Papillon Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Cameron Yee, May 16, 2011.

  1. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Papillon
    Release Date: May 24, 2011
    Studio: Warner Home Video
    Packaging/Materials: Single-disc "Digi-Book"
    Year: 1973
    Rating: PG
    Running Time: 2:30:47
    MSRP: $34.99







    THE FEATURE

    SPECIAL FEATURES



    Video

    1080p high definition 2.40:1

    Standard definition



    Audio

    DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1

    Stereo



    Subtitles

    English SDH, Spanish, French

    None






    The Feature: 5/5


    The penal colony of Devil's Island in French Guiana is notorious for being hell on earth. If disease and the environment don't kill a man, the endless years of imprisonment will surely break his spirit. Sent there to atone for a murder he claims he didn't commit, Papillon (Steve McQueen) can think of nothing else but escape from the moment he's sentenced. And it's on the voyage out to his new home that he takes his first hopeful steps toward freedom, by striking a deal with a timid forger named Dega (Dustin Hoffman) who needs protection from the other prisoners looking for a piece of his wealth. In exchange for Papillon's muscle, Dega agrees to fund his escape plans, though it quickly becomes clear the island and its administrators will not allow such a thing to happen soon or easily. But it's ultimately a critical choice between his own well being and that of his new friend's that will alter Papillon's plans, though no setback - regardless of how serious - will ever change his singular desire for freedom.

    "Papillon's" promotional materials make a clever reference to McQueen's filmography by describing the movie as "the greatest escape." Indeed, the story of the single-minded penal colony inmate, nicknamed for the butterfly on his chest, is structurally one long escape plot. But where some films might have focused on the procedural side of such an endeavor, as a sort of reverse heist movie, Screenwriters Henri Charriere and Dalton Trumbo and Director Franklin J. Schaffner instead use the opportunity to explore the bonds of friendship, the limits of the human will to live, and the undying need for freedom. McQueen bolsters the effort with his uncompromising performance, which feels stripped down and guileless compared to his other roles in more iconic films. By comparison Hoffman has noticeably less screen time, but he turns in a touching performance as the foil to McQueen's driven alpha male. Thanks to such stellar performances and a script with humanistic depth, "Papillon" endures and resonates in a way no simple "escape film" ever could.


    Video Quality: 4.5/5

    The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. The picture quality is on the whole impressive. Areas some may cite as problematic come down to characteristics of the source material or production choices (e.g. the blurriness in early scenes seems to be a product of the optics not a result of any mishaps with the transfer). Thinking about the film's various scenes, I am most struck by the depth of color in moments involving azure ocean waves, lush green jungles, and of course the baby blues of McQueen himself. Black levels and contrast show good depth and range - though they can be a little limited in the darkest of scenes - and fine detail holds up in both close ups or panoramic vistas. In one particular scene the tangle of thousands of dead tree branches is so crisp it feels like you'd cut yourself touching them (and with nary a sign of digital sharpening artifacts like edge haloing). There are a few instances of scratches or dirt, but overall the picture is clean and devoid of distractions.​


    Audio Quality: 4/5
    Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is consistently clear and intelligible. Surrounds offer some light support for the score and the occasional directional and atmospheric effect, but on the whole it's front-loaded mix that also has a reasonably wide and balanced sound stage. LFE is nowhere to be heard, but the track exhibits good depth and fullness, usually thanks to elements in the orchestral score, but also from ocean waves breaking on the rocky shores of Devil's Island.


    Special Features: 2/5

    Extras on-disc are meager, but the collectible book includes some information that would normally be covered through featurettes and commentaries. Though the quantity and quality of extras is consistent with past DVD releases, it would have been nice to see a retrospective interview or more archival materials included for its appearance on Blu-ray.



    The Magnificent Rebel (12:16, SD) is an archival behind-the-scenes during filming, and includes author Henri Charriere describing the experiences that lead to writing the novel.

    Original Theatrical Trailer (3:52, SD)

    Collectible Book integrated into the packaging includes production stills, cast and crew biographies, trivia, and an essay about the film.


    Recap

    The Feature: 5/5
    Video Quality: 4.5/5
    Audio Quality: 4/5
    Special Features: 2/5
    Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5



    Warner Home Video turns in a stellar presentation of a film that in the final estimation is more about the thirst for freedom than the struggles of imprisonment. The special features don't include anything more than what's been offered on past releases, which is ultimately a disappointment. Nevertheless, the quality of the presentation makes up for any shortcomings in the extras, and is recommended for those purchasing the title for the first time or those looking to upgrade from the now 10-year old DVD release.
     
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    One of my favorite films.


    Happy to see that Warner accomplished the task

    of putting a satisfying transfer in this package.


    Will be purchasing this.




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  3. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    Thanks for the review, Cameron. I am glad to read that Warner's put out a quality transfer of this fine film. I will be picking this up once the price comes down.
     
  4. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Awesome movie indeed


    Hoffman & McQueen at their very best
     
  5. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Scott,


    Yeah, that $26 pricetag is annoyingly high. I will

    probably wait for a price drop as well.




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  6. cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC Cinematographer
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    Great review - thanks Cameron. First day purchase for me. I don't feel too disappointed in the lack of extras - there's a fairly comprehensive doc on Steve McQueen on the Bullitt disc.
     
  7. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Glad to read the review. I picked this up early on Ebay for 14 bucks, and will be watching it this weekend. A great movie.
     
  8. David Wilkins

    David Wilkins Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review. A definite purchase.
     
  9. Cinescott

    Cinescott Supporting Actor

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    What is up with the MSRP on this title??? No buy until a price drop for me, even though it's a favorite.
     
  10. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    It's slightly less than the price of a Criterion title. But it's true that Criterion titles have more extras...
     
  11. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    It's a Blu-ry book release which is why it costs more than say The Cincinnati Kid which isn't a Blu-book release and is about $15 cheaper. Yes, it's a money-making strategy by the studios like their Anniversary editions. Hopefully, you'll be able to buy this on sale or they release a non-BRB edition in the coming months.
     
  12. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I have gotten to the point in this format that I will

    not pay more than $20 for a catalog Blu-ray release.


    I am confident we will see a price drop on Papillon

    in the next few months (I have it tagged on camelcamelcamel).


    Very much looking forward to owning this.



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  13. cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC Cinematographer
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    It seems Warner has dropped "filmed extras" in favor of liner notes and glossy photos - not the end of the world but the price is a bit steep.
     
  14. ReggieW

    ReggieW Screenwriter

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    I'm not a big fan of the Digibook marketing strategy either. For certain titles (which are top tier & have undergone serious work to make them presentable) such as Zhivago, North by Northwest & A Star is Born, this seems justified, but when they start producing Digibooks for titles like this one, Outlaw Josey Wales, Falling Down, Clash of the Titans, etc; then it starts to appear as if they're just trying to gouge by charging $34.95 for something that should sale for a fraction of this. A catalog title like Papillon & Falling down should carry a $19.95 msrp - just like Lolita & Barry Lyndon, imho. The fact that Warner continues to follow this digibook strategy tells me that Blu-ray catalog sales/profits must not be very satisfactory for them at this stage.
     
  15. Cinescott

    Cinescott Supporting Actor

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    I do think the digibook strategy is just a marketing ploy. $34.99 MSRP ($26 to $30 on the street) for a catalog title? Great movie, but c'mon. That's a bit steep and hard to justify. I also would pay $20 and will likely do so in the future, but a glossy production note booklet and a cardboard cover are not worth an additional $10 to me.


    The studio will likely have lackluster sales on Papillon until the price comes down. Hard core fans will buy, but that's not the meat of the business. This reminds me of the first days of Blu-ray, when virtually every title was $10 more than its DVD equivalent. Thankfully, that's not the case today.
     
  16. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    I don't like it that much either, but 34.99 is not that bad compared to the $79 msrp for Citizen Kane. $79 is truly strange, I think, esp. for a film where they don't even have the negative.


    I like lower prices like the next guy or gal, but I think if we want top quality releases sometimes we need to pay about $20 or sometimes a little bit more. But I agree that for that it should be fully restored, and that there should be great extras like you get with Criterion.
     
  17. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    This is an old favorite of mine too. I have the DVD, but the BD sounds so good PQ-wise (about time) that it's a must-buy.


    I've noticed that MSRPs seem to be getting ridiculously high lately for lots of titles. Makes the real selling price look like a better deal I guess. If anything, regardless of inflated MSRPs, BDs in general are selling for less than ever. Most titles that I upgrade to BD cost less than the DVD did way back. Often waaaay less...
     
  18. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Just watched this. There was a bit of haloing evident in some of the early scenes, but overall I was very pleased. I was especially struck by the richness of the black levels and the vividness of the colors. So happy to have this.
     
  19. Cinescott

    Cinescott Supporting Actor

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    From all accounts, this does appear to be a really good Blu-ray. It's just hard to justify a cost of over $20 personally. It is a catalog title, so the $35 seems a bit out-of-line. Citizen Kane at $75 is even worse, but at least that film is regarded by many as the best ever made. Papillon's a classic for sure, but CK is in a league of its own.


    Not a problem; I can wait for the pricing to go down or grab a used copy on Ebay. There are some titles where I am willing to do that instead of breaking the budget.
     
  20. ReggieW

    ReggieW Screenwriter

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    I guess we'll just have to get in the habit of waiting for non-digibook versions of catalog titles. I'm also interested in getting The Man who would be King, and lo and behold, its also been given the digibook treatment as well. I really don't think these deluxe packages will help spur consumers to purchase catalog titles at premium prices.
     

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