Mulholland Drive (2001) | 4K Blu-ray Review


Criterion has finally made their way to the 4K format. Known for their excellent work on their Blu-rays, they dropped their first release in the form of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. So is the extra price for the Criterion touch justified on the premium physical format that houses this fever-dream induced psychological thriller? Let’s turn the key and find out.


If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Amazon

Mulholland Drive, 4K Blu-ray cover art

Tech Specs:

Format(s):UltraHD/4K Blu-ray (BD-100)
Blu-ray (BD-50)
Released By:Criterion Collection
Release Date:November 16th, 2021
Video Format / Codec:4K: H.265 (HEVC)
BR: MPEG-4 (AVC)
Resolution:4K: Native 4K, 2160/24p
BR: Full HD, 1080/24p
Digital Intermediate (DI):4K (filmed on 35mm negatives)
High-Dynamic Range (HDR):Dolby Vision (FEL), HDR10
Aspect Ratio:1.85:1
Audio Format(s):4K/BR:
English: DTS-HD MA 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Subtitles:English, English SDH
Packaging:Dual disc Digipack with slipbox*
Booklet

*Digipack likely only be available for a limited pressing
Region Coding:4K: Region-free
BR: Region A (locked)

Video Review:

The 4K disc had a lot to live up to as the 2015 Blu-ray came from the same 4K restoration work and already looked excellent. But, to my happiness the 4K image has accomplished to one-up the BR in overall quality, even though the movie does have a level of softness throughout. And, I need to point out that this is not going to be a night and day difference, but in every perceivable way, the 4K disc is better.

On the detail front, from facial closeups to hair, makeup effects (such as the running mascara on Rita’s face when she cries) all look exceptional, lifelike and refined. Textures on table tops and cloth appear more tactile, and outdoor scenery is much better resolved. That said, there are a few moments of softness, however this aligns with past versions I have seen and is likely there from capture. That said it is fleeting and in some scenes, intentionally dream inducing.
The grain, which is absolutely present throughout the film, is also better handled, largely due to the larger number of pixels available to define each speck, but also due to the color grading. The Blu-ray was appropriately grainy, but the 4K disc just looks more organic, and the movement of the grain is much more natural and fluid.

There is a slight but noticeable difference in color grading on the 4K. It was not noticeable when watching, but when looking side by side its clear certain scenes have a slightly different white balance. I found both gradings to be very appealing, so I only bring it up as a difference, not a positive or negative. The colors in the movie are not meant to hit you in the back of the eye with piercing red, blues and greens, but the colors that are present, from Betty’s pink sweater to the lighting in the theater, all are well balanced and natural while still having a level of richness. There is just more depth to scenery colors, clothing, lipstick and even that blue box. I did perceive the overall presentation to be just a touch darker than the Blu-ray throughout, although some scenes were on par. Again that is not necessarily a negative as the overall dynamic range is greater, generating a range of highlights without lost detail, and shadows with more depth. Whites in blacks on clothing look deeper and brighter respectively and specular highlights packing some extra punch. As was the case on the detail front, this is not going to be a stark difference as that 2K disc was taken from this same work, but the 4K disc and its Dolby Vision infused HDR with wider color space allows that restoration work to shine that much brighter.

Video Score (4K): 4.8 / 5

The included Blu-ray is the same as the 2015 release and will not receive a score as part of this review.

Audio Review:

The 5.1 mix onboard is carried over from the past Criterion Blu-ray release, so there’s no new Atmos or DTS:X onboard, but that’s not a bad thing. David Lynch was the sound designer for  the film and he very much wanted to make this a front-stage forward mix. As a result even with this 5.1 mix, there won’t be a tremendous amount of audio coming out of your surround speakers, as the director intended. That said, the front-heavy mix is very dynamic and, at times, loud. From the screaming teens joyriding prior to the opening crash scene to the screams at the film’s closure, the sound design is very intentional to drive impact and even at times startle you and this mix absolutely delivers on that front. In addition to crystal clear dialog, we also get tremendous support for the soundtrack of this film from the supporting tracks to the feature performance of “Llorando”, the music sounds fantastic. Bass is used strategically to both support the on screen activity, but also to drop in a sense of anxiety and dread in various scenes throughout the film. I for one am pleased they kept this mix onboard.

Audio Score (4K): 4.6 / 5

The included Blu-ray is the same as the 2015 release and will not receive a score as part of this review.

Special Features and Packaging:

Criterion has always done a nice job with special features and this is no exception. We get a bunch of interesting interviews from various cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes and an interview with David Lynch in the included booklet.

The biggest let down here is that there was nothing new for this release that was not on the 2016 Blu-ray, but I also don’t think that was Criterion’s goal with this release. They have their collection and their features and are not looking to do a bunch of different editions, just make the movie available in 4K, so I don’t hold that against them too much.


For packaging, Criterion has a very specific look and feel to their releases and they kept that with this release. The artwork on the slipbox and case match what we had before, the only difference is the Digipack that holds the two discs and gives us a little interior artwork. It has a premium look and feel which is what I would expect.

Features Score: 4.5 / 5

Buy/Upgrade-worthiness:

This is actually a tough one, as I really enjoyed this 4K presentation. Again if you don’t own the Criterion Blu-ray, this is the one to buy as its not much more and you get both discs and all the same extras. But the bigger question is if it is a worthwhile upgrade to the Criterion Blu-ray. In short, it is, but given the asking price, its a hard one to justify as that Blu-ray from the same restoration work is also excellent, has the same audio and features and the same physical extras in the booklet. So, I’ll have to split the answer and say:


Buy Recommendation: YES!
Upgrade Recommendation: YES, for the right price

If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Amazon

Summary and Overall Scores:

Criterion’s first entry into 4K is excellent which I think comes to no one’s surprise. In fact it was so good it just barely missed being a reference quality disc and easily could have been. The detail and color was improved over the Blu-ray and the strong audio mix was carried over as well as the features. I do hope Criterion continues their journey with regular 4K entries as its the format that truly can hold the quality of work they produce, but this also goes to show just how good they were doing with authoring their Blu-ray releases as well.

Experience Score**: 4.7 / 5  (Excellent)

** Experience score does not take into account the quality of the film itself, just the technical presentation, packaging and included features.

*DISCLOSURE: By using links on this site, there is no added cost to you, and we may receive a small commission which helps to support current and future work.