little treats Spain is hiding away on disc.

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