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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Around the World in 80 Days (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)

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#1 of 60 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted May 18 2004 - 08:21 PM

Michael Todd’s
Around The World In Eighty Days

2-Disc Special Edition

Studio: The Michael Todd Company (Released thru United Artists (1956/1968), Warner Bros. (1983-present))
Year: 1956
Rated: NR (Rated G in 1983)
Film Length: 182 Minutes (including intermission, entr'acte, and exit music)
Language: English
Presentation Formats: Eastmancolor (70mm) & dye-transfer Technicolor (1956/1968 35mm)
Negative Format: Todd-AO (65mm, 30fps/24fps)
Sound Format: 6-Track Mag. Stereo (70mm/34mm), 4-track Mag. Stereo (35mm) & Optical Mono (35mm)

Studio: Warner Home Video
Region: 1
MSRP: $26.99
Package: 3-panel, 2-disc Digipack
Disc Types: DVD-9 (both)

Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (OAR)
Audio: DD 5.1 (English), DD 2.0 stereo (French)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, and French

Home Theater System
Monitor: Sony Trinitron 36” (CRT)
Close Inspection: Power DVD 4 on 10” laptop LCD screen
Reciever: Kenwood VR-409 (DD/DTS)
DVD Player: Toshiba SD-1600
Speakers/Subwoofer: Sony (small type, 5.1)
Cables: Monster for audio, gold plated RadioShack for video
Calibration: THX Calibration

The Film:

“It’s a wonderful world if you’ll only take the time to go around it!”

One of the most underrated of the grand 70mm epics, Around the World in Eighty Days has received decades of mistreatment. Incomplete for nearly 20 years, shown on television and video in pan & scan, and left unpreserved until the 1980’s, it’s a miracle that anyone even likes the film today.

However, it was different in 1956, the year of the film’s original release. Honored with over 52 awards for Best Picture, including the Academy Award, it was a smash hit. The film cost a comparatively low $6,000,000 in 1956 (roughly 40 million in today’s dollars) and made back almost 4 times that at the box office.

Today, many people look at it as just a boring old travelogue with only a little bit of plot. However, this is likely due to the 18 years of exposure on home video via an analog, pan & scan, faded, monophonic, and slightly edited version.

The film is highly enjoyable and and very fun way to spend 182 minutes if seen in its original roadshow splendor…

The basic plot has to do with Phileas Fogg wagering that he could go around the world in 80 days… but you probably knew that. I really cannot think of a good way of watering down the plot for a review.

Around the World in 80 Days really cannot be pinned down to one genre. At one end of the spectrum, it’s a grand epic. On the other, it’s a comedy. With some romance, action, and some suspense, it really has everything needed to make a great movie.

David Niven’s portrayal of Phileas Fogg is superb and appropriately low-key. I really can’t think of a better actor to play the character… Mike Todd was very right in thinking of Niven from the start. Cantinflas is a real joy to watch, as he plays Passpartout with lots of energy. Plus, he actually performed all of his own stunts, ranging from horseback riding to bullfighting. Robert Newton creates another perfect characterization as Inspector Fix. Sadly, this was his last film. Shirley MacLaine plays the beautiful Princess Aouda. She really plays off David Niven perfectly in the film.

As for supporting actors…

Robert Morley, Finlay Currie, Robert Squire, and Basil Sydney are Fogg’s Reform Club acquaintances who are in on the wager.

As for the smaller roles…

Buster Keaton has a lengthy role as a train conductor. Like his silent persona, Keaton maintains his stoneface throughout the scenes. John Carradine has a particularly funny role as a boisterous Colonel. George Raft and Marlene Dietrich also have an amusing scene in a bar. Peter Lorre, Red Skelton, Ronald Colman, John Mills, Joe E. Brown, Jose Greco, Glynis Johns, Frank Sinatra, Andy Devine, and Jack Oakie also make appearances.

The cinematography is top-notch, especially since it was only the 2nd feature shot in Todd-AO. The film makes use of long takes, often with several actors in several places. A good example is the scene near the start of the film with Fogg first arriving at the Reform Club. The camera follows him from the door, then moves to show other club members all in one take. Also, the 2.20:1 frame is fully utilized. In fact, some shots are totally useless due to cropping in pan & scan such as the film's ending. What’s amazing is that only one or two shots used rear projection (although, it’s painfully obvious today). Scenes on trains and boats were almost all genuine. Some scenes did use sets or outdoor backlots(such as the “Indian” jungle), but the more crucial scenes are real.

The sound is also an important part in the film. Since the film was made for 70mm presentation with 6-track sound, most of the audio was recorded live. This gives an incredible immersive feel to the film. Also, Victor Young's excellent Oscar winning score is still wonderful today.

Has the film aged badly over the years? I think as long as you go in and just have fun with the film, you’ll enjoy it. The film has been unfairly looked down upon due to poor presentation. Even political correctness hasn't tarnished the Sioux attack scene (they even go out their way to show peaceful tribes). There's even a hilarious jab at stereotyping when Fogg asks a Hong Kong man for the "boss man" as if he was illiterate... only for him to answer with a perfect English accent. The cast seemed to enjoy making the film, which I think is infectious to the audience.

Fans of Saul Bass will love the BEST credits sequence ever made for a film at the end. The entire film is basically re-played, but with surreal and abstract animation.

I would like to mention that the film really holds a special place in my movie-loving heart. It was one of the very first movies I ever viewed as a child. Even with the low quality P&S VHS tape, I loved the movie. It's still one of my favorites. In 2001, Turner Classic Movies had a viewer’s request marathon in December. I had requested that they air Around the World in 80 Days in widescreen. TCM managed to obtain a very nice 2.35:1 widescreen master with real Dolby Surround audio. However, they could only use the 144 min. 1983 version. Nevertheless, this showing apparently gained some new fans for the film. TCM continues to be movie-lover friendly by being the only movie channel worth watching anymore.

This DVD edition has been on my wish list ever since I first purchased a DVD player in 2000. I hope that through this newly remastered DVD that more people become fans of the movie.

The Video:

This is the FIRST time ever on home video that the film has been letterboxed. DVD is THE format to show off the visual quality of "80 Days."

Warner boasts that the film has been “Fully Restored and Remastered” via a sticker on the outside package. Worth mentioning! While it’s not perfect, the video transfer is still miles ahead of any previous one. Warner has actually discovered a longer cut of the film, too. An entire scene has been added with Cantinflas out-riding a pack of Sioux. I was completely in awe when this scene popped up. This “lost scene” starts at about 26:10 into the 2nd part and runs until 29:25. It doesn’t really add much, but it does feature some nice horseback riding stunts by Cantinflas.

Also, for the first time ever, the complete intermission and entr’act sequences are intact. In previous editions, a crude jump cut fused shots of a steamer together, deleting an optical Intermission title and about 4 minutes worth of music. So, even if the quality wasn’t improved, we already have nearly 12 minutes worth of re-instated footage and music. Also, unlike the DVD’s for roadshow fare such as West Side Story and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Warner has refrained from slapping their logo to the start of the film. Instead, their distribution logo is placed after the exit music. Classy move.

The color is virtually perfect throughout the film. It’s typical of the vibrancy that dye-transfer Technicolor prints show off. Blacks are inky and whites are pure. After seeing the musty pan & scan VHS tape and the slightly oversaturated Turner Classic Movies widescreen broadcast, this reveals all kinds of things. In previous versions, the reform club appeared to have white walls. In the DVD transfer, they’re sky blue and emerald green! Scenes with lots of different colors such as the funeral procession and the Jose Greco dance scene look incredible. Finally, the nighttime scenes are correctly color timed. In the old P&S version, the entire scene with the bridge collapsing was a murky mess.

The source used for the transfer is likely a new 65mm interpositive (struck a few years ago) from the original 24fps negative via wetgate processing. This being said, the detail, definition, and overall sharpness is typical 70mm. However, scenes from time to time are a little soft (mostly opticals). Again, there’s all kinds of details that you never could see on the old murky P&S version or even TCM’s letterboxed master. For example, I never could see Cantinflas running over to the funeral pyre in the “saving Aouda” scene. You can see all kinds of textures on clothes, walls, etc. Even night scenes look stunning. The avg. bitrate is 7.5mbs for both part 1 and part 2.

The only flaws really seem to be the opticals (which range from being slightly littered to being grainy and very speckled) and a few shots with acetate decomposition. A few splices appear during the body of the film, but not very bad. During the end credits, there’s a lot of broken splices, with some film cement seeping into the frame. Other than occasional problem shots, the film looks stunning. Some flickering is present in scenes, but it's not very obvious. This isn't really anything new... these flaws are present in the 1983 re-release version. In fact, TCM's 2.35:1 print used zoomboxing to hide the splices and the mild acetate decomposition on the sides. Warner did the right thing by keeping the correct framing, despite the "warts and all."

On the digital side, the film is finally presented in the original 2.20:1 format, with anamorphic enhancement. The opening prologue is a tiny 1.37:1 image that later expands to 2.20:1… I’m very happy that Warner decided to keep the prologue tiny so that the expanding to widescreen is even more grand.

First of all, Warner has not used any obvious digital restoration on the film. Bad? Not at all! The digital restoration would have been a nice “extra” but other than taking away scars, it really could do more harm than good if it’s not manual. There is absolutely NO edge enhancement that I could see. To be honest, 65mm is such a high definition format, it would be redundant to add it. No pixelation is around, either.

Do keep in mind, though: the DVD looks excellent, but the estimated cost of restoring the film 99.99% would be roughly $10 million. Warner clearly didn't put THAT much into the remastering, nor does the image reflect something that well restored. (Revised from incorrect quote)

While Warner did not cause any of the flaws (by the time they picked up the rights around 1980, it was already screwed up). We must be reminded that even a high-def master is not any sort of preservation material for a normal film, let alone a 65mm Todd-AO film. Let’s hope that Warner Bros. makes the right moves in preserving the film so that it won't become a relic in metal and plastic.

The Audio:

This is the first time the real Todd-AO mix has been married to the film. The old P&S version had only mono, TCM’s print with a good Dolby Surround track. The 5.1 mix on this DVD is simply amazing. All 5 speakers are fully utilized throughout the film. The opening prologue appropriately uses only the center channel in mono, but the whole 5.1 soundscape opens at the rocket taking off in the prologue. During most of the film, the directional Todd-AO sound mix is mostly intact. The rear speakers are used throughout most of the film. The fidelity is, for the most part, absolutely perfect. Some sound effects seem a little tinny, but most of the dialogue and all of the music sounds rich. The film was mostly recorded with live 5-track magnetic sound, so the high quality is a given. Some ADR is a little tinny in a handful of instances, but it’s the exception. Overall, the best 5.1 track I’ve ever listened to for a vintage film. The bitrate is 448kbs, too... which is higher than the usual bitrate for Warner's 5.1 tracks.

The Supplements:

Feature-Length Commentary by Brian Sibley

Disc One:[*] Introduction by Robert Osborne [*] Georges Melies’ A Trip to the Moon (uncut, with optional Osborne intro)[*] Outtakes reel (17 min., with optional Osborne intro)[*] Stills Gallery (84 frames)[*] 1957 General Release trailer[*] 1968/1983 Re-Release trailer[*] DVD-ROM: Around the World in 80 Days Almanac (roadshow program)

Disc Two:[*]Around the World of Mike Todd (documentary, w. optional Osborne intro)[*]Around the World in 90 Minutes (Playhouse 90 excerpts, w. optional Osborne intro)[*]1957 Academy Awards Ceremony excerpts (w. optional Osborne intro)[*] Los Angeles Première newsreel[*] Spain Première newsreel[*] Cameo List

Overall, an excellent assortment of bonus features. Since the film is split into two parts and two discs, extras are placed on both discs. The film and most of the video supplements include optional introductions with Turner Classic Movies’ host, Robert Osborne. Osborne, who is possibly the coolest movie channel host, also introduced the first-ever letterboxed showing of the film on TCM.

The other major extra is a feature-length commentary by BBC Radio’s Brian Sibley. Sibley is best known for his adaptation of The Lord of the Rings for BBC Radio and his non-fiction writings on the LOTR films and books. His commentary is scholarly and extremely enlightening. For those who aren’t familiar with all of the actors in bit parts, he helps out by pointing out who everyone is and some background info. Other topics divulged into are the Todd-AO process, Michael Todd’s career, and even Georges Melies. Highly recommended commentary.

Further re-creating the roadshow experience, Warner Home Video has provided the complete “Around the World in 80 Days Almanac” as a DVD-ROM extra. Lots of info on the original Jules Verne book, the actors, the filmmakers, and Michael Todd is included, as well as photographs. There is even a complete list of extras featured in the film!

Sped up to 24fps and cut down in the prologue, Georges Melies’ excellent early cinema classic “A Trip to the Moon/Voyage dans le lune” is provided in uncut form. Warner has thankfully used the transfer utilized on the Image Entertainment and Kino International DVD’s for early silent film (The Movies Begin and Landmarks of Early Film). The intended Melies narration, with appropriate piano/violin music is intact. An optional introduction with Robert Osborne is included, too.

Original theatrical trailers for the 1957 general release and 1968/1983 re-releases are also provided. Both are anamorphic (2.35:1 and 1.78:1, respectively) and in OK condition. The latter trailer is the 1968 re-release trailer, but with minor alterations by Warner Bros. for their 1983 re-release.

Nearly 17 minutes of outtakes and trims are included, via the Library of Congress’ collection for the film. These range from lesser quality takes to alternate angles and shots. Nothing really interesting, though. These are letterboxed, but not anamorphic. The quality is a little tattered, but still very good. Absent are the deleted Eddie Fisher musical numbers and an alternate prologue (glimpses of which can be seen in the Mike Todd documentary). The materials supposedly exist, but it can be assumed that they were too damaged to transfer.

A huge photo gallery, with 84 stills, includes everything from frames from the film and trailers, lobby cards, production stills, and behind-the-scenes shots.

On the second disc, most of the extras are about Mike Todd.

“Around the World with Mike Todd” serves as a good summarization of the showman’s career and his role in getting Around the World in 80 Days made. Lots of behind-the-scenes footage from the film, as well as some outright putrid-looking clips from the film take up most of the documentary. Orson Welles hosts the documentary. This was obvious re-edited a few years back and given some horrible Casio Rapman music that I assume is supposed to sound like Victor Young’s rousing score.

The Playhouse 90 excerpts are OK, but kind of boring. However, it’s worth seeing for the segment with Mike Todd hamming it up.

The short clips of the the L.A. premeire, 1957 Academy Awards, and the Spain premeire are interesting if just for historical sake. Elizibeth Taylor is usually seen by Todd’s side… something tells me that he didn’t suffer from depression much after making “80 Days"

A list of all the cameos can be accessed, but it’s just the names. A good move on Warner’s part, actually… it’s more fun to look for everyone in the film.

All in all, a nice package of extras. However, the Library of Congress holds hundreds of behind-the-scenes 16mm reels intended to be made into a documentary around the time of the release of the film. Clips of the footage do turn up in the Mike Todd doc, though...

Final Thoughts:

Fun movie, great DVD, low price… it’s worth it!

If there's anything I've overlooked or made a mistake on, feel free to point out.

I'd like to greatly thank Herb Kane for letting me do this review. Also, a big thanks to the "80 Days" fans on the HTF.

- Patrick McCart

Release Date: May 18th, 2004

Buy it at:
Deep Discount DVD
Digital Eyes
DVD Empire
DVD Planet
Video Universe

This IS the end.

#2 of 60 OFFLINE   StevenFC


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Posted May 18 2004 - 08:59 PM

Way-Hey...Well done lad! Excellent review Patrick! Glad to hear it looks so good. I'm not worried about the minor imperfections at all. This film made a big impact on me as a child when I saw it on tv (I assume) way back when. I've always wanted to see this on the big screen or at least on a big tv. I'll have to settle for a 27 incher, but I'm still looking forward to the visuals and the extras. This is one of those movies that you experience and not watch. Thanks for the entertaining review (and the screen shots!) Patrick. It takes me back.
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#3 of 60 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 18 2004 - 10:03 PM

Incredible review and effort. Patrick, feel free to contact us about being a guest reviewer anytime. I just received this DVD the other day and plan to watch it for the first time on any format today.


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#4 of 60 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx


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Posted May 18 2004 - 10:10 PM

a truly fantastic review Patrick.

I am eagerly awaiting my copy and I will tell you my thoughts.

I met Brian Sibley during the first LOTR promtional tours and he is a fantastic storyteller indeed.

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#5 of 60 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted May 18 2004 - 10:18 PM

Absolutely fabulous review Patrick - Great job...!!!

My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#6 of 60 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted May 19 2004 - 12:44 AM

An epic review Patrick, well done mate.Posted Image
I'd forgotten about this classic film, but looking at your colorful review it's next on my order list.

Dave hören... auf, wille stoppen sie Dave... stoppen sie Dave... Mein gehirn geht... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin ängstlich Dave... Guter Nachmittag. Ich bin ein HAL 9000 computer. Ich wurde funktionsfähig am HAL-Betrieb in Urbana, Illinois auf January 12 1992.

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#7 of 60 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted May 19 2004 - 01:06 AM

Great work, Patrick. A labor of love, to be sure, and you covered everything.

Sad news - I was in touch with Warner Bros. Repertory yesterday about booking the film for my Big Screen Classics series, but there are no plans at this time to make any new prints - all they have is one beat-up print of the 1983 reissue. Posted Image

Read the blog (please): www.bigscreenclassics.com

#8 of 60 OFFLINE   Bill Huelbig

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Posted May 19 2004 - 02:06 AM

Patrick: There is no one else on the Forum who has as much right to review AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS as you, and thanks for doing justice to it. Pete: Too bad about not being able to show it on the big screen, but thanks for trying. What a show that would have been! Maybe someday ... There were so many revelations watching the DVD last night: the never-before-seen details, the Cantinflas covered wagon-horseback chase scene, the Intermission title card which I finally got to see. The blast-off of the rocket made me feel like I had Todd-AO right in my apartment. The whole experience took me back to 1956 - when I was 2 years old and too young to see the movie!

#9 of 60 OFFLINE   LorenzoL


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Posted May 19 2004 - 02:59 AM

I have seen the movie once when I was a little child but don't remember much about it, just that Cantinflas was on it since I was a big fan of his work. I bought the DVD yesterday on a blind and after reading Patrick's review, I don't regret it at all. I plan on watching the movie on the weekend.

#10 of 60 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted May 19 2004 - 03:06 AM

No, that IS a good way to synopsize the plot - World isn't exactly heavy on story! It's really just a long romp through a variety of locations, so that plot description is pretty much all you need...
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#11 of 60 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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Posted May 19 2004 - 03:27 AM

This is one of my favorite childhood movies too. I have not read the review yet but one thing that I have always loved about this movie is the music. It has an excellent score.

#12 of 60 OFFLINE   PaulP



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Posted May 19 2004 - 03:36 AM

Now this is a way to review a DVD! I sorely miss the days when Ron was the reviewer and his elaborate reviews contained numerous beautiful screenshots... Ahh... Not a knock on the current HTF reviewers by any means - I realize lots of images means hosting problems, etc. As for the disc, my copy should be arriving today. As a matter of fact I'm having an avalanche of DVDs arrive this week; so many good releases! Always wanted to see this film and will finally be able to, and in a really great edition it looks like. Well, cross off another Best Picture winner!

#13 of 60 OFFLINE   Jordan_E



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Posted May 19 2004 - 03:50 AM

You have pushed me over the edge to absolutely pick up this title! Thanks for the terrific review! Posted Image
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#14 of 60 OFFLINE   Dane Marvin

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Posted May 19 2004 - 03:58 AM

Awesome review, Patrick! I picked it up last night because Best Buy has a very fair price on it. I saw this once in my life on a poor-quality pair of VHS tapes. The screenshots look beautiful! Can't wait to sink my teeth into it!

#15 of 60 OFFLINE   GerardoHP


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Posted May 19 2004 - 04:01 AM

Excellent review, Patrick. I got the DVD yesterday and spent the whole day watching parts of the movie and the extras. Like you, I'm REALLY impressed with the picture and sound, and found the extras thoroughly entertaining and full of truly rare material. I mean, how often do you get to see all that Mike Todd footage? Warners continues to excell in the quality of the DVD's they produce. I have seen 80 DAYS in every possible format and this is right up there with the best of my recollections. A gem of a DVD and a steal at that price and a must-have for any widescreen epic aficionado.

#16 of 60 OFFLINE   Douglas R

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Posted May 19 2004 - 04:40 AM

Super review! I've just got the DVD but haven't been able to see it all yet (well it is a long film!). I've got to that Jose Greco dance scene which is fantastic and makes you realise that the film was conceived more as an "entertainment" than a story. The film never impressed on TV in poor quality P&S but certainly becomes alive and exciting in widescreen DVD. I also love that all-enveloping soundtrack.

#17 of 60 OFFLINE   David_Blackwell



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Posted May 19 2004 - 05:26 AM

Yeah, that was a great review. I like this movie, but maybe it will be something to own later on.
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#18 of 60 OFFLINE   TonyDale


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Posted May 19 2004 - 09:16 AM

Outstanding review, Patrick! ! ! I do have a question, though. Monday night was my first viewing of the film - was the freeze frame with John Carradine always a part of the film? I don't think that it's the layer change.
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#19 of 60 OFFLINE   Mark J Crawford

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Posted May 19 2004 - 09:31 AM

Superb review Patrick! Thanks for the lovely screenshots as well.


Off to buy this. . . right now. Posted Image

#20 of 60 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted May 19 2004 - 09:39 AM

Thanks for the nice comments on the review!
It's in the P&S master and the TCM letterboxed master. I'm guessing it was done for comic effect or the take used ran a little short for the dissolve, thus the freeze at the end. The layer change(s) were probably hidden in the many fades-to-black... I didn't even notice them when viewing the film. By the way, after reading some other reviews, I'm surprised by the mention of edge enhancement on the video... While on my TV, there is slight ringing, it's not visible on my DVD-ROM (which I take more seriously since it's 100% digital). Does anyone else notice this on their monitors?

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