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    Viva Zapata! Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Fox

    May 09 2013 01:24 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    After his breakthrough performance in A Streetcar Named Desire, any lingering doubts about the power and sensitivity of Marlon Brando as a great screen actor had to have been quashed by Elia Kazan’s Viva Zapata! Both star and director are at their best in this gripping if somewhat laundered life story of the legendary Mexican revolutionary. There is a great deal of fine work being done in the supporting cast as well in a film that plays beautifully more than sixty years after the fact.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Fox
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 2.0 DD, French 2.0 DD
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 53 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: keep case
    • Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 05/07/2013
    • MSRP: $19.99

    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    After thirty-four years under the crushing dictatorial hand of President Porfirio Diaz (Fay Roope), Mexican peasantry led by Emiliano Zapata (Marlon Brando) and Pancho Villa (Alan Reed) revolt to get back their land which has been illegally seized by the government. After Diaz’s overthrow, new peace-loving president Francisco Indalecio Madero (Harold Gordon) becomes basically a figurehead for the corrupt general of the army Victoriano Huerta (Frank Silvera), so the peasants find they must once again go to war. Once Villa and Zapata once again prove triumphant, Villa refuses the title of President throwing it to Zapata who isn’t really interested in it either and longs to return to his ranch and his wife (Jean Peters) with whom he’s spent so little time. But little do they know that a jealous rival Fernando Aguirre (Joseph Wiseman) is planning is own coup which could have lethal consequences for Zapata and his supporters.

    Elia Kazan’s wonderfully atmospheric direction and John Steinbeck’s taut script exude Mexico from first frame to last (it helps that the picture was filmed on location and that Kazan favored quite a few shots from on high giving us splendid views of the surrounding countryside). If some scenes end somewhat abruptly and emotional encounters aren’t always milked for all of their dramatic possibilities, it does help the film’s forward momentum. Kazan doesn’t draw out the battles into endless bloody struggles but instead gives us nicely compact and beautifully shot battle scenes which get the job done without overkill. He also stages a terrific scene where Zapata taken captive is undergoing a prisoner’s walk while his supporters from the hills pour out to surround the soldiers holding him making it clear that the army is the true captive. It’s one of the most triumphant moments in the movie. The domestic scenes between Zapata and his wife Josefa and her disapproving, two-faced father (Florenz Ames) aren’t as interesting as the political sections of the movie but do allow a change of pace on a few occasions and mark an interesting contrast between Zapata’s commitment to one woman and his fiery brother’s (Anthony Quinn) womanizing ways.

    Marlon Brando’s wonderfully rounded portrait of the revolutionary who has a love of the land and the people who work it but also a rebel’s passion for fighting is one of his greatest performances. And while his scorching personality is tempered by a sense of fairness and loyalty showing us his sometimes sensitive side (his speech to his followers offering his philosophy concerning a never-say-die attitude toward defending what’s theirs is a career highlight), Anthony Quinn’s Oscar-winning Eufemio Zapata is full-out ablaze with passion for the ladies and bloodlust against those in power. Jean Peters doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to delve deeply into her character, but she offers a respectable performance as the wife whose husband is more devoted to his cause than to her. Joseph Wiseman proves an effectively sneaky snake in the grass as the turncoat Fernando Aguirre while Arnold Moss as Zapata’s advisor Don Nacio and Harold Gordon as the trustung Madero both offer touching portraits of sensitive men trapped in an uncivilized time and place.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness in close-ups and medium shots is excellent, but it’s a little lackluster and sometimes disappointing in certain long shots. The grayscale offers superbly bright whites and good black levels in a very film-like transfer. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix represents the sound recording of the era quite well. Dialogue is nicely recorded and is always easy to understand. It is never overwhelmed by the sound effects or by Alex North’s beautifully atmospheric score which features not much in terms of the lower end but clear and bright sound in the middle and upper registers. Engineers have also done an excellent job cleaning up any potential age-related sound artifacts like hiss, crackle, pops, and flutter. None of those are a problem here.

    Special Features: 1/5

    Two Theatrical Trailers (3:18, 2:48, SD): English and Spanish theatrical trailers are offered; the Spanish one features English dialogue and Spanish subtitles.

    Overall Rating: 4/5

    Viva Zapata! is a very entertaining (though typically whitewashed) film biography of nine years in the life of a Mexican revolutionary. The Blu-ray offers excellent video and audio transfers even if the bonus feature section is regrettably light. Recommended!

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
    Support HTF when you buy this title:



    14 Comments

    Dear Matt:

     

    I'm afraid I can't agree with you on the 4.5 rating for image. Not only do we have periodic wobbling from sprocket damage - particularly at the beginning, but a lot of the movie looked soft - very soft in long shot. Close ups were about the only place where I noted competent detail.

     

    This disc is only single-layered and pretty much looks like maybe a 2k scan and this at a time when 4k or even 6k are the norm. Fox has done a middling effort at best. There's no room for single-layered discs. I don't understand the studios NOT utilizing all of the disc space. Higher bit rate would have greatly improved these visuals.

     

    Blown up to projection or even when viewed on a 65 inch monitor this disc isn't so hot. At best I would have rated it a 3 - and that's pushing it. Oh well, to each his own. Regrets. 

     

    PS - no criticism here. I enjoy reading most of your reviews. Best.

    Photo
    Everett Stallings
    May 13 2013 11:13 AM

    With little to no special features, I'll skip this and most other disc's from now on!!!.

    Photo
    Lromero1396
    May 13 2013 11:27 AM

    Sad that Fox didn't give this the deluxe treatment. I hope that this trend does not continue in the Studio Classics line.

    Fox has proven that their track record on catalogue titles is spotty at best. Yes, they've done fine work on titles like Hello Dolly!, Desiree, How Green Was My Valley and The Towering Inferno, oh, and the reissue of Patton (second time's the charm on that one), to name a handful. But then we get abysmal slip-shod work on titles like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How To Marry a Millionaire, Viva Zapata and Song of Bernadette. And let's not forget Fox for its positively mind-numbing awfulness on The Greatest Story Ever Told. Seriously, that disc is a Frisbee! 

     

    No, Fox doesn't get a "A" for effort in my books because they're ratio of bad to good is about 50/50 leaving the consumer with a buyer beware mentality or, if you prefer, the old Forrest Gump approach to disc mastering: "classics are like a box of chocolates...you just never know what you're gonna get!" I prefer consistency to quantity. Fox has a lot of stuff currently in the pipeline. But if its going to look more like West Side Story or The Great Escape than The Towering Inferno or Poseidon Adventure then that is a disaster I would prefer to avoid! No pun intended. Well, alright...maybe just a little.

    Fox distributes those MGM/UA discs like The Greatest Story Ever Told and West Side Story, but I'm not sure it has anything to do with the mastery work to get them to Blu-ray. I'd like for someone to give definitive information on this.

    Photo
    Lromero1396
    May 14 2013 11:26 AM

    Fox has proven that their track record on catalogue titles is spotty at best. Yes, they've done fine work on titles like Hello Dolly!, Desiree, How Green Was My Valley and The Towering Inferno, oh, and the reissue of Patton (second time's the charm on that one), to name a handful. But then we get abysmal slip-shod work on titles like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How To Marry a Millionaire, Viva Zapata and Song of Bernadette. And let's not forget Fox for its positively mind-numbing awfulness on The Greatest Story Ever Told. Seriously, that disc is a Frisbee! 

     

    No, Fox doesn't get a "A" for effort in my books because they're ratio of bad to good is about 50/50 leaving the consumer with a buyer beware mentality or, if you prefer, the old Forrest Gump approach to disc mastering: "classics are like a box of chocolates...you just never know what you're gonna get!" I prefer consistency to quantity. Fox has a lot of stuff currently in the pipeline. But if its going to look more like West Side Story or The Great Escape than The Towering Inferno or Poseidon Adventure then that is a disaster I would prefer to avoid! No pun intended. Well, alright...maybe just a little.

    I'm glad someone agrees with me on HTMAM's transfer being weaker than it should be. Did the color timing and grain management bother you, too? By the way, thanks for the warning on Viva Zapata!

    This disc is only single-layered and pretty much looks like maybe a 2k scan and this at a time when 4k or even 6k are the norm. Fox has done a middling effort at best. There's no room for single-layered discs. I don't understand the studios NOT utilizing all of the disc space. Higher bit rate would have greatly improved these visuals.
     .

    Dual layer would be overkill for a 1 hour 53 minute movie. Space is not an issue here and dual layer would unnecessarily raise the price with no true benefit.
    Photo
    Lromero1396
    May 15 2013 09:46 AM

    Dual layer would be overkill for a 1 hour 53 minute movie. Space is not an issue here and dual layer would unnecessarily raise the price with no true benefit.

    Perhaps the bitrate on the disc is a bit low and perhaps that should have been increased...

    Photo
    Richard Gallagher
    May 21 2013 05:39 PM

    Robert Harris gave the video 4.5 stars when he viewed it as part of the "Kazan at Fox" box set.

     

    Viva Zapata! and Wild River in Blu-ray

    Photo
    Lromero1396
    May 23 2013 08:49 PM

    Robert Harris gave the video 4.5 stars when he viewed it as part of the "Kazan at Fox" box set.

     

    Viva Zapata! and Wild River in Blu-ray

    I'm reserving final judgement for when I actually pick the release up. Mr. Harris is pretty much always right, though.

    I just watched this movie for the first time. Can anyone tell me what was up with Brando's eyes? Sometimes they looked fine and other times they looked really weird. Was it makeup, or some kind of prosthetics to make him look more like the real Zapata? Honestly I think it was too much of a distraction and would have been better it they had let him just look like himself.

    Photo
    Robert Crawford
    Jun 08 2013 12:12 AM

    I just watched this movie for the first time. Can anyone tell me what was up with Brando's eyes? Sometimes they looked fine and other times they looked really weird. Was it makeup, or some kind of prosthetics to make him look more like the real Zapata? Honestly I think it was too much of a distraction and would have been better it they had let him just look like himself.

    Yes, you answered your own question about the makeup which affected the shape of his eyes.

    Can't find where to start a new entry so it must go here for now:

     

    Amazon Germany have just announced a pre-order for Marlon Brando in The Wild One (Der Wilde) at about 14 Euros. Also listed is Wally Cox in Hiram's Holiday.

    Can't find where to start a new entry so it must go here for now:

     

    Amazon Germany have just announced . . . 

     

    How about in the "Blu-ray discs from Germany" thread in the International section?