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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Battle of Britain -- in Blu-Ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, May 24, 2008.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Battle of Britain is being released on Blu-Ray by MGM via Fox Home Entertainment.

    With a budget upwards of ten million dollars, which was quite high for the time, and some of the greatest names in the history of the British cinema, (or acting in general for that matter), the film just barely stands the test of time.

    Photographed by the incomparable Freddie Young, BSC, who liked to fully expose his negatives as much as possible, the resultant Blu DVD shows precisely how good an almost forty year old Eastman negative can look when its image is properly harvested and taken to high definition video. It also shows just how much a cinematographer's work can be affected by his or her director. For the best of Mr. Young's work, one will have to look elsewhere.

    As an aside, and epics aside, one film that I hope arrives in the near future on Blu is Disney's Treasure Island (1950), a three-strip Technicolor production shot by Mr. Young, which can easily be a primer on shadow and light. Even in SD, take a look at the apple barrel scene with Bobby Driscoll, which is a wonderful example of Mr. Young's capabilities.

    With generally beautiful and rich color, and an image that is sharp as a tack when taken from original, this is a great Blu release on every technical level.

    The magnetic stereo audio has been captured and is in lossless form on the new DVD. Possibly because of the lossless nature of the playback, and the perfection of digital audio, we can now hear the roughness around the edges and the problems with occasional dialogue recordings, while the score shines through brilliantly. In magnetic playback on prints, this would have been naturally softened.

    Battle of Britain is a Harry Salzman production, and while millions were spent on the location work, the air battles, and a myriad of model aircraft, which occasionally look to be just that, especially as they explode in mid air, the film never quite comes together.

    What we have are:

    A. air battles;

    B. pilots lounging waiting to be called into action;

    C. young, inexperience pilots... "seven hours in a spitfire..." who never have a chance against the ace Nazi pilots;

    D. the relationship between Susannah York and Christopher Plummer, which tends to stop the film in its tracks;

    E. airfields being hit by Nazi bombers;

    F. senior officers fretting about the survival of England;

    G. more air battles;

    The film seems to lack cohesiveness, which we can blame on the script, which never seems to tie everything together. What we see are a host of vignettes, laced with smiling Nazis and determined British airmen.

    This is a good and interesting film that was never a great film, brought to Blu-Ray in high quality fashion.

    On a purely technical level, one can easily see the difference between original negative and dupes. This can almost be a lesson in film elements.

    The Main Title sequence is, of necessity, a couple of generations down. It appears that shots with sub-titles are also dupes, although one would think that this would not have been the case.

    Sharpness in dupes is noticeably down, as the high definition process leaves no hiding place for anything less than the highest quality element. This is actually an interesting anomaly, as original dye transfer prints of the film would have looked a bit better, with the added contrast of the printing system giving the dupes not more sharpness or clarity, but more apparent sharpness.

    For me, as well as many others, the appearance together of Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson and Trevor Howard representing one generation, along with Kenneth More, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Robert Shaw and Edward Fox of the next, is worth the price of admission alone.

    While not one of the great films of the 1960s, Battle of Britain is certainly worth viewing, and this new Blu incarnation makes it look wonderful and sound full and rich and quality systems via lossless audio. At least two databases list Battle of Britain as having screened in 70mm blow-up prints and magnetic stereo in Mexico and France. Whether this is correct or not, it would not be unusual for stereo tracks to have been created for the purpose.

    MGM and Fox have done their homework on a technical level, and created a superior product.

    Battle of Britain is Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. ahollis

    ahollis Well-Known Member

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    Well that did it. This is will now be the fourth purchase of this title. First on laserdisc, second a fair DVD, third was the Special Edition DVD and now this one.

    Thank you for the your remarks. It seems this is a given to get.
     
  3. Douglas R

    Douglas R Well-Known Member

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    Did Battle of Britain really have stereo prints? I always thought it was a mono film. I went to the UK premiere and as far as I recall it was in mono sound. I thought the stereo sound was a remix for DVD.
     
  4. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I have no idea whether or not the film was originally mixed in stereo. Many films were and a decision made in post to not invest in magnetic striped prints.

    It was apparently released as mono.

    The audio on the disc, however, sounds remarkably good in stereo, with the exception of some rough dialogue.

    Could it have been remixed from stereo mx stems and mono effects and dialogue? Possibly.

    If Steve Pickard happens by, he may have the answer.
     
  5. Danny_N

    Danny_N Well-Known Member

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    Most likely as it was also blown up to 70mm with 6-track stereo.
     
  6. Douglas R

    Douglas R Well-Known Member

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    Really? There were certainly no 70mm blow-ups in the UK.
     
  7. dannyboy104

    dannyboy104 Well-Known Member

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    70mm.com has a 70mm blow up listed 1969,France,6 track Stereo ,UA.
    There is also reference to a cinema in Mexico,the Cino Diana 2000 seat Todd-AO screen which had a UK blow up?I can find no other reference's to 70mm blow up.I found it interesting to read that 5 compact 5-perf 65mm camera's were used for the aerial shots,built by Jacobsen.


    [​IMG]
     
  8. john a hunter

    john a hunter Well-Known Member

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    The world premiere run at the Dominion in London started off with a 35mm optical print which was later replaced with a 35mm mag print when they became available. I too read in a book about the making of the film that 65mm cameras were used for the aerial shots. I can't recall ever hearing of 70mm prints in the UK but they could have been used overseas.
     
  9. Danny_N

    Danny_N Well-Known Member

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    Got it from 70mm.com as dannyboy104 also posted. Thought some more about it and 70mm.com only mentions a French blow-up which was more than likely dubbed so that's no indication that there might have been English stereo prints of BoB. Come to think of it, even if it had been blown up to 70mm for the English speaking market, it would not proof anything since they could simply have taken the mono track and expanded it across the six channels.
     
  10. john a hunter

    john a hunter Well-Known Member

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    Apparently there were some 70MM prints used in the UK. I have asked a projectionist friend who run one in Leeds.Therefore there should be a proper 6 track mix which was presumably used for the BD.
     
  11. dannyboy104

    dannyboy104 Well-Known Member

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    further info

    Film First Shown:
    The Battle of Britain Film UK Premiere
    Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road.
    Monday, 15 September 1969. Dominion Cinema, London

    The Royal Gala Premiere was on October 30, again in the Dominion, including Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.

    Musicians: Sir Malcolm Arnold conductor
    Studio: Pinewood Studios
    Instrumentation:
    2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon – 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba – timpani, 3 percussion (side drum, small side drum, bass drum, tenor drum, cymbals, glockenspiel, tambourine, gong) – harp – strings

    Info regarding soundtrack

    KQEK.com - Exclusive Interviews & Profiles: William Walton's Battle of Britain (Teaser) - Page 1
    KQEK.com - Exclusive Interviews & Profiles: William Walton's Battle of Britain (Teaser) - Page 2

    The MGM Laserdisc had an alternative music and effects track.plus mono mix.
     
  12. Douglas R

    Douglas R Well-Known Member

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    Battle of Britain had simultaneous world premiers in London and several other cities in the UK. I know that London and Sheffield (where I saw it) had 35mm prints so I cannot believe that Leeds ran a 70mm print. Or was this a later 70mm blow-up reissue?
     
  13. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Well-Known Member

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    Does this new disc have the incorrect closing sequence and music of the first DVD, or the corrected closing sequence and music of the LD and SE DVD? [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    For all its shortcomings, this film was made at a time when numbers of vintage planes were still airworthy. What you see is often the real thing. Any similar films shot today would be all CGI. Unlike the aluminum US fighters, the Spits and Hurricanes were wood and fabric which sadly decayed in the years following the war.

    So how wrong would it be to go in and correct some of the special effects? The shots where planes "exploded" in midair are often poorly done by today's standards.
     
  14. Stephen PI

    Stephen PI Well-Known Member

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    The original mix was mono. Done at Pinewood in Theatre #2 by Gordon K. MaCallum. There was 65mm front projection utilised on some of the set-ups which I witnessed.
    When I saw the film at the Dominion soon after it's opening it was 35mm mono optical sound.
     
  15. Danny_N

    Danny_N Well-Known Member

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    It has the correct closing sequence and music just like the SE DVD.
     
  16. Douglas R

    Douglas R Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Stephen. I thought that was the case.
     
  17. john a hunter

    john a hunter Well-Known Member

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    There's no question that it was screened at the Dominon in 35mm.At the time I could not believe that a film that was intented as an epic spectacle would not be released in 70. Later I heard that they were runing a 35mm mag copy.

    My friend is quiet clear that he ran a 70 print in Leeds first at the Odeon Headrow and then later when it moved to the Merrion Centre. He also recalls the 6 track sound as being excellent. Given the comments about this film's sound ( I have not ordered the BD yet but will now have to so now I have no first hand knowledge), it must be clear that there was a full stereo mix somewhere or at least stereo tracks for effects and music.
     

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