HTF REVIEW - UNIVERSAL CLASSICS - ARABIAN NIGHTS - RECOMMENDED

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Kevin EK, Mar 4, 2007.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    [​IMG]

    ARABIAN NIGHTS


    Studio: Universal
    Film Year: 1942
    Film Length: 87 minutes
    Genre: Adventure
    Aspect Ratio:
    • 1.33:1 Full Frame
    Colour/B&W: Colour (Three Strip Technicolor!)
    Audio:
    • English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
    Subtitles: English SDH, French
    Film Rating: Not Rated

    Release Date: February 6, 2007.

    Rating: 3/5

    With: Jon Hall, Maria Montez, Sabu, Leif Erikson, Billy Gilbert, Thomas Gomez, Shemp Howard and the Bewitching Harem Queens
    Story and Screenplay by: Michael Hogan
    Additional Dialogue by True Boardman
    Produced by: Walter Wanger
    Directed by: John Rawlins

    Available for the first time on DVD, ARABIAN NIGHTS has been digitally restored for this release. The result is a beautiful colorful presentation of Universal’s first three-strip Technicolor film. The movie itself could be called a camp classic, with Jon Hall playing a storybook leader who adventures with a band of entertainers including Maria Montez as the legendary Scheherazade before he regains his throne with their help. The movie hasn’t aged well, particularly given the current state of affairs in the Middle East, but it’s a fun ride if you turn off your modern sensibilities and just ride downstream with it. Some performances here are better than others, but this is a great way to see how Universal started to work with Technicolor. And it’s a lot of fun, with a lot of laughs along the way.


    VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5

    The full frame picture has been lovingly restored for this release by Universal. The colors almost jump off the screen at the viewer, and many details that may have been lost in earlier releases are now visible. In the opening storyteller sequence, for example, the small group of white birds snacking just above the cast can now be clearly seen. On the other hand, the frequent use of matte paintings throughout is apparent, as is the intercutting between location photography with doubles and the soundstage work with the lead performers. (The same thing happened with the great restoration work on THE WIZARD OF OZ – the colors looked great, but you could easily tell where the backdrops on the stage were at all times…) Personally, I wasn’t that distracted by the imperfections, as they are a part of the film itself. I simply appreciated the beauty of the colors of the sets and wardrobe. And the film stands as a monument to the beauty of Maria Montez.


    AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5

    ARABIAN NIGHTS is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English soundtrack. The dialogue, music and effects are clear and easy to distinguish. By today’s standards, this isn’t that impressive of a mix, but in its day, this film was nominated for Oscars for both sound and score. For myself, I simply noted a clear sound mix – which probably goes to show how far film sound has advanced in 65 years.

    SPECIAL FEATURES: 1/5

    • Exclusive Introduction by TCM Host Robert Osborne (2:46): Robert Osborne provides his customary introduction here. He gives a bit of the backstory on the creation of the film, as well as a discussion of the film’s casting. He notes that the film’s success led to two more adventures with Jon Hall, Maria Montez and Sabu, as well as three more with just Hall and Montez. He also notes that the film is effectively a Western in a different setting, which is both accurate and thought provoking in itself.
    The DVD includes a trailer for the film, albeit from a non-restored print. The difference of the restoration becomes apparent when one sees the trailer – the colors simply don’t pop and there are multiple instances of flickering and picture damage that don’t occur during the restored feature presentation. Subtitles are provided in English, and French. Similar to the other Universal Classics releases, there is no chapter menu provided on the disc, and no guide sheet or booklet included in the DVD packaging. If you stop the disc in mid-film and wish to begin again, you may find yourself skipping through the film to get to your last place, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the time counter before stopping or ejecting the disc.

    IN THE END...

    Once again, Universal Classics has presented a beautiful restoration of a classic from an earlier time. In this case, the film is more of a camp classic, but it’s still a lot of fun. The film is memorable for its colorful sets and costumes, as well as for the memorable initial pairing of Hall and Montez. This is the first time the film has been available on DVD. If you have this film on VHS, you haven’t seen it yet – get this DVD to see how good the picture can look.


    Kevin Koster
    March 4, 2007.
     
  2. MikeGale

    MikeGale Agent

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    Nice review, Kevin. This is truly Saturday matinee material in the best way, and the eye-popping color restoration is a joy to behold. Of note is the appearance of Shemp Howard who would a few years later replace Curly in the 3 Stooges. Shemp plays Sinbad with a NY accent (!), which is a clear indication that this movie is not meant to be taken seriously on any level.

    And it is indeed a nuisance that Universal can't both to include a chapter menu, especially after spending the money to do such a nice restoration.
     
  3. RandallV

    RandallV Second Unit

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    I truly regret just skimming your great review. If I'd read that there were *no* chapters I would not have purchased the film. The film is wonderful and does look terrific. However, I feel like I now own a brand new VHS tape recorded on a DVD. At least when you stop a tape you are right where you left the film when you start the movie again. No chapters = quite annoying. Quite annoying = no sale.
     
  4. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    I haven't seen this disc yet, but the other recent Universal Classics do have chapters, just no chapter menu. That's the same with this release, isn't it?
     
  5. RandallV

    RandallV Second Unit

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    I couldn't find any chapters.
     
  6. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    I want COBRA WOMAN!!!!!
     
  7. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

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    Is there truly no chapters on this DVD? I have a hard time believing that any studio could let something that basic pass on a new DVD today.

    I had this title on my "TO BUY" list, but if that is true, it has just dropped to my "TO RENT" queue. I will not reward any studio that is that lazy. I'm glad to see Universal dipping into their catalog further, and ZERO extras was hard enough to swallow. No chapters is the straw that breaks me back.
     
  8. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    I'm happy to recheck the disc, but there should be plenty of chapters. The problem is that there is no chapter MENU. The Universal Classics releases have uniformly lacked such a menu, which is why I note that you wind up having to skip through the chapters to find where you left off. My point about watching the timecode is just to allow you to pinpoint the chapter closest to your stopping point. I personally find the lack of that menu or even an insert sheet a bit disconcerting, and I hope that Universal corrects this on their next Classics release slate.
     
  9. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

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    A check would be appreciated.

    I can deal without the menu page (although it's still pretty pathetic since that has become a basic feature), as long as their are actual breaks that I can manually skip to.
     
  10. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    Yes, there are plenty of chapters. I put the disc back in as soon as I got home from work, and found chapter stops every few minutes throughout the feature. Some are as close as under 3 minutes, and others are as long as 12 minutes. I still advise keeping an eye on the timecode when stopping the movie unless you have a DVD player that will remember where you left off.

    The issue is not that there are no chapter stops - it's that there is no online menu for them. So you do have tabs along the way, but you have to navigate them manually. And this is an unnecessarily cumbersome way to navigate through the DVD.
     
  11. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the confirmation Kevin.

    Although, it's incredibly lazy of Universal to not have a menu option, as long as there are chapter stops I'll add this back on to my "TO BUY" list.

    Thanks again.
     
  12. RandallV

    RandallV Second Unit

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    Yes, thank you. I've never owned a DVD without a chapter menu. Please be patient with me. Once I restart the movie I need to hit the "skip" button to access the chapters in sequencial order? This isn't much better than "fast forward", in my opinion.
     
  13. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    I think it depends on your DVD player. With mine, I can hit the "display" button to bring up a menu bar at the top of the screen that allows me to change the chapter number on the fly. I can cycle through the chapter numbers there, or type in a particular number if I know which chapter I want to go to.
     

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