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The Egyptian Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 131 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted July 17 2011 - 11:14 AM


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The Egyptian Blu-ray


Studio: Twilight Time

Year: 1954

Rated: Unrated

Film Length: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition Widescreen (2.55:1)

Audio: English DTS-HD 5.1


Release Date: July 12, 2011


The Movie


Producer Darryl F. Zanuck wanted to reproduce the success of The Robe, released by 20th Century Fox in 1953, and some of the same talent involved in the earlier film were enlisted for The Egyptian as well, including stars Victor Mature and Jean Simmons, screenwriter Philip Dunne, and composer Alfred Newman. The Egyptian is based on the best-selling historical novel by Mika Waltari, which was based on an ancient legend about an Egyptian physician named Sinuhe who wandered the desert in the days of the Pharaoh.


Edmund Purdom was cast as Sinuhe after Marlon Brando backed out of the role on the eve of production. Sinuhe is an orphan who was adopted by a physician and follows his adopted father’s career. Sinuhe gets mixed up with the warrior Horemheb(Victor Mature) and the two, by a stroke of luck, find themselves in service to the Pharaoh in the royal palace. Pharaoh Akhnaton(Michael Wilding) is a revolutionary leader due to his rejection of worshiping many deities in favor of serving one god, Aton, whose symbol is a stylized cross. Akhnaton’s unorthodox beliefs lead to political intrigue and unrest in The Egyptian.


Sinuhe is adored by Merit(Jean Simmons) but his affections are drawn to the whore Nefer, and he sacrifices much more for her than he ever receives in return. The role of Nefer was sought by many leading actresses of the day, including Marilyn Monroe, but Zanuck ultimately cast Bella Darvi, reputedly his mistress, in the role. Sinuhe is accompanied in many of his travels by Kaptah(Peter Ustinov), a con man and thief. Gene Tierney plays Baketamon, the half-sister of the Pharaoh who desires to rule.


The Egyptian was directed by Michael Curtiz(Casablanca, White Christmas). Curtiz was definitely up for the challenges of this film, and the lion scene is very well staged, given the special effects limitations of the time. The Egyptian also benefits from a film score produced in a rare collaboration by Alfred Newman(Gunga Din, How The West Was Won) and Bernard Herrmann(Psycho, North By Northwest). Many of the set pieces and costumes created for The Egyptian were sold by the studio and used again in DeMille’s The Ten Commandments(1956), and others were retained and used again in Cleopatra(1963).


The Egyptian was released in 1954 to mixed reviews and modest box office receipts. Many critics were especially harsh regarding Bella Darvi’s performance as Nefer because of her limited acting range and the favoritism at work in her casting. Critics have been kinder to Darvi’s performance in the intervening years, perhaps due to the fact that the role at least allowed her to play within the limited range of her acting talents. The lisping cadences of Darvi’s line readings seem well suited to a character whose personality is associated with feline cruelty.


The Egyptian succeeds as spectacle in Cinemascope, even if it does not have the same quality and depth of other historical epics like The Robe. The Egyptian attempts to create tapestry by its ephemeral focus on the Pharaoh as a leader with revolutionary ideas, but his religious beliefs are ultimately a MacGuffin to create court intrigue rather than a meditation on the meaning of life. The Egyptian is notable for the number and quality of the talents involved on and behind the screen, even if this film does not represent the highest pinnacle of their achievements.


Video


The film is presented in 1080p high definition in a 2.55:1 aspect ratio with the AVC codec. The picture quality is excellent for the most part with grain visible and fine detail perceptible in many shots. Colors tend to be vibrant, and contrast is excellent in most scenes. Some shots tend to be softer and less detailed but that is the exception rather than the norm, and is probably consistent with the original film presentation.


The extent of the restoration is apparent in the dissolves, most of which are smooth transitions but some of which are abrupt changes in picture quality. A viewer can often predict a dissolve when there is a visible and sudden loss of contrast and color, followed by the dissolve, and then an equally abrupt increase in contrast and boost in color at the end of the dissolve shot. Although the drop in picture quality is sometimes jarring in the dissolves, it also demonstrates the high quality of the restoration, which is representative of over 90% of the film. The rear projection shots in the chariot scene have not aged well, but most of the special effects shots, particularly the matte paintings and composite shots, look surprisingly good in high definition.


Audio


The English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio does good service to this film. I am sure The Egyptian never met this high standard of quality in any of its theatrical showings. The soundtrack has no apparent flaws, even if it does not have the multidirectional qualities of a modern soundtrack. Dialogue is always clearly audible through the front channels and the orchestrations created by Alfred Newman and Bernard Herrmann are served well and help to enhance the atmosphere of the film.


Special Features


The special features include all of the following:


Audio Commentary: Film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini provide an interesting feature length commentary regarding events behind the scenes in production of the film. This commentary was created in 2005 before the studio licensed this film to Twilight Time.


Isolated Score Track: The film score composed by Alfred Newman and Bernard Herrmann is presented in its glory in DTS-HD 2.0 stereo.


Original Theatrical Trailer(2:51): This original trailer for The Egyptian is unrestored and windowboxed in standard definition.


Trailers for The Flim-Flam Man(2:12) and My Cousin Rachel(2:57) in standard definition play automatically prior to the main menu.


Also included in the clamshell case is an exquisite illustrated booklet with a fascinating article about production of The Egyptian written by Julie Kirgo.


Conclusion


The Egyptian may not be the greatest historical epic ever filmed but it is entertaining, and is notable as one of the first Cinemascope films, and for the quality of talent involved in its creation. The video and audio qualities are excellent on this Blu-ray transfer, even if the video presentation is not perfect. The special features are interesting and the feature length commentary by film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini is very interesting and informative. The isolated score by composers Alfred Newman and Bernard Herrmann is also a nice inclusion. It would be nice to have the original trailer restored to the same standard of the film, but at least it is included, and in comparison it shows the high standard of the film presentation, if nothing else. I believe this is the first Blu-ray release by Twilight Time and it demonstrates that we can expect high quality from future offerings by this company.  The Egyptian is recommended to fans of historical epics and classic films who want to see spectacle presented as only it can be in high definition.   t   





#2 of 131 OFFLINE   Mark-P

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Posted July 17 2011 - 12:35 PM

Film Length: 12 hours, 20 minutes

Now that is one LONG movie!

#3 of 131 OFFLINE   Timothy E

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Posted July 17 2011 - 01:35 PM

Originally Posted by Mark-P 

Now that is one LONG movie!


:)  Thanks for pointing out that typo which has been corrected.




#4 of 131 OFFLINE   Will Krupp

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Posted July 18 2011 - 02:42 AM

I'm sorry if this was already covered somewhere else, but is this an exclusive release somewhere?  I can't seem to find it on Amazon and blu-ray.com doesn't have a purchase link.  I found one site that lists it for $39.95 (as IF....)

Has this been released to only specialty outlets? Any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks!


Edit:  I found the other thread, sorry to have asked before looking!!



#5 of 131 OFFLINE   Virgoan

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Posted July 18 2011 - 03:35 AM

This Blu-ray disc is available only through Screen Archives Entertainment....www.sae.com

#6 of 131 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted July 18 2011 - 05:55 AM



Originally Posted by Virgoan 

This Blu-ray disc is available only through Screen Archives Entertainment....www.sae.com

This is limited to just 3000 copies (or 2,999 since Tim has one).  More info about the team behind the release can be found here: http://www.hometheat...l-twilight-time



#7 of 131 OFFLINE   RolandL

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Posted July 18 2011 - 11:42 AM

Is the dialog directional like The Robe?

Roland Lataille
Cinerama web site

 


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Posted July 18 2011 - 12:07 PM

I can't order this until Wednesday. I hope they still have some left. Posted Image



#9 of 131 OFFLINE   john a hunter

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Posted July 18 2011 - 03:33 PM

I watched this last night having been a favourite for many years. No masterpiece but still very enjoyable. Anyone expecting much action will be disappointed as this is a film of ideas not action so it is very wordy. However most of the dialogue is very well written and worth listening to and the exquisite photography from Leon Shamroy takes the breath away. That plus the costumes and sets so it is easy to see where the $5 mill budget went. There is no scene selection but you can access a chapter by just punching in the number so that's not really a problem. Much more of a problem was that whoever decided on the chapter stops didn't seem to watch the film first so they jump up in the middle of a sequence for no reason whatsoever missing obvious access points. It was a joy to hear directional sound that had not been "remixed". The only really disapointment ,which I was prepared for ,was the poor "effects" or "surround" track with no discrete sounds. When originally reviewed there were comments about chariots running through the stalls of the cinema. Here there is nothing. After the Robe and others from that era, I get the impression that these 4th track effects have not survived and no one seems to want to take the trouble to recreate them. This year we have had both this and Big Country both of which I never expected to see on BD for years, if ever. Fingers crossed for some more!!

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Posted July 19 2011 - 06:43 PM

I just ordered my copy!!!! I have never seen this, but I wanted it because I LOVE historical epics. I wanted to add it to my dvd and blu-ray collection which includes almost every biblical epic ever made and one of several general epics. Can't wait!!!!



#11 of 131 OFFLINE   ShowsOn

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Posted July 21 2011 - 12:00 AM

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#12 of 131 OFFLINE   ShowsOn

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Posted July 21 2011 - 12:03 AM

All of the above captures are from the Blu-ray disc, but they have been compressed to JPG. I didn't crop or resize them, you can view larger versions by clicking on the image. Note, this film was preserved by Fox's Schawn Belston, it is his birthday today: http://www.facebook.com/schawn

#13 of 131 OFFLINE   Scott Calvert

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Posted July 21 2011 - 01:43 AM

I can't imagine it looking any better on the day it was released.

#14 of 131 OFFLINE   ShowsOn

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Posted July 21 2011 - 02:27 AM

I can't imagine it looking any better on the day it was released.

It's probably better because it didn't have to be projected through an early CinemaScope projector lens. In the book Hollywood Cameraman, the cinematographer of The Egyptian Leon Shamroy laments the terrible quality of early CinemaScope lenses. The Egyptian was the first film shot with the Type II Bausch & Lomb adapters which were a vast improvement over the Type I adapters (and the Chretien prototype lenses that Shamroy used on The Robe), but It is nice to see Shamroy's work represented in such a beautiful way. The film is full of pastel colours including blue light bounced off the walls. It really is a sumptuous film to look at.

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Posted July 21 2011 - 06:41 AM

My copy has already shipped. I've heard that people are getting theirs rather quickly, so hopefully I won't have to wait too much longer!



#16 of 131 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted July 21 2011 - 08:11 AM



Originally Posted by Timothy E 

 It would be nice to have the original trailer restored to the same standard of the film, but at least it is included, and in comparison it shows the high standard of the film presentation, if nothing else. I believe this is the first Blu-ray release by Twilight Time and it demonstrates that we can expect high quality from future offerings by this company.  The Egyptian is recommended to fans of historical epics and classic films who want to see spectacle presented as only it can be in high definition.   t   





I go back and forth on trailer remasterings.  On one hand it would be nice, on the other hand I really like seeing the before and after when you can compare the condition of the trailer to that of the finished product.  A testiment to Schawn Belston and the folks at Twilight Time.  I second Timothy's comments about looking forward to future releases.  Matt recently reviewed their DVD release of Woman Obsessed.




#17 of 131 OFFLINE   Charles Smith

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Posted July 21 2011 - 08:53 AM

Also, trailers tended to get kind of beat up anyway, so it seems sort of natural to seem some of them in rough shape...though I do wish widescreen ones were always anamorphic.




#18 of 131 OFFLINE   M90GM

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Posted July 21 2011 - 09:07 AM

DOES ANYONE KNOW IF THE BLU RAY EGYPTIAN IS REGION LOCKED? IT SEEMS IT IS ONLY AVAILABLE FROM SCREEN ARCHIVE, CORRECT? ALSO WARNER ARCHIVE IS LISTED AS RELEASING THE LONG AWAITED MGM CINEMASCOPE HIT THE STUDENT PRINCE BUT ONLY THROUGH MOVIES UNLIMITED - NOT AVAILABLE ON AMAZON OR EVEN ON WB SHOP ARCHIVE. ANYBODY HAVE ANY FURTHER INFO?

#19 of 131 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted July 21 2011 - 09:15 AM



Originally Posted by M90GM 

DOES ANYONE KNOW IF THE BLU RAY EGYPTIAN IS REGION LOCKED? IT SEEMS IT IS ONLY AVAILABLE FROM SCREEN ARCHIVE, CORRECT? ALSO WARNER ARCHIVE IS LISTED AS RELEASING THE LONG AWAITED MGM CINEMASCOPE HIT THE STUDENT PRINCE BUT ONLY THROUGH MOVIES UNLIMITED - NOT AVAILABLE ON AMAZON OR EVEN ON WB SHOP ARCHIVE. ANYBODY HAVE ANY FURTHER INFO?



Easy on the caps there Justin Posted Image.  I sent an email to a contact at Twilight Time to see if they use region coding on their DVDs or Blu-rays.  I'll let you know as soon as I hear anything.




#20 of 131 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted July 21 2011 - 09:20 AM

I heard back:



At the moment, none of our titles have been region-locked. Of course, we can't definitively say that will always be the case, for as we open up relationships with more and more studios, policies may vary.


So everything currently on the market including The Egyptian is region free.







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