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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Dr. Zhivago -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Apr 21, 2010.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    If you want to find the cinematic roots of David Lean's Dr. Zhivago, you're best to visit Criterion's DVD of his 1946 Great Expectations, still one of the finest representations of Dickens on film. Once you've viewed it, you'll see where I'm coming from.

    Sir David's Dr. Zhivago was, bar none, his most successful production, both from a financial perspective as well as in overall popularity and accessibility.

    The Zhivago that we see today is not the same Zhivago that was released in December of 1965. In order to qualify for Academy Awards, there was an agreement between DL and M-G-M's Bob O'Brien that after a cut was delivered for release in December, that DL could go in for a re-cut and re-dub. That is precisely what occurred. During the first few months of 1966, while the film was in limited 70mm (blow-up) release, it went through a fine cut, with new 70mm reels being delivered to the affected theatres weekly.

    While I don't have a count of 70mm prints struck in 1965 - 66 at hand, the number was not insignificant. Each print was struck from the original 35mm A & B rolls. Taking into account both the original as well as the re-cut, the OCNs of many reels had twice the runs on them. The original negative, as it now exists, is in far less than stellar condition. Over the past couple of decades there have been abortive rescue attempts at best. But finally Warner Bros. has seen fit to properly digitally restore the film, bringing together the best of the surviving pieces of film.

    What all of this means to the Blu-ray is that virtually everything that could be done to promote a high quality final result, has been done. MPI colorist Janet Walker has use a unique original print as a source of color and density, and has created a final product that appears dead on.

    The image has been cleaned, and now appears much as it did in 1965.

    The final result is gorgeous.

    For transparency, I'll note a couple of minor points on the downside.

    For whatever reason, the main title sequence is out of focus in the center. There is a bit of occasional awkward dialogue that verges on unintelligible, and there are occasional phasing problems with the audio. None of this is going to take the normal viewer out of the experience.

    To my mind, David Lean's film of Dr. Zhivago is one of the greats.

    Warner Bros. has done their job in restoring and preserving his work, and the resultant Blu-ray disc is nothing less than gorgeous. DL never forgot the fact that the film had been shot in 35, as opposed to 65mm, and wished that it had been otherwise. But even in 35mm, Zhivago, as photographed by the incomparable Freddie Young with some equally gorgeous sequences by Nicolas Roeg (inclusive of funeral early in the film), was shot fully exposed. Consequently, blow-ups to 70mm, projected on huge screens, held up beautifully. The same can be said of the Blu-ray.

    Zhivago will be one of the most important classic releases on Blu-ray in 2010, and should be a part of any serious library.

    Very Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. Robin9

    Robin9 Well-Known Member

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    For me this is an automatic purchase.

    I'm delighted that the quality of this Blu-ray disc is so good because, quite apart from the joy of being able to see this movie in the best way possible, it sets the bar high for Sony as and when they issue The Bridge On The River Kwai and Lawrence Of Arabia on Blu-ray.
     
  3. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    One of my favorite films. I cannot wait to own i!
     
  4. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Well-Known Member

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    I saw a dcp of this 8k restoration a few weeks ago and was less than impressed. Let me clarify that, it looks better than it has ever looked, but there is still some awful blue haloing around dark objects when they are against a light background, as if the darker parts of the image had shrunk on the neg. There was the out of focus center on the opening credits but what was most startling was that while watching the opening titles, the image was so much better that I began to be aware of the light source used (on the animation stand?) for the creation of those titles. What I mean is that I could almost see the title cels lifting up in parts and creating shadows. That is obviously the very nature of the negative and I've no problem with that, but the haloing is unpleasant. There may be no way to fix that, as of yet.

    Zhivago is a magnificent paring down of a novel that is sheer agony to read. Even Lean felt the story was second rate, but felt that it could yield great visuals. It is one of his greatest examples of what I call Visual Poetry, stretching back to Great Expectations and especially Oliver Twist.
     
  5. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Quote:
    I'm unaware of anything being performed here in 8k, nor would there be a need. As to "halos," these are most likely the byproduct of protection masters standing in for OCN.

    RAH
     
  6. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it was an employee screening at Warners in their lovely theatre, not projected in 8k but they told me it was from the 8k scan. I wondered why 8k but let it pass and watched the movie.
     
  7. CULTMAN1

    CULTMAN1 Well-Known Member

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    i have been able to get my hands on an advance copy of this superb film and I echo Robert Harris's comments.. The whole presentation is nothing short of superb.. Hats of to WB for their sterling efforts!
    I really hope that LAWRENCE too gets the same treatment....
     
  8. kagemusha98

    kagemusha98 Well-Known Member

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    I remember seeing the Zhivago when it first opened. I seemed to recall a sequence where a horse was killed for food when wandering in the frozen cold winter sequence. I was very young......Was there such a sequence that was subsequently cut?
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    There was. You apparently saw the film in its early weeks of release before being re-cut. It would have been most interesting to have a double disc set of Zhivago, with both the premiere cut as well as the re-cut.

    RAH
     
  10. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Well-Known Member

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    It certainly would. I would love to see that footage. I wonder what condition it's in...
     
  11. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Well-Known Member
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    As far as Robert's initial comment about the cinematic root's of "Dr. Zhivago", I would recommend viewing both Lean's "Great Expectations" and "Brief Encounter", conveniently available in outstanding Criterion DVD editions. I always viewed "Zhivago" as a bit of both in, to borrow from Cole Porter, "glorious Technicolor, breathtaking Cinemascope and stereophonic sound".

    Regards,
     
  12. ReggieW

    ReggieW Well-Known Member

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    For those who'd rather own these films in HD, Brief Encounter and Great Expectations are both available on Blu-ray in the UK.

    The picture quality on both is pretty stellar. Great Expectations is region-free, but Brief Encounter is region-locked to "B" only.
     
  13. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Well-Known Member

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    And Oliver Twist, let's not forget his second Dickens masterpiece, if not one of his best creations.
     
  14. benbess

    benbess Well-Known Member

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    I wish I could have seen the original version of Dr. Z! That scene with the horse sounds quite intense. How much longer was the original version?

    In any case, I'm looking forward to this film on blu.

    Another overlooked film by the great David Lean is Ryan's Daughter. A wonderful film. And I think it was even filmed in 70mm....? Would love to see it on blu, but it wasn't as commercially successful, and so I don't know if the odds are very good....
     
  15. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Well-Known Member
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    Truth be told, I actually prefer "Ryan's Daughter" to "Dr. Zhivago".

     
  16. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Well-Known Member

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    Me, too, though the score for Ryan's Daughter is agony. Yes, Ryan's Daughter was shot in 70mm and it is astonishingly beautiful on the big screen. But 3 hours and 26 minutes for such a little story?? Anyway, RD probably contains some of Lean's best Visual Poetry. I've never found Mitchum miscast as others do and Christopher Jones' almost wordless role seems appropriate for such a tortured character. Great stuff, but overblown. Ultimately, I would take the grand subtlety of A Passage to India over all of them any day. But that's just me. :)
     
  17. benbess

    benbess Well-Known Member

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    I've only seen Ryan's Daughter once, on vhs about a dozen years ago, but I thought it was captivating. I've forgotten the score. Who wrote it? I love Dr. Z, but Ls theme can get to be a bit much after a while.

    And famous reviewer Ken McA even prefers it to Dr. Z~!! Any chance you'd be willing to tell us why? You're so eloquent in your reviews, which I've really enjoyed....

    I actually thought they were both great. I think that all of those last five films are amazing, each in their own ways.

    On another site, I heard someone talk about recently seeing a new sample of a print of c. 20 minutes of Ryan that was shown at the Academy theater in Hollywood. This person said that the pq of the new 70mm print was absolutely stunning, and he is someone who is not easily impressed. I think maybe the negative is in pretty good shape because it wasn't used and abused and cut to ribbons so much like the others....
     
  18. Adam_S

    Adam_S Well-Known Member

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    The academy ran about a minute long clip of Ryan's daughter in 70mm last summer at their Film Formats through the Ages event. it was the best looking 70mm clip they ran (and they had a host of them).
     
  19. ahollis

    ahollis Well-Known Member

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    I enjoyed Ryan's Daughter and really do love the music score by Maurice Jarre, who also wrote the score for Dr. Zhivago, The Longest Day, Lawrence of Arabia, March Or Die, Grand Prix, The Train, and 100's of others. By the way, Warner's standard DVD is great.

    The Oscar winning role for John Mills was perfect for him, but the true star is Freddie Young's cinematography, who was also Director of Photography on Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago. When David Lean knew he had a good thing, he kept it.

    Can not wait to sit back and watch Dr. Zhivago.
     
  20. benbess

    benbess Well-Known Member

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    Adam S--yes, I think that was it. I guess I just wrongly assumed it was a longer clip. Just one minute!? Which minute was it?
     

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