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A Few Words About A few words about...™ The Robe -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    No.

    The Robe is not now, nor will it ever be, the disc that you reach for to show off the wonders of Blu-ray, 1080p or 7.1 audio.

    As a 55 year old Eastman color production, and the first to be released in Fox's CinemaScope format, the elements had to sit in Fox's vaults waiting for technology to meet the needs of a major restoration project.

    Finally, over the past couple of years with our digital abilities in place, work could proceed.

    The result is far better than one might have expected. Anyone familiar with the original DVD of The Robe will know of its sad state.

    With this huge restoration effort now complete, both image and audio are back to an "honorable" state -- not perfect, and in many shots far from it -- but never embarrassing, and certainly far more than simply viewable.

    Those shots that survived from original elements tend to look very, very good, while dupes (based largely on the quality of the early 5216 stock) now appear far better than what they actually are.

    The Robe has an extremely important place in the history of cinema, not as the first wide-screen production -- but as the first modern movement into an expansion of the cinema as it attempted to fend off that enemy of the airwaves, television.

    One must look at this Blu-ray of The Robe not in comparison to anything else out there on BD, but as a totally separate entity with all of its various technical problems intact.

    In an effort to place things in perspective, I tend to look at film history in terms of dates on either side of the specific production. In that light, travel back 56 years from the release of The Robe and one finds oneself in 1897 --

    eleven years before D.W. Griffith's first film and just in time to be able to view an early Lumiere or Edison production.

    The Robe is a very special Blu-ray. Just don't go in expecting perfection, which probably wasn't there even in 1953.

    Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. PaulDA

    PaulDA Well-Known Member

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    I've never seen this film. How would you rate it as a film (I understand its significance from a technical standpoint)? Is it as entertaining as Ben-Hur, for example?
     
  3. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    It is @ least as entertaining as Ben-Hur and in some ways, moreso. For one thing, it's considerably shorter, and while the acting is typical of a 50s quasi-Biblical epic, no one comes close to Heston's overacting in The Ten Commandments.
     
  4. PaulDA

    PaulDA Well-Known Member

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    I'll add it to my rental list then. Thanks.
     
  5. john a hunter

    john a hunter Well-Known Member

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    By all means rent it, but in my opinion it is a potboiler without any of the depth that Wyler brings to the script and acting that makes Ben Hur so special.It's a fun film that I wouldn't be without(it's a genre I especially like) and while I would show Ben to others, I wouldn't with Robe.
     
  6. RDarrylR

    RDarrylR Well-Known Member

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    Mine is on the way. Really looking forward to it after seeing those screen caps at that "science" forum.
     
  7. dvdirv

    dvdirv Member

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    I watched my copy tonight was pleased with the result.
    I agree with Robert Harris, it's probably the best it's ever looked on video, but don't expect perfection.
    I was never a fan of THE ROBE, but purchased it due it's importance in film history. One of the clever bonus features is that you can watch the widescreen film with a PIP screen of the flat version as well so you can judge how much had been re-framed and missing from the scope version. This can be turned on/off while viewing the film, unlike many of the options on PINOCCHIO which forces you to stop the film and go to the main menu and start over.
    THE ROBE is definitely a solid purchase!
     
  8. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Well-Known Member

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    BEN-HUR is a masterful work, my personal choice for "Greatest Movie Ever Made". THE ROBE is nowhere near it, but having said this, I still own it.
     
  9. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I don't agree with you often, but I do with your high opinion of Ben-Hur. I think The Robe is a fine film, but Ben-Hur is in a different class as one of the 100 greatest films ever made.
    Crawdaddy
     
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Ben-Hur is an extraordinary film, that has stood the test of time magnificently. It is however, one of those films best not seen in a home video environment.
    Think 70mm.
     
  11. PaulDA

    PaulDA Well-Known Member

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    I dearly wish I could have seen Ben-Hur in its cinematic glory. Unless it gets some sort of re-release in my corner of the world OR I happen to be somewhere that is showing it in 70mm, I'm afraid a "home video environment" is as good as I'll ever get.
     
  12. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Well-Known Member

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    Is Ben Hur expected to be released on Blu-Ray this year for the 50th anniversary?
     
  13. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    We'll most likely find out on Monday night here.[​IMG]
     
  14. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Well-Known Member

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    Why of course! I've already drafted a carefully worded question. [​IMG]
     
  15. Edward Weinman

    Edward Weinman Well-Known Member

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    I remember seeing BH at the Hollywood Egyptian Theater. It was a wonderful experience and, I especially remember the ending where the theater's mammoth curtains slowly closed on the ending as the chorus and orchestra built to a tremendous crescendo.
     
  16. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Having never seen The Robe, I'm looking forward to finally seeing it, and in the best non-theatrical experience possible. I'm glad they've done what they could.
     
  17. OliverK

    OliverK Well-Known Member

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    When I think 70mm and Ben Hur I am thinking of pink and damaged anamorphic 70mm prints and of that single Australian print that is cropped down to 2.2 to 1.
    I agree that most 70mm movies and especially Ben Hur are best experienced on a large screen but Warner needs to throw us a bone and do something about striking new prints from their 70mm library. Not even your restoration of My Fair Lady is screened on a regular basis, not to talk about the likes of Mutiny on the Bounty, Grand Prix, Cheyenne Autumn and other movies where no new prints exist.
    So while a Blu-Ray of Ben Hur would be nice it would be even nicer if Warner also produced an anamorphic 70mm print or two so that we can see this masterpiece the way it was meant to be seen.
     
  18. Virgoan

    Virgoan Well-Known Member

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    I found "The Robe" in Blu-ray to be astonishingly beautiful and very moving.

    Burton's Oscar-nominated performance is certainly credible. Simmons is exquisite as Diana and Mature is a terrific Demetrius.

    Jay Robinson's maniacal, crazed and demented Caligula is one of the screen's most extraordinary creations. I cannot imagine anyone else in the role. It is a performance more than the equal of Hugh Griffith's in "Ben-Hur"...and it wasn't even nominated.

    "Ben-Hur" casts no shadows on "The Robe" in terms of acting or production values. The script is literate, and there are several very stunning sequences in the film.

    The Palm Sunday sequence with Marcellus riding into Rome while Jesus is also arriving on a white donkey with crowds carrying palm fronds is a beautifully shot/choreographed sequence. As Demetrius falls behind to see this man, we get a true sense that Jesus is riding "behind us" while Demetrius watches him curiously. The effect is nearly 3-dimensional in feeling and the music is perfection.

    The Crucifixion sequence is also beautifully done. I found it very, very moving and mercifully free of over-dramatizing.

    I've loved this film since I saw it on a CinemaScope screen during its 1963 re-release. It has NEVER looked this wonderful before.

    Pay close attention to master cinematographer Leon Shamroy's lighting throughout the film. The scenes lit by oil lamps and torches "seem to be" lit by oil lamps and torches. And when Marcellus bursts into a room in Cana where Demetrius is staying, note the poetry of the sunlight streaming through the window...sunlight by which Demetrius is reading.

    Henry Koster, in directing the very first film in this process, composed some extraordinary shots throughout this film. From Marcellus' entry into the slave market square, to the farewell at the Ostia docks, to the entry into Jerusalem, to the Crucifixion, to the arrival at Capri and on and on, culminating in one of the great set pieces in epic films -- the "trial" of Marcellus in Caligula's throne room.

    This is a very important film, and the Blu-ray restoration makes it shine as it has never shone.
     
  19. MatthewA

    MatthewA Well-Known Member

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    Unfortunately, I have heard that WB has given up on printing anymore repertory titles in any format. And people running repertory shows are having trouble finding prints of well-known titles from studios. And 70mm prints are NOT cheap.
    BTW, they no longer own My Fair Lady. CBS owns it, but Warner licensed the rights to DVD. Hollywood Classics handles CBS's theatrical product. And in the DVD commentary, Mr. Harris lamented that many of the prints from his 1994 restoration were badly mishandled.
     
  20. OliverK

    OliverK Well-Known Member

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    That's new to me about CBS owning My Fair Lady. Regarding the mishandled prints the prints of Spartacus and Lawrence of Arabia were also frequently mishandled in exhibition that is. I have seen two prints of both movies and in each case the version with the better colors, resolution and shadow delineation was also the version that already looked rather beat up - very sad.
     

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