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HTF REVIEW: "Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing" (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)


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#1 of 31 Ronald Epstein

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Posted April 01 2003 - 11:49 AM

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Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing






Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Year: 1955
Rated: NR
Film Length: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.55:1)
Subtitles: English and Spanish




The year is still young and already it has been
filled with the release of some terrific classic
films courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox and their
line of Studio Classics. You can easily
forgive me for being so excited over these releases
once you realise that I am seeing most all of these
films for the first time anywhere on any format.

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Based on the autobiographical novel by Han Suyin,
Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing is a story
about forbidden love -- an interracial romance
between an American journalist (William Holden) and
a Eurasian doctor (Jennifer Jones) in Hong Kong during
the Korean War. Dr. Han Suyin (Jones) falls in love
with Mark Elliot (Holden), who unfortunately cannot
obtain a divorce from his present wife. This, together
with the disapproval of Dr. Suyin's tradition-bound
relatives and Hong Kong's strict racial laws, forces
the couple to carry on their romance in a secretive
fashion.

Posted ImagePosted Image

From what I have read, LIAMST was the first
of three movies in a new deal with Jennifer Jones
and Twentieth Century Fox. Directed by the talented
Henry King (Carousel), LIAMST was filmed on
location in Hong Kong and was Jennifer's first film
to be shot in the new wide screen technique called
CinemaScope. This film beautifully showcases its
glorious and exotic locations, gorgeous costumes and
authentic sets. I was surprised to learn that
although their chemistry onscreen was excellent,
Holden and Jones reportedly did not get along well
during the filming. Holden had a reputation for
having affairs with his leading ladies. Jennifer
supposedly chewed garlic cloves before their love
scenes to deter him.

The film went on to win three of the eight Oscars
it was nominated for in 1955 including Best Score
(Alfred Newman), Best Song (written by Paul Fain
and Sammy Webster), and Best Costume Design (Charles
LeMaire).

Personally, I found this film to be an eye-opener.
Oh, sure the love story is a little melodramatic,
but one can't help but to fall in love with the
amazing cinematography that showcases the scenic
beauty of 1950`s British colonial Hong Kong. This
is a breathtaking film!


How is the transfer?


This is a transfer that will be talked about for
quite some time. Fox has done an incredible job
with this transfer that truly glorifies the
astonishing color photography by Charles G. Clarke
and Leon Shamroy. Here before us is a film nearly
50 years old and I am amazed by this print that
shows nearly no wear. This transfer shows an amazing
amount of clarity and detail with eye-popping deep
coloration that brings out some of the most gorgeous
blues and reds that I have seen in films of this
period. Facial tones look very natural. Some of
the exterior shots exhibit an abundant amount of
film grain, but I expect that this was unavoidable.
Truly a magnificent transfer!

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I was quite taken back by the 4.0 Surround track
that featured a clever audio ploy I had never
previously heard on any film like this before.
The actors voices are cleverly placed amongst the
three front channels, moving from one channel to
another according to their screen placement. It
was a rather neat effect that I found heightened
the viewing experience. Dialogue is very clean and
distinctive as it blends flawlessly with Alfred
Newman's memorable woodwind and string score. The
rears manage to support the film's score, but at
levels that are often drowned out by the fronts.
It was nice to hear a few effect noises thrown to
the rear channels such as fog horns in the harbor
and various crowd noises.


Special Features

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First up is a full-length commentary by
Film Historian Sylvia Stoddard (whose particular
interests are in Asian history), Daily Variety
and Los Angeles times music columnist John
Burlingame and director of photography Michael
Lonzo. This is quite a team of individuals
assembled here when you consider that each of
their expertise represents a significant aspect
of this film. As the film begins, Lonzo talks
about the aerial shots of Hong Kong that were taken
from a small plane that Charles G. Clarke had
rented. Lonzo is just amazing to listen to as he
enthusiastically takes us from Hong Kong locales
to Hollywood sets and talks about the various
lighting techniques used in the film -- and the
man does not skimp on detail -- trust me! Scene
by scene, Sylvia Stoddard meticulously explains
the actions happening on screen as well as giving
us background information on the real people this
film is based upon. Stoddard is a real fan of
actress Jennifer Jones and gives us some detailed
information on how she was discovery by David O.
Selznick who persuaded her to change her name and
offered her a film contract in the process. About
40 minutes into the commentary, John Burlingame
begins giving us some background information on
composer Alfred Newman, who came to Hollywood
after a celebrated career on Broadway. Though he
composed some of the greatest film music ever made,
he wasn't a huge fan of composing, opting to conduct
instead in the company of musicians. Ever wonder
where the term "letterbox" came from? You'll find
the answer nearly 80 minutes into the commentary as
Lonzio talks about the earliest Cinemascope films
that were shot at 2.55:1. Though I only had the
opportunity to sample a quarter of what is here, it
is evident that this is just simply an outstanding
commentary.

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Always welcome on these Studio Classic DVDs
is another original A&E biography, William
Holden: An untamed spirit
. This 44-minute
segment features Ernest Borgnine, Cliff Robertson
and Stefanie Powers as they share their memories of
Hollywood's "Golden Boy."

Posted ImagePosted Image

There are two original MovieTone news
presentations included here. The first, Audience
Awards Presentations
shows Holden presenting
Jennifer Jones with an award for Best Performance
by an Actress (1 minute). The second, highlights
the Photoplay Awards where Producer Buddy
Adler and actor William Holden are presented with
achievement honors (1.2 minutes).

Posted Image

Now this is something that needs to be
included on as many DVDs like this as possible.
In order to truly appreciate the amount of work
that went into this film's restoration, one only
needs to look at the restoration comparison
which puts this brand-new 2002 restored print
against an original 1993 VHS master. I really wish
to thank the restorationists for the superb job
they have obviously done here. You'll want to do
same after you see this presentation.
(length approx. 4 minutes)

In addition to the film's original theatrical
trailer
, there are trailers for All About
Eve, An Affair to Remember, Gentleman's Agreement,
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, How Green was my Valley

and The Inn of Sixth Happiness.


Final Thoughts

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More than any other studio, Fox has been painstakingly
remastering and preserving their most valued historic
releases. The release of these films through their
Studio Classics label will hopefully send a
signal to other studios the importance of preserving
their libraries and the urgency in getting these
films out to a public that have been demanding the
release of their favorite classics.

As for me, I find myself in movie heaven every time
I discover one of these classics on DVD for the very
first time. Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing
is another magnificent addition to the Studio
Classics
label, and more importantly, to your
own video collection.

Highly Recommended!


Release Date: May 6, 2003


All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 31 Brian W.

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Posted April 01 2003 - 12:10 PM

Thanks for the review, Ron. I'm anxious to see this one.

#3 of 31 Yumbo

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Posted April 01 2003 - 12:42 PM

thanks Ron Posted Image

anyone care to comment on Gentlemen's Agreement?

#4 of 31 Peter Apruzzese

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Posted April 01 2003 - 01:51 PM

Quote:
I was quite taken back by the 4.0 Surround track
that featured a clever audio ploy I had never
previously heard on any film like this before.
The actors voices are cleverly placed amongst the
three front channels, moving from one channel to
another according to their screen placement. It
was a rather neat effect that I found heightened
the viewing experience.


Now you know what we meant when we said "directional dialogue" in many other threads. This was a feature of many of the widescreen magnetic stereo films of this era and is a treat to hear reproduced properly.

Thanks for the review!
"What we're fighting for, in the end...we're fighting for each other." - Col. Joshua Chamberlain in "Gettysburg"

 


#5 of 31 Jefferson

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Posted April 01 2003 - 02:15 PM

I'm glad to see this restored, and reviewed,
and released with the original directional sound.
Newman's score is gorgeous....
the film is fine,
although i
am a bigger fan of GENTLEMANS AGREEMENT
and INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS.

#6 of 31 Tim Glover

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Posted April 01 2003 - 03:25 PM

I've never seen this film. Can't wait for May 6 although that date is getting very, very expensive! Posted Image

#7 of 31 Joe Caps

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Posted April 01 2003 - 09:40 PM

ron,can yo comment about the actually quality of the sound.
I am a big fn of this film and all past transfers (including the last DVD) used a sound transfer done in 1984 where the sound is not as crisp as it could be. Can you do a comparison of the soudn to the last DVD.

#8 of 31 SteveP

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Posted April 01 2003 - 10:49 PM

Directional dialogue was standard on ALL of the early CinemaScope films (and, in fact, was recorded on the set that way with three microphones attatched to the same boom) and was standard issue on all Todd-AO (and most 70MM roadshow) films (via a post-production pan/pot technique) through the early 1970's.

Its dimensionality is something dearly missed by those of us old enough to have remembered it.

#9 of 31 Ronald Epstein

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Posted April 01 2003 - 11:18 PM

Joe,

I don't have the original DVD.

As I stated above, the audio sounds very clear,
except for the presence of background hiss when
listening to it at reference level.

Hope this helps

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#10 of 31 Richard Gilmore

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Posted April 02 2003 - 12:31 AM

I can't wait to see this DVD. I recently saw the movie on TCM and it was great but the picture was bad (satellite source). With all the great backgrounds it's going to be a beautiful picture. Applause to Fox for doing it right!

#11 of 31 Adam_S

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Posted April 02 2003 - 04:09 AM

sigh, yet another studio classics that I want so badly it hurts... columbia house better get this. you know I haven't bought a DVD since Jan 6? arrrrrgghhhh being a 'poor college student' really sucks, thankfully summer will be here soon...

Adam
 

#12 of 31 Joe Caps

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Posted April 02 2003 - 05:26 AM

Directional dialogue was standard only at Fox on early Cinemascope films. Even Affair to remember has centered dialogue. Columbia scope films often have centered dialogue as does many of the Warner scope films.
None of the Todd ao or 70 mm films have live dialogue. Because the cameras are so noisy, they had to post loop all of the dialogue. All of King and I, South Pacific, most of ben Hur, All of Camelot etc are all post looped.

#13 of 31 DaViD Boulet

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Posted April 02 2003 - 05:40 AM

Quote:
I was quite taken back by the 4.0 Surround track
that featured a clever audio ploy I had never
previously heard on any film like this before.
The actors voices are cleverly placed amongst the
three front channels, moving from one channel to
another according to their screen placement. It
was a rather neat effect that I found heightened
the viewing experience.

Glad to see they preserved the original direction dialogue mix and glad to see you enjoyed it Ron.

That's one of the most important aspects of these historic sound-mixes on this big-budget cinemascope classics and an aspect that is all-too-often destroyed by "center mixing" by studios like Warner and others who seem to go out of their way to ruin these glorious mixes.

If anyone has a large-screen TV or a front projection display where the left/right speakers are close to the left/right edge of the screen...the effect is marvelous and replicates the original effect quite nicely.

Though this does not imply that one can't enjoy directional dialoge mixing even with a small 27" TV and your L/R speakers spread out accross the front soundstage...just as with widescreen...it's not an ideal situation with a small 4x3 TV but it's one that we HT enthusiasts accept (even enjoy) with pride in order to preserve the artistic integrity of our films. Posted Image

Hopefully, just like most HT enthusiasts are now "up" on issues like 16x9 and OAR, the HT crowd will start to get "up" on directional dialogue and historic sound mixes and demand them of the studios.

OAR for video. Historic sound mixes for Audio. No difference.

Quote:
and, in fact, was recorded on the set that way with three microphones attatched to the same boom

Joe,

I think what Steve meant to refer to here is how many older "mono" films were actually recorded in 3-track stereo in the recording sessions (Meet Me in St. Louis) and he accidentally mis-applied this to the directional dialogue issue.

-dave Posted Image
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Supporter of 1080p24 video and lossless 24 bit audio.

#14 of 31 Joe Caps

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Posted April 02 2003 - 07:41 AM

no, thats not what he says - Fox films did record live stereo dialogue with threee mikes - and theywere the only studio to do so. They used this technique up until 1960. From the Terrace was the last film theyused the three live mikes. Scope stero films after this used single mike pan potted dialogue.

#15 of 31 DaViD Boulet

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Posted April 02 2003 - 08:34 AM

I stand corrected!
Be an Original Aspect Ratio Advocate

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#16 of 31 Lew Crippen

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Posted April 02 2003 - 08:55 AM

Quote:
Directional dialogue was standard on ALL of the early CinemaScope films

If I remember correctly, the shot/reverse shot sequence caused some disorientation. I think that may have been one of the reasons that directional dialogue was phased out.
¡Time is not my master!

#17 of 31 SteveP

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Posted April 02 2003 - 09:39 AM

It never bothered me!

#18 of 31 oscar_merkx

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Posted April 02 2003 - 09:55 AM

another Fox Classic to be added to the collection

Thanks Ron for the great review

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#19 of 31 Lew Crippen

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Posted April 02 2003 - 09:57 AM

Quote:
It never bothered me!
Nor me, but IIRC, it did bother a good many.
¡Time is not my master!

#20 of 31 Ed St. Clair

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Posted April 02 2003 - 10:31 AM

Quote:
"directional dialogue"
Awesome!
Quote:
CinemaScope
Double Awesome!
Movies are: "The Greatest Artform".
HD should be for EVERYONE!




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