A Few Words About A few words about...™ Cleopatra (1963) - U.S. Release -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, May 22, 2013.

  1. rsmithjr

    rsmithjr Screenwriter

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    The idea that Cleopatra was "unsuccessful" is a myth that simply should not be perpetuated.

    Not only was it the highest grossing film of the year, it set many box office records throughout the world. The film turned a profit in the early 1970's in an era when films were expected to take a while to play out.

    It has continued to make money ever since. How many films that are 50 years old have a theatrical reissue at a fairly large number of locations?

    Cleopatra clearly destabilized Fox for a few years, but only a part of this can be blamed on the production itself. Fox shut down productions that probably should have continued. Due to the shutdown, general studio costs were charged off to Cleopatra, causing the putative budget to be greatly increased. The joke was that if a studio exec took his mistress to dinner in Beverly Hills, the cost was expensed to Cleopatra.

    A lot of this was general mismanagement and had little to do with what was happening in Rome.

    Darryl F clearly demonstrated this by 1) delivering The Longest Day at a critical time, and 2) finishing and releasing Cleopatra, and 3) getting other projects into production.

    Like the marvelous fading frescoes that provide the interfaces to Cleopatra's scenes, we are now left with only the film itself. "Unsuccessful"? I think not. Flawed perhaps but still a remarkable effort from many technical and esthetic points of view.
     
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  2. ROclockCK

    ROclockCK Screenwriter
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    Of course, this was after years of Cleopatra's mounting overhead being charged off to the dwindling number of Fox movies still in production. That gambit went both ways.
    I've always had a soft spot for this one-of-a-kind (and last-of-a-kind) picture. Even when some of its dramatics falter along the lines of 'missing backstory' or 'questionable tone', the sheer physical presence of the film - its scale of ambition - remains mesmerizing. There isn't an ill-considered or sloppily designed element in whichever part of the frame you choose to scrutinize...right out to the edges.

    So in the proper state of mind with an appropriate set of expectations, Cleopatra is still a vintage A/V feast with few peers. When I watch it, I marvel over what is there, not what isn't.
     
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  3. Paul Rossen

    Paul Rossen Supporting Actor

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    Agree. For the Blu ray the restoration of the video portion of The Robe was a tremendous feat. The audio portion to my ears left a lot to be desired. I disagree with the poster who stated the directional dialogue was there-perhaps it is but the music was always front and centered not spread across the speakers as it should have been.
     
  4. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    I don't know how you can disagree. I wasn't stating an opinion but a fact. The dialogue is directional and the music is spread spaciously L-C-R. It is not centered. Maybe you need to give the disc another careful listen.
     
  5. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Supporting Actor

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    I bought Cleopatra digibook at Costco today for $17.99. Although I've never seen this film, It's such a good price for a controversial classic that I couldn't resist.
     
  6. Clayking38

    Clayking38 Auditioning

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    I looked at some of the bd today, and compared some similar scenes in the U.K. release. Although I couldn't do a side-by-side comparison I thought the U.S. release might be slightly sharper and somewhat lighter. I also checked the same scenes in the 2001 dvd and the flesh tones looked more natural (at least to my eye). The skin tones in exteriors in both U.K. and U.S. blu-rays have an odd "bronzed" look.
     
  7. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    They are the same transfer - there is no difference.
     
  8. Paul Rossen

    Paul Rossen Supporting Actor

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    Today is the 50th Anniversary of the World Premiere of Cleopatra at The Rivoli Theater in NYC. The movie is still with us but the Theater is long gone...
     
  9. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    Taken from Cinema Treasures.
     

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  10. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Really brings back memories of that great theater on many trips to NYC.
     
  11. Clayking38

    Clayking38 Auditioning

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    Forgive my lack of knowledge about the process and terms. I thought the "transfer" was the conversion from film to digital. Wouldn't it be possible to subsequently alter the digital master when authoring the disc? If so, were you confirming that this wasn't done, other than shifting the entr'acte?
     
  12. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    All reports from people who have both the UK and USA discs are that the same transfer was used for both. Yes, they moved the Entr'acte to disc 2 for the USA release. They could have done a new transfer, or they could have done some digital maniplulation to the USA release, but apparently they didn't. I assume the USA release was held back to 2013 in order to call it the 50th anniversary edition.

    I saw the film in a theater a few weeks ago. When I got home, I took a look at the (UK) Blu-ray to compare it with what I had just seen. My main complaint was not a coldness, per se, but an over all drabness of color. The main adjustment I make when watching this on TV is to turn my color up several notches. I then have to turn it back down for other films and programs.
     
  13. moviebuff75

    moviebuff75 Supporting Actor

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    My disc one won't work. This is my second copy. My firmware is up to date. Very frustrating.
     
  14. Billy Batson

    Billy Batson Cinematographer

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    Yup, I do the same thing, turn the colour & brightness up, but I shouldn't have to! I don't know why they didn't release it worldwide at the same time, who cares if the 50th anniversary is released in the 49th year, did anyone mind that the 50th anniversary Ben-Hur was released in the 52nd year (I think), did they even notice?
     
  15. rsmithjr

    rsmithjr Screenwriter

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    I also turn the blue down by 4 notches. The color balance is simply too cold to match the original Deluxe color. Fortunately, the tuning that I do makes a huge improvement.

    Some "purists" seem to think that you can calibrate your system and then it works for every disk. Not true in either picture or sound, especially for older films.
     
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  16. JoshZ

    JoshZ Second Unit

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    Well, it's supposed to work that way, if the title has been transferred to the proper reference standards. Unfortunately, not all video transfers are everything they could be.
     
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  17. Nick*Z

    Nick*Z Second Unit

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    I have to say the only thing that disappointed me about this disc was the fact that the missing footage seems to now be filed away as 'truly missing'. I have to say that in reviewing the documentary 'Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood" (a fabulous companion piece, by the way, and a pity it didn't get upgraded to full 1080p) I noted a few very brief snippets of footage from both the Rome shoot and the aborted Pinewood Studios outtakes. These would have been much appreciated to have been included as remastered extras in 1080p. Clearly, some of the MIA footage currently is out there.

    Whether or not it is accompanied by a viable soundtrack or not is another matter entirely, but I sure would have appreciated seeing it in its raw state. Criterion did this on their Great Dictator set, giving us the rare behind-the-scenes Technicolor outtakes, unedited and without commentary as an extra.

    Fox could have, and ought to have done the same with Cleopatra. They may not have all the footage, but the documentary at least reveals that somewhere they have some of it.
     
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  18. Andrew Budgell

    Andrew Budgell Screenwriter

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    I was disappointed about this, too and expressed this on other threads. Fox DOES have what would have been the film's first glimpses of Cleopatra: Cleopatra walking in her camp (visible in the documentary you referred to) and Cleopatra divining the future. They also have trims from the entrance into Rome, costume tests and Pinewood footage, which you mentioned. Why they didn't include these as bonus material and make this a definitive release is baffling. What a wasted opportunity.
     
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  19. RBlenheim

    RBlenheim Agent

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    I hate to point this out, but isn't a Blu-ray of Mankiewicz's "Cleopatra" all-too-much ado about nothing? The film is a huge elephantine bomb in spite of its great music score by Alex North. It's an awful film.

    Restoration of this turkey? Isn't this going too far? (I mean, before "Khartoum" or Vidor's "The Crowd"?????)
     
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  20. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    This "turkey" was monstrously expensive, but hardly a bomb!!! It's the #1 Box Office film of 1963...I'll leave others to judge your opinion of its artistic merits...
     

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