A Few Words About A few words about...™ The Longest Day -- in Blu-Ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, May 25, 2008.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    What do you say about a film that no longer looks quite like film?

    The Longest Day (1962) is a huge cinematic recreation of 6 June 1944, and the Allied invasion of France as envisioned by one of the greatest names of the golden age of American cinema -- Darryl F. Zanuck. Those who don't know who Mr. Zanuck was need to find the time to do a bit of research. You'll find his name attached to some of the most important films created during six decades.

    Photographed in black & white in 35mm CinemaScope, with re-issue engagements blown up to 70mm, The Longest Day is a textbook of precisely what one could do with properly exposed black & white negative 45 years ago.

    From white to blacks, and the gray scale in between, this disc has it all and nicely rendered for the nuance of grays.

    The cast reads like a dictionary of actors of the era: John Wayne, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Richard Beymer, Eddie Albert, Bourvil, Sean Connery, Mel Ferrer, Henry Fonda, Steve Forrest, Gert Frobe (Goldfinger), Alexander Knox, Peter Lawford, Sal Mineo, Robert Mitchum, Kenneth More, Edmond O'Brien, Robert Ryan, Richard Todd, and possibly every other actor then in SAG.

    Until the arrival of Saving Private Ryan a decade ago, this was THE Normandy invasion film.

    The interesting technical point that we now reach is the question of what a film should look like on Blu-Ray.

    How much like "cinema" should it look?

    Should it retain grain?

    Should the image be cleansed?

    And it is on this point that many people agree to disagree.

    While I'm firmly in the "keep the grain" and eliminate noise reduction camp, there are those who prefer to have less (or no) grain, and prefer their images nice, bright, tidy and clean. Very, very clean.

    While I enjoyed seeing The Longest Day on Blu-Ray, I was unable to recognize it as film. There was no look of the cinema, except for some occasional white vertical scratches that remain.

    To my eye, the image appears to be highly processed, removing grain, and with it, much of the high frequency information that can be so easily replicated in the wonderful Blu-Ray system. This is what high definition Blu-Ray is all about. Facial tonalities as they are, take on the look similar to wax figures in Madame Tussauds. I'm thinking back here to Paramount's HD
    release of The Untouchables which was devoid of detail.

    Let me be absolutely clear.

    I would bet that the majority of the audience for this film will either never recognize the fact that it no longer looks like film, or loves the look.

    Possibly I'm just a purist.

    Can I recommend a disc that has been processed to look a bit like Bambi?

    Sure.

    Do I like it?

    No.

    Will many people care?

    Probably not.

    The Longest Day is superb filmmaking, bought to Blu-Ray by Fox in what appears to be a nicely cleaned version.

    Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. john a hunter

    john a hunter Supporting Actor

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  3. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Quite correct. My brain is apparently slowing down. I was thinking of In Harm's Way.

    TLD was 35mm 4 track magnetic in original release with 70 for re-issue. Thank you for catching this.
     
  4. Mike Williams

    Mike Williams Screenwriter

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    Mr. Harris, I'm eagerly awaiting your review of "Patton," a tad-bit disappointed that it seems to be your final Father's Day WWII film to review, since it happens to one of my two favorite films of all time.
     
  5. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    Mr. Harris, you've raised a very good point about the nature of recommendations of films in the home viewing environment. On the one hand, you deplore the "scrubbed" look of this film (and, while I haven't seen the Blu-ray, I have seen a number of other films you've commented upon--enough to highly respect your opinions on the matter, irrespective of your profession [I mean that in the sense that I try not to automatically agree with someone simply because they are in a particular line of work]). On the other, you recommend it nonetheless (presumably more on the strength of it as a film than of its presentation). I anticipate that some "purists" will accuse you of "selling out" or some such nonsense (the type that cannot watch something because it has been "ruined" owing to a fractional shift in the colour of the sky compared to when he originally saw it in 1956 or something) but rest assured, your reviews and comments are widely appreciated (perhaps not by my wallet, though [​IMG] ).

    Philosophically, I favour reproductions that approximate the original as closely as possible, but I also recognize that there are times when circumstances will dictate a discrepancy. In this instance, sadly, it appears to be a choice, rather than an obligation, that governed the discrepancy but, ultimately, if it does not interfere with the storytelling, I can cope with it. Besides, even with the flaws and shortcomings, we are fortunate indeed to be able to enjoy films at home in a manner that was, for the general public, unimaginable, much less attainable, fewer than 20 years ago.
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Not by design. I do not yet have a copy of Patton, to which I was also looking forward.
     
  7. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    Thanks for the 411 in advance on this, Robert. I greatly disliked the appearence of the Untouchables and was on the fence about this one anyway. .
    Off to cancel my Amazon order for TLD.
     
  8. Marco S

    Marco S Agent

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    Movies should be restored, to look like they did, on the night of their premiere.
     
  9. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I'm not cancelling my preorder because it might be many years before this is revisited again.






    Crawdaddy
     
  10. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    Precisely. While I agree, in principle, with Marco S, I will not go so far as to boycott a film I like (or anticipate I would like) because it has a less than ideal presentation in a new format that, despite its flaws, is better than any previous presentation readily available at home. One must balance one's expectations with market realities (not that one should be happy about it, but there it is).

    For example, a film that I enjoy that has had very little good said about it in either of its HDM releases, Face Off, is still better on HD DVD than I've ever seen it in my home (just watched it last night). I have better looking HD DVDs (some whose original source dates back almost half a century) but it still looked better than either the DVD (which I've seen but not purchased) or my widescreen VHS (which can now be retired to the secondary viewing room for casual viewing when I don't want to fire up the PJ). I bought it because it was inexpensive but also because I doubt it will get a better presentation for some years to come. It is a sad reality and while we should continue to express discontent at less than stellar releases, we should recognize that not everything will get the attention it deserves.
     
  11. Ken Koc

    Ken Koc Screenwriter

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    Personally, I think the film looks and sounds fantastic.
     
  12. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    This film for me is not unlike The Untouchables. It's a film that is entertaining enough that I can over look a less than perfect presentation. Once I get into the movie I'm really not paying all that much attention to the film grain. I would much prefer that they not do this kind of thing, but if the film is good enough I'm not going to pass it up because of it.

    Doug
     
  13. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    I understand those sentiments perfectly. I have no emotional attachment with this particular film, so I can afford to be a zealot in this instance.

    However if they keep pulling this stuff with Planet Of The Apes and Alien, I'm going to be livid. I've just watched too many highly decent sd presentations lately. I can be happy with less than ideal, I just don't relish dropping an extra $40, or even $25, for that 'privilege'.
    The Untouchables, while I didn't appreciate the manipulation, still offered big improvments in compression artifacting and aliasing that were rampant on the dvd. There are many classic Fox titles I would love to own in high quality Bd presentations. The problem is many are already available in highly competent sd editions. I would really prefer to only support conscientious efforts at this point. I do look forward to getting The Sand Pebbles.
     
  14. dannyboy104

    dannyboy104 Stunt Coordinator

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    I have just viewed Patton on Blu-Ray from Fox and its probably one of the best presentations I have seen at home.It's superb.
     
  15. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I am not in any way suggesting that anyone cancel pre-orders or boycott TLD.

    It is a film that should be seen, and it has been released in a quality presentation.

    There are several different ways in which film (as opposed to DIs or HDs) can be taken to home video. This is one of them, based upon a certain set of requirements or preferences.

    The way that things are handled is a matter of opinion. As I've noted, I feel one way about it. Many, many people feel precisely the opposite, inclusive of many studio executives.

    I gave TLD a "Recommended" because it should be, not based upon my personal set of preferences.

    RAH
     
  16. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    RAH,
    I think we understand the distinction of what you're conveying on this matter.





    Crawdaddy
     
  17. Vern Dias

    Vern Dias Stunt Coordinator

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    RAH:

    Here is the $20,000.00 question:

    Where were the subtitles positioned?

    Were they partially in the bottom black bar or were they fully within the 2.40 image area?

    Vern
     
  18. Kris Z.

    Kris Z. Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the review, very disappointing news for those of us who are in it for the cinematic experience. Eagerly awaiting your views on Patton.

    Vern, the screenshot in the DVD Beaver review would indicate that the subtitles are in the frame.
     
  19. Michel_Hafner

    Michel_Hafner Supporting Actor

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    They can buy HD cam material or low grain filmed films or use the denoiser on their displays and players. That's what they are for.
    Of course clean and looking like film are not contradictions. It's the clean with plenty of DNR artifacts as well look which is so annoying (waxy clean, no HF detail, and worse).
    Thanks for the warning. No purchase for sure. Let's not delude ourselves. Buying sends a message: I like it. Gimme more!
    I don't like it. I wanna no more.
     
  20. Danny_N

    Danny_N Second Unit

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    I don't like DNR at all but in this case I will buy the BD nonetheless. The SD is so bad that it is unwatchable on a bigger screen and it could be years (if ever) that Fox revisits this title on BD.
     

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