DVD Review HTF REVIEW: A Man For All Seasons Special Edition

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Richard Gallagher, Feb 18, 2007.

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  1. Richard Gallagher

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    A Man for All Seasons: Special Edition





    Studio: Sony/Columbia
    Year: 1966
    Rated: Not Rated
    Length: 120 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen
    Languages: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Mono, French
    Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese

    The Program

    First, a caveat – this “Special Edition” is not particularly special. The only extra is an 18-minute featurette, “The Life of Saint Thomas More.”

    A Man for All Seasons won six Academy Awards in 1966, including Best Picture, Best Director (Fred Zinnemann) and Best Actor (Paul Scofield). It recounts the battle of wills between Henry VIII (Robert Shaw), the King of England from 1509-1547, and his Roman Catholic Chancellor, Sir Thomas More (Scofield).

    Henry VIII is married to Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of the King of Spain. However, during their nearly twenty years of marriage she has had several miscarriages and she has failed to give birth to a male heir. Henry desperately wants to have a son, but the prospects have become extremely bleak as Catherine reaches the age of 40. At the same time, Henry has become enamored with Anne Boleyn (Vanessa Redgrave), a young lady-in-waiting to Catherine. Henry has an affair with Anne and he instructs his Roman Catholic Chancellor, Cardinal Woolsey (Orson Welles), to petition the Pope for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine. When Woolsey’s efforts fail, he is dismissed and Sir Thomas More becomes Chancellor. However, Sir Thomas, torn between his loyalty to his king and his commitment to his church, refuses to support Henry’s efforts to marry Anne Boleyn.

    A Man for All Seasons was adapted for the screen by Robert Bolt from his own stage play. Your enjoyment of the film will probably depend upon your interest in the subject matter. There is a considerable amount of intrigue, treachery and political infighting, but not a great deal of action. The script is highly literate and the performances are uniformly excellent.

    The Video

    I have not seen the original DVD release, but from what I have read the major complaint about it was excessive grain. There is still a fair amount of grain in this transfer, particularly in shots of the sky (by way of comparison, the DVD includes a trailer for the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility which exhibits virtually no grain). However, the image is generally crisp and the colors are solid, and even vibrant at times. The box says that it was remastered in high definition. Apart from the grain, the transfer for this 40-year-old film is very clean. A Man for All Seasons also won Academy Awards for Best Color Cinematography and Best Costume Design.

    The anamorphic widscreen transfer is listed as 1.66:1. When I upscaled the output on my Cambridge Audio DVD-89 player from 480p to 720p, the image became slightly windowboxed. At 480p the picture completely fills up the screen.

    The Audio

    The soundtrack for A Man for All Seasons was originally recorded in mono. The DVD offers viewers the choice of listening to the original mono or a remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The Dolby Digital soundtrack gives some added dimension to Georges Delerue’s musical score, but the difference is not dramatic. The dialogue is clear and always intelligible. I did not detect any significant hiss, noise, etc.

    The Supplements

    As noted, the only “special” on this Special Edition is an 18-minute featurette, “The Life of Saint Thomas More.” It looks like a shorter version of something you might see on the History Channel, but Sony owns the copyright so it apparently was produced especially for this DVD release. Several scholars discuss Sir Thomas More’s life and help to put the events which are depicted in the film into somewhat larger context. It is pointed out that one of the dramatic high points of the film, a scene at the conclusion of Sir Thomas’ trial, is taken from the actual court proceedings.

    It is disappointing that Sony did not put more into this release. Scofield, who may be best-known to younger audiences for his role as Mark van Doren in Quiz Show, has been primarily a stage actor during his distinguished career, and it would be interesting to hear his take on winning a Best Actor award for one of his relatively few film roles.

    Other Features

    The DVD is divided into 28 chapters which can be accessed from the main menu. There is also a trailer for Sense and Sensibility and a pan-and-scan trailer for the 1994 version of Little Women.

    The Final Analysis

    A Man for All Seasons is one of the more famous historical dramas of the past fifty years. However, I can’t give this DVD an unequivocal endorsement because I can’t be sure that it represents a significant improvement over the prior DVD, which was released in 1999. Comments from viewers who can do an A/B comparison will be welcome.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Cambridge Audio DVD-89 DVD player
    Sharp LC-42D62U LCD display
    Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
    BIC Acoustech speakers
    Interconnects: Monster Cable

    Release Date: February 20, 2007
     
  2. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Paul Scofield is one of seven actors who won an Oscar for recreating on screen a performance that they won a Tony for on the stage. (The others: Yul Brynner, Joel Grey, Rex Harrison, Shirley Booth, Jose Ferrer, Anne Bancroft). It would have been interesting to hear him talk about this achievement.
     
  3. RoyGBiv

    RoyGBiv Stunt Coordinator

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    I watched the original DVD a couple of years ago, and I thought it looked pretty good considering the movie was made 40 years ago. It is a great movie, but if this is not a very significant improvement, I can't see a lot of reason to go out of my way to find it.

    SMK
     
  4. Richard Gallagher

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    I just now found out that the film is going to be broadcast in HD on HDNet next month. It will be interesting to see how it compares with the new DVD.
     
  5. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Good review, Richard. I just have a technical question, so maybe this isn't quite the right sub-forum for it, but can someone explain why this happens?


    I don't have an upscaling DVD player. 1.66:1 anamorphic transfers do fill up the screen on my HDTV, in 480p. Why would the windowboxing only show up in the upscaling?
     
  6. Richard Gallagher

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    I'm sure that someone who has more technical knowledge of this stuff can give you a better answer, but I believe that what's happening is that when I upscale to 720p or 1080i I'm seeing the image exactly as it was transferred. For a 1.66:1 image to fill a 16:9 screen, the image has to be enchanced slightly, otherwise you would at the very least see small bars on either side of the image. In this case, the bars on the windowboxed image are very slight, and when I did an A/B comparison there did not appear to be any loss of image when I looked at it in 480p.

    I've only had the upscaling DVD player for about ten days, so I haven't had a lot of time to experiment with it. I looked at a 1.85:1 film the other day. Of course, on a 16:9 screen you are actually seeing an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. When I switched that image from 480p to an upscaled 720p, I saw a bit more information on the sides and slight black bars on the top and bottom. I didn't take the time to measure it, but it appeared to me that the upscaling gave me a true 1.85:1 image, rather than the 1.78:1 I was seeing at 480p.

    When I get a chance I'll try it with a 2.35:1 image and see if upscaling makes a difference in what I can see.
     
  7. Dick

    Dick Producer
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    I am so tired of this deceitful practice of re-issuing a DVD as a "special edition" when, besides offering almost nothing new, actually REMOVE something that had been included in the first release (in this case, the theatrical trailer). But I love this film so much that I'll buy it just to have better picture quality. The color was very weak first time around.
     
  8. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    OK, but why is there some image loss at 480p? That's the main thing I don't quite get.
     
  9. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Here's a title I am anxious to see. Everything about it screams quality production: Zinneman, Welles, Shaw, Scofield, Best Picture.

    One of the thrills of the hobby for me is getting a chance to see films which had been "missed" over the years. This is one of them. Here Comes Mr. Jordan was one such title which was released a week or so ago. I had never seen it before. What a terrific film!

    I wasn't even aware of the earlier release. And I scout "used" DVD bins all the time and never remember stumbling across this title. Thanks for the review, Richard!
     
  10. SteveJKo

    SteveJKo Second Unit

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    Mike it's a fantastic film. Got my copy yesterday and watched it last night. It is not the world's greatest transfer, but the film is so well acted and so well produced that a few minutes into it you don't notice anything but the great story and the performances supporting it.

    And what a suprise, I totally forgot that a very young John Hurt is in it, some thirteen years before he had a disturbing encounter with the ultimate illegal alien!
     
  11. Richard Gallagher

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    You may have misunderstood me.

    There is no image loss on "A Man for All Seasons." It appears to be the same at 480p as it is upscaled to 720p. If there is any difference at all, it is so minute that I can't see it.

    However, a film which is actually framed at 1.85.1 is going to lose a sliver of information on the sides when enhanced for 16:9 displays, because 16:9 is actually 1.78:1. You can't put an entire 1.85:1 image on a 1.78:1 screen without having small bars at the top and bottom.

    When I upscale a 1:85.1 film to 720p, the image is slightly letterboxed and shows a tad more information on the sides than what I am seeing at 480p.
     
  12. Richard Gallagher

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    The colors look pretty good to me. You probably recall that red is very prominent in this film and the reds are quite vivid, with no bleeding.
     
  13. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Deleted--double post.
     
  14. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    Maybe "image loss" wasn't the right term for me to use--I see that you did say in one of your posts that you couldn't detect any image loss in 480p. But what I was wondering was why you don't get the slight windowboxing for the 1.66:1 image within the 1.78:1 frame in 480p, as opposed to the fact that it does show up that way in 720p.

    In other words, as you said in one of your posts, the 720p image you're getting is "exactly as it was transferred," but why doesn't it appear that way in 480p?
     
  15. Richard Gallagher

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    This is strictly a guess, but I would think that to get a 1.66:1 image to fill a 1.78:1 screen, they have blow it up slightly. Whatever the process is, it is so subtle that you really can't see any difference.

    It's a bit difficult for me to do a quick a/b comparison, because to change the output from 480p to 720p on my DVD player I have to hit stop, then punch a button on my remote, and then hit play. To go back again I have to hit stop, then punch the button several times (past 1080i and 480i) to get back to 480p again. So it's possible that in 480p there could be a sliver of information missing from the top and bottom of the screen, but if so it's not enough to be noticeable. For this film, I preferred to watch it in 480p.
     
  16. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I am doing my very best to collect every BEST PICTURE
    on DVD.

    Saw this film for the very first time on DVD the other day.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The acting by Paul Scofield
    was just magnificent, and it gave me insight into a real-life
    person that I had known little about.

    That being said, I was amazed that this was reissued and
    labeled as a SPECIAL EDITION. The image quality was just
    fair, and the supplements were pretty lackluster.

    Still, I am a very proud owner of this film on DVD!
     
  17. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    I think the transfer is pretty good; the scene of Henry's barge arrival at More's house on the Thames is stunning.

    Scofield delivers a towering performance, from a beautiful, literate, witty script. His scene with Welles and his final speech to the Commons make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
     
  18. dana martin

    dana martin Cinematographer

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    I am working on getting every best picture as well, and was holding off on this after the initial review, but now they seem to be more positive. Nice to hear that the colors dont bleed. No all i have to do is wait for the other King with problems (Becket).
     
  19. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    I don't think there were many negative reviews about the quality of the release. It's just not a great improvement over the previous release. If I did not already have the previous version, I'd have bought the new one. I think of the new release not so much as a disappointing special edition, but more of a "re-issue" of the original DVD with a few extra features.

    Glad you got it. It's a must-have IMO.
     
  20. DouglasBr

    DouglasBr Stunt Coordinator

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    Glad to hear Ron and others are seeing this film for the first time, one of my all-time favorites. I guess for that reason I'm a tad disappointed this wasn't more "special", and doubt I'll double-dip. I'm a big fan of Scofield and would have loved some kind of commentary or on-camera interview with the man.

    Naturally, if I didn't have the first release this would be a no-brainer buy.
     

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