A Few Words About A few words about...™ The Bridge on the River Kwai-- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 25, 2010.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,262
    Likes Received:
    5,133
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    I presume that few need background regarding Sir David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai.

    It is, and has been, an accepted multiple Academy Award winning masterpiece for over fifty years. Primarily photographed in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, by Jack Hilyard (who was a Technicolor camera operator in the late 1930s, and became a cinematographer, or "lighting cameraman" with the 1945 Caesar and Cleopatra, sharing credit with some of the best in the business, Jack Cardiff, Robert Krasker, and Freddie Young).

    He went on to photograph several of David Lean's projects, inclusive of Breaking the Sound Barrier, Hobson's Choice, and Summertime. He was offered Lawrence, but the deal fell apart because of what was perceived as an extraordinarily high sum demanded by his representatives.

    Enter Freddie Young, and the rest was history.

    I use quite a few words discussing Mr. Hilyard, as the shoot, much like Lawrence was defined by problems on location, as well as equipment with early adapter lenses to create the CinemaScope image. It was a struggle.

    Originally planned for stereo, production photography was set at full aperture, 2.66:1, which would have been projected at 2.55. Changes during post finalized monaural prints, and to make room for the track, the image was standardized at 2.35:1.

    The problem was that during preparation of the printing matrices, the left side of the image was cropped as opposed to centering, with the track overlaid. It remained in this format until the 1990s, when it was expanded to the proper 2.55.

    Prepared for release c. 1991, and fitted with a new stereo soundtrack, the film looked good, but not perfect.

    Finally, under the steady hand of Columbia's Grover Crisp, Kwai has been brought back to its early glory with pitch perfect color, densities, grain structure and shadow detail all in their proper places. The track is now in a new stereo 5.1, which eliminates much of the "circus" atmosphere of the early previous version. The music, which was recorded mono, is nicely centered, with occasional effects and dialogue using the stereo proscenium.

    All of this has been done with a delicate hand. So much so, that as discussions were held in 1991 to create a stereo track to add a bit of dimensionality, I believe that DL would have approved this track. His precise instructions were "Don't make a circus out of it." This track is absolutely not a circus, it's simply a bit more enveloping. That said, I do wish that the original mono track had been included on the new Blu-ray.

    Sony's release of Columbia's 1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai, is a gorgeous disc. There are no negatives aside from the missing original track.

    As a film, BotRK has stood the test of time, and is as powerful a film and message today as it was half a century ago.

    One of the greatest films ever made.

    Extremely Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. dpippel

    dpippel HTF Premium Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2000
    Messages:
    4,160
    Likes Received:
    695
    Real Name:
    Doug
    I've really been looking forward to this release Robert, and I'm thankful that it gets your stamp of approval. Thanks for the thoughtful and interesting commentary, as always.
     
  3. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    Messages:
    5,185
    Likes Received:
    1,165
    Location:
    Nor'east
    Real Name:
    Charles Smith
    Salivating.
     
  4. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2002
    Messages:
    7,632
    Likes Received:
    1
    Fantastic news indeed.

    Can't wait
     
  5. Garysb

    Garysb Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2003
    Messages:
    1,730
    Likes Received:
    162
    Is the aspect ratio of the blu ray 2:35:1 or 2:55:1 ?

    Thanks
     
  6. Brent Avery

    Brent Avery Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2002
    Messages:
    733
    Likes Received:
    32
    It is 2:55, and I sure am glad I have a good sized 2:35 screen to view it on. I had to watch it twice over the weekend.
     
  7. Bradley-E

    Bradley-E Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    1,019
    Likes Received:
    0
    I almost thought about going to the screening at the Egyptian last night. But with the Blu ray around the corner I gave it a pass. Glad to hear it is top notch, But pretty much Sony has kept thier standards high. Can't wait!
     
  8. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2001
    Messages:
    38,114
    Likes Received:
    5,547
    Location:
    Rensselaer, NY
    I get nervous when I hear 5.1 audio tracks have been created from mono tracks with effects and dialogue moved around.

    I worry that the soundstage might get tampered with--much the same as some of what we've heard about Psycho with a "reimagining" of how the effects/music might have been done.

    I think it's a substantial omission that the original mono soundtrack is not included on this disc.
     
  9. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2001
    Messages:
    3,740
    Likes Received:
    543
    Location:
    Fishkill, NY
    Real Name:
    Rich Gallagher
    You'll see more about this when I write my review, but I don't believe that you'll have a problem with the 5.1 soundtrack. The primary effect is to create a greater sense of being immersed in the jungle. There is no heavy-handed attempt to turn this into something it was not intended to be. I always prefer to have the option of the original soundtrack, but this is not a radical departure.

    And, as Robert has written, the picture is stunning.
     
  10. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2007
    Messages:
    1,573
    Likes Received:
    318
    Location:
    MPLS, MN
    Real Name:
    Jack
    I wish the release contained the original MONO track also. Kind of a poor move on SONYs part. They should realize some may have wanted that track. It is hard to beat that AMAZON.com pre-order currently at 20.99 for the collector set however. Very excited.

    Lawrence of Arabia is my second fav film of all time, so I am looking forward to that release be it 2011 or 2012?
     
  11. Robin9

    Robin9 Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2006
    Messages:
    2,805
    Likes Received:
    830
    Real Name:
    Robin
    So do I.
     
  12. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 1999
    Messages:
    10,727
    Likes Received:
    566
    Location:
    Florida
    Real Name:
    Aaron Silverman
    It's annoying, but IMO if the 5.1 track is tastefully done then it's not a huge deal. To be honest, I wouldn't even listen to the mono track unless the 5.1 track were poor.

    Which is not to say that it *shouldn't* have been included. But it won't stop me from buying the disc (already owning the DVD might, though ).
     
  13. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2001
    Messages:
    38,114
    Likes Received:
    5,547
    Location:
    Rensselaer, NY
    That's probably the way I would feel about it, too, Aaron. But after reading the stories in the Psycho thread about the attempt at a "tastefully done" 5.1 mix, I realize that there are so many things that can go wrong. In the Psycho thread, members note that various sfx are changed (the sound of the driving rain), sfx are completely missing (footsteps, car horns), the mix of music and sfx is different...

    I initially read these claims as one might read complaints about changes to the Star Wars film by the fanboys. But as they kept coming in, I started thinking that while I could support the idea of attempting to "widen the soundstage" by utilizing the surrounds...it is really important to have that original audio track in place. After all, screwing with the audio can be just as damaging to recreating a film's presentation as cropping the video.
     
  14. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 1999
    Messages:
    10,727
    Likes Received:
    566
    Location:
    Florida
    Real Name:
    Aaron Silverman
    Well, what you're describing with the Psycho disc doesn't sound like it qualifies as "tastefully done."

    "If" might be a big "if," but it's still an "if." *If* you know what I mean.

    I'm more hopeful after reading Robert's comments about a "delicate hand."
     
  15. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2004
    Messages:
    4,065
    Likes Received:
    1,296
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Real Name:
    John Moreland
    I always take the reviews of new mixes with a grain of salt. Some people just handle anything new or different. But my personal experience of the Psycho mix was that it left A LOT to be desired. The mono is infinitely better to my ears. Hoping the Kwai mix is better. Of course, I guess we have no choice.
     
  16. marsnkc

    marsnkc Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2006
    Messages:
    515
    Likes Received:
    80
    Real Name:
    Andrew
    Though I think 'Lawrence' is the best film ever made, and the greatest performance is Brando's in 'Waterfront', my favorite film is actually 'Dr. No'! It doesn't belong in such exalted company but there you go!

    I think the greatest film after 'Lawrence' is 'Bridge', and while 'Lawrence' is somewhat of an obsession with me, in my more sober moments I think 'Bridge' is probably the better film, certainly a tighter one and more 'entertaining'. (This doesn't mean that I want a single frame to be cut from RAH's restoration. If anything, I want more!)

    As for the 'Lawrence' Blu-ray, I'd be surprised if it gets released before 2012, the hugely significant 50th anniversary.
     
  17. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2001
    Messages:
    3,740
    Likes Received:
    543
    Location:
    Fishkill, NY
    Real Name:
    Rich Gallagher
    I watched Kwai last night and and there is nothing in the new mix which disturbed me. I'm going to do an A/B comparison with the mono soundtrack on the last DVD release tonight, and I'll report on my impressions in my review (which will be up late tonight or tomorrow).
     
  18. Geoff_D

    Geoff_D Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Messages:
    923
    Likes Received:
    25
    The 5.1 on this will probably be akin to the track on Jason And The Argonauts, which also had mono music. Everything's pretty much centred, with the barest minimum of steerage to the front L + R channels (never mind the surrounds).

    Thanks for the write-up RAH, can't wait to get this.
     
  19. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2007
    Messages:
    1,573
    Likes Received:
    318
    Location:
    MPLS, MN
    Real Name:
    Jack
    There seems to be a lot people complaining that screen grabs they see on some reviews online and what some people who review it feel that the image looks stratched horizontally. I still have my orginal Two Disc DVD release for this and Lawrence of Arabia ...

    I did however see a few years back a 70MM print of Lawrence at the Heights Theatre in MN. I think it was about 7-8 yrs ago.
     
  20. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,262
    Likes Received:
    5,133
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    The image is NOT stretched in any way. What people are seeing are the famous CinemaScope "mumps."

    RAH
     

Share This Page