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Camelot Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 19 Cameron Yee

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Posted April 24 2012 - 05:42 PM

Lerner and Lowe’s musical treatment of the Arthurian Legend never quite worked on film like it did on the stage, but the Blu-ray release of “Camelot” comes together quite nicely, with a great audio and video presentation and a solid - if largely conventional - set of extras.

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Camelot
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Studio: Warner Home Video
Year: 1967
Rating: NR
Running Time: 3:00:18
MSRP: $35.99

  THE FEATURE EXTRAS
Video AVC: 1080p high definition 2.40:1 Standard and high definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 Stereo and mono
Subtitles English SDH, French, Spanish Same


The Feature: 3.5/5
Like most kids, I first heard about King Arthur when I was in grade school, but it wasn’t until my teens that I developed an abiding fascination with the medieval British legend. My interest was piqued in large part because my closest friends were cast in our high school’s production of Lerner and Loewe’s stage musical, “Camelot” (which itself is based on T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King”). Though I was certainly familiar with the outline of the Arthurian Legend –  of how a humble boy comes to great power, unites a kingdom, and then ultimately sees it come to ruin – it was the way the mythic tale was told in very human (and highly singable) terms that ultimately made the legend come to life.

In an effort to keep the magic of that stage experience alive, I bought the 1960 original Broadway musical cast recording, which features Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet as Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, respectively. My heady high school nostalgia notwithstanding, it wasn’t long before the Broadway production became cemented in my mind as the definitive “Camelot,” even though I only had studio recorded musical numbers to go by. While I was aware of the 1967 film adaptation with Richard Harris as Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as Guinevere and Franco Nero as Lancelot, its ho-hum reputation far preceded it and I was reluctant to listen to musical numbers that could never outmatch those featuring Andrews.

Eventually I did watch Director Joshua Logan’s film, and though its shortcomings didn’t prove so powerful as to undo my love for the original musical, it certainly was no contest when it came to the performances. While Harris made for an appropriately regal Arthur, and Redgrave’s beauty was breathtaking, the constant “talk-singing” style of performance, particularly from Redgrave, made for a difficult viewing (or rather listening) experience. Even without resorting to such unfair comparisons that pit a singer vs. a non-singer, the film has a notable lack of magic and charm that even its opulent production design and wardrobe can’t make up for. Criticisms around the too-stagy direction or tepid chemistry between Redgrave and Nero are merely symptoms of a greater problem – the failure to convey the mix of myth and humanity that made the stage play so compelling.

I concede that after my high school experience and subsequent attachment to the cast recording, that my objectivity about “Camelot” has been horribly compromised. I actually went to see a touring production of the musical when I was in college, and that didn’t pass muster either, so ultimately Warner Brothers’ film never had a fighting chance. Consequently, the best advice I can offer for those who haven’t seen the movie, is to make sure, if at all possible, to watch it before anything else. To do otherwise is just an open invitation for disappointment.

Video Quality: 4/5
Framed at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, the AVC-encoded, 1080p transfer features strong black levels and the full range of contrast, though the image seems to struggle a bit during the film’s darkest scenes and settings. Colors have a bold and pleasing richness, and fine object detail impresses in both the film’s ornate costuming and panoramic wide shots. The picture can look a little soft on occasion (like in the opening titles), though generally speaking the image is nicely sharp and clear, with no evidence of excessive digital processing measures.

Audio Quality: 4/5
Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently clear, detailed and intelligible. Surround activity is mostly reserved for supporting the score, though the effect is nicely balanced, giving the presentation an enveloping sound stage. LFE is non-existent, but the track exhibits solid depth and fullness, particularly during the many musical sequences.

Special Features: 3.5/5
The extras include the requisite historical pieces on the development and production of the film, vintage promotional artifacts, a somewhat useless CD soundtrack sampler, and the now-familiar Warner Brothers “DigiBook” collectible booklet. Overall there aren’t too many surprises to be found, with the value of the extras ultimately dependent on one’s appreciation for the film itself.

Commentary by Stephen Farber: The film critic and author delivers a solid commentary filled with plentiful historical context and background, though he comes off as a little too complimentary at times and has a slight tendency to merely restate the plot. Given the length of the film, the track will likely be accessed by only the most devoted fans.

Camelot: Falling Kingdoms (29:59, HD): The 2012 documentary traces the history of the production, describes how it coincided with the end of the studio system, and how its box office failure contributed to the resignation of Jack Warner as the head of Warner Brothers Studio.

The Story of Camelot (9:45, SD): Vintage 1967 behind-the-scenes promotional piece.

The World Premiere of Camelot (29:04, SD): Vintage 1967 TV special covering the film’s premiere.

Trailers

  • Theatrical Trailer #1 (2:06, SD)
  • Theatrical Trailer #2 (1:04, SD)
  • Theatrical Trailer #3 (3:10, SD)
  • Theatrical Trailer #4 (3:17, SD)
  • Theatrical Trailer #5 (:26, SD)

Camelot Soundtrack CD Sampler: Includes four tracks – 1) I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight 2) Camelot and the Wedding Ceremony 3) How to Handle a Woman 4) If Ever I Would Leave You - Love Montage. It’s telling that the disc does not include any of Redgrave’s musical numbers.

Collectible Book: The nicely produced book-that-is-the-packaging includes cast and crew biographies, background on the production, trivia, and numerous photographs.

Recap
The Feature: 3.5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 3.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

Warner Home Video delivers a strong audio and video presentation for “Camelot,” the film adaptation of the popular Lerner and Loewe stage musical that retells the story of King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. The special features cover the requisite range of topics, from the historical to the promotional, making for a release that offers few surprises, but one that should please existing fans of the film.


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#2 of 19 Adam Gregorich

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Posted April 25 2012 - 07:10 AM

Thanks Cameron.  What it looks as if WB did an excellent job with the disc, I think I stick with catching it live if it ever comes to town.



#3 of 19 Virgoan

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Posted April 25 2012 - 08:23 AM

Cameron: "If Ever I Would Leave You" is a "Lancelot" song. Nero did not do his own vocals. Choral supervisor Ken Darby found Gene Merlino who dubbed all of Nero's songs. The Arthur/Guinevere "What Do the Simple Folks Do" is absolutely wonderful in the film.

#4 of 19 Cameron Yee

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Posted April 25 2012 - 08:38 AM

Thanks Ronald. Is the info about "If Ever I Would Leave You" in reference to a particular statement I made in the review?


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#5 of 19 rsmithjr

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Posted April 25 2012 - 09:53 AM

Cameron: "If Ever I Would Leave You" is a "Lancelot" song. Nero did not do his own vocals. Choral supervisor Ken Darby found Gene Merlino who dubbed all of Nero's songs. The Arthur/Guinevere "What Do the Simple Folks Do" is absolutely wonderful in the film.

It is wonderful BUT it seem to eliminate my favorite section of lines: "They sit around and wonder what royal folk do." Burton gets that line in the Broadway album.

#6 of 19 JohnMor

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Posted April 25 2012 - 04:02 PM


Originally Posted by Virgoan 

Cameron: "If Ever I Would Leave You" is a "Lancelot" song. Nero did not do his own vocals. Choral supervisor Ken Darby found Gene Merlino who dubbed all of Nero's songs. The Arthur/Guinevere "What Do the Simple Folks Do" is absolutely wonderful in the film.




Originally Posted by Cameron Yee 

Thanks Ronald. Is the info about "If Ever I Would Leave You" in reference to a particular statement I made in the review?



Cameron, I think it's most likely in reference to the following portion of your review...



Originally Posted by Cameron Yee 

Camelot Soundtrack CD Sampler: Includes four tracks – 1) I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight 2) Camelot and the Wedding Ceremony 3) How to Handle a Woman 4) If Ever I Would Leave You - Love Montage. It’s telling that the disc does not include any of Redgrave’s or Nero’s musical numbers.




BTW, thanks for the fine review.  I'll be getting this, but I am in complete agreement about the film vs. the Broadway production.  Almost as big a disappointment for me as the film of Man of La Mancha compared to the Broadway show.


#7 of 19 Cameron Yee

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Posted April 25 2012 - 04:26 PM

Ah, I see. I revised that portion accordingly.


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#8 of 19 David Weicker

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Posted April 25 2012 - 04:37 PM

There seemed to be an unfortunate trend (IMHO) that musicals of the late 60's and 70's would hire appropriate 'actors', but then not follow the lessons of the past, and let them sing for themselves. This is what caused the problems with Camelot, Man Of La Mancha, Lost Horizon, Scrooge, and other critically panned musicals of that era. Where from the 30's to the mid-60s the studios would hire someone who could carry the emotional and dramatic demands of the role, they realized that a good singing performance was also needed. While some performers were actually talented enough to carry the songs (some surprisingly so), too many weren't. Imagine a world where we got to hear Cyd Charisse, Natalie Wood, Deborah Kerr, Audrey Hepburn, or Lina Lamont. They were terrific at what they did, but would their films be masterpieces, or merely acceptable. I remember really, really looking forward to Man Of La Mancha, and O'Toole, Loren, and Coco were perfect for their roles - until they started to sing. I don't think Camelot is quite in that category, but a stronger set of pipes would have helped. (like many posters, I grew up with the Broadway Cast recording creating the show in my mind, so the film was a let-down to me, although still watchable). David

#9 of 19 Virgoan

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Posted April 26 2012 - 06:12 AM

Thanks Ronald. Is the info about "If Ever I Would Leave You" in reference to a particular statement I made in the review?

All taken care of.... :D

#10 of 19 KPmusmag

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Posted April 26 2012 - 06:26 AM

I think Gene Merlino did a great job singing Lancelot, in fact, I thought Nero did his own singing until some years after I first saw the film. To my ear, their voices match well. As for MAN OF LA MANCHA, I believe that O'Toole was dubbed by Simon Gilbert. But by the sound of it, O'Toole probably could have done nearly as well himself. My biggest problem with MAN OF LA MANCHA is that it is too literal. In my opinion, the magic of the stage play is that we enter Cervantes' imagination with the prisoners. We do not see the windmill any more than they do, but we believe it because of the power of his storytelling. The movie made it too real. I think the acting is spot on, though. Saul Chaplin says in his autobio that the original stage director was originally going to do the film, quit prior to filming, but the production design had all been finalized and thre was no money to change anything so they were stuck with what they had.

#11 of 19 GMpasqua

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Posted April 27 2012 - 03:33 AM

I actually like the film of "Man of La Mancha" and believe it has aged quite well.  It's probably better today than when it opened in December of 1972.  Musical tastes have changed, and MOLM is so well acted and orchestrated that the singing is a bit of a let down, but on the otherside, if big operatic voices came out of their months it might be considered old fashioned today. I never liked Joan Diener's operatic vocals on the cast album



#12 of 19 Matt Hough

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Posted April 27 2012 - 08:41 AM


Originally Posted by GMpasqua 

I actually like the film of "Man of La Mancha" and believe it has aged quite well.  It's probably better today than when it opened in December of 1972.  Musical tastes have changed, and MOLM is so well acted and orchestrated that the singing is a bit of a let down, but on the otherside, if big operatic voices came out of their months it might be considered old fashioned today. I never liked Joan Diener's operatic vocals on the cast album


While I disagree with you about Joan Diener on the cast recording(s), I do admit to liking much of Man of La Mancha. There are problems, of course (Loren and Coco do the best they can maneuvering the score but it's really too big/high for their singing voices), and some of the cut songs are REALLY regrettable omissions. I agree with the earlier poster who lamented the choice of Simon Gilbert as O'Toole's singing voice. I think it's the film's biggest weakness. But the acting is sterling, and the story always moves me by the end.



#13 of 19 James David Walley

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Posted November 20 2012 - 08:04 PM

BTW, thanks for the fine review.  I'll be getting this, but I am in complete agreement about the film vs. the Broadway production.  Almost as big a disappointment for me as the film of Man of La Mancha compared to the Broadway show. 

+1,000,000 I had the fortune to see touring companies of the original Broadway production of both these musicals years before seeing the films. Or maybe that should be "misfortune," because that meant the films, MoLM in particular, came close to ruining my memory of the stage productions. (These experiences have been the reason why I've avoided the film version of Rent like the plague, and have my trepidation about the upcoming Les Misérables, no matter how good the trailers might look.) By the way, whatever may have shown up in the dailies, Redgrave and Nero must have had some chemistry, as they had a child together shortly after filming was over!
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#14 of 19 Matt Hough

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Posted November 21 2012 - 12:26 AM

I have the Blu-rays of Camelot, Ben-Hur, and Lawrence of Arabia sitting in a stack of other unopened Blu-rays just waiting for a time to be watched. I had thought I'd watch one of them at some point during Thanksgiving, but now it looks like I might be working on something else. Still, I'm anxious to see how they all look and am anxious to revisit Camelot to see if my impressions of it have changed after not seeing it for many years.


#15 of 19 Rick Thompson

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Posted November 21 2012 - 12:52 AM

That Camelot was a lumbering lump of a film could have been predicted, as Joshua Logan's film musicals were all far below the original shows artistically. It's a testament to how strong South Pacific was that it survived his restructuring and those color filters. It took the total disaster of Paint Your Wagon to finally stop him. That film had a nifty opening effect and went straight to the dumper from there. As for Man of La Mancha, that was surprising to me, as generally directors who know how to make good films (and Arthur Hiller was one of those pros) do well with musicals. Cases in point: Norman Jewison with Fiddler on the Roof, William Wyler with Funny Girl, Fred Zinneman with Oklahoma! George Cukor with My Fair Lady, Carol Reed with Oliver! and Robert Wise with the twin gems of West Side Story and The Sound of Music. I also found much to like in Francis Ford Coppola's Finian's Rainbow; its problem was a limp 30 minutes in the middle before it came alive again at the end. You can have misfires (Vincente Minelli's On a Clear Day You Can SeeForever comes to mind) but it's not as often. I'm told that Rent (Chris Columbus) didn't work either, but I'm not a fan of the show itself so I never saw it. At first blush it seems a mismatch between a heavy drama and a comedy director. With inexperienced directors, for every Bob Fosse Cabaret, you get several Richard Attenborough A Chorus Lines and Harold Prince A Little Night Musics. Even in Fosse's case, you had Sweet Charity preceding it.

#16 of 19 Matt Hough

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Posted November 21 2012 - 02:26 AM

Well, with Sweet Charity, Fosse was playing around with his new bag of toys and got hooked on the zoom lens. Much of Charity is quite wonderful, I think.



#17 of 19 GMpasqua

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Posted November 21 2012 - 04:00 AM

Originally Posted by Rick Thompson 

That Camelot was a lumbering lump of a film could have been predicted, as Joshua Logan's film musicals were all far below the original shows artistically.

With inexperienced directors, for every Bob Fosse Cabaret, you get several Richard Attenborough A Chorus Lines and Harold Prince A Little Night Musics. Even in Fosse's case, you had Sweet Charity preceding it.

Prior to "Camelot" the only film musical Logan Directed was "South Pacific"


Richard Attenborough filmed  the wonderful "Oh, What a Lovely War" musical  (1969) years prior to "A Chorus Line"


"Oh, What a Lovely War" opened to good reviews and won some best pictures awards (It was deemed a foreign English langague film at the time. Plus, It's a great film musical for people who don't like film musicals



#18 of 19 Rick Thompson

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Posted November 21 2012 - 10:59 AM

Prior to "Camelot" the only film musical Logan Directed was "South Pacific" Richard Attenborough filmed  the wonderful "Oh, What a Lovely War" musical  (1969) years prior to "A Chorus Line" "Oh, What a Lovely War" opened to good reviews and won some best pictures awards (It was deemed a foreign English langague film at the time. Plus, It's a great film musical for people who don't like film musicals

And only the sheer quality of South Pacific saved it. As for Attenborough, he still only had six films under his belt by the time of A Chorus Line. One of them was Gandhi, which got him an Oscar (though it bored me silly). The thing is, he had the guts to make a great decision right off the bat: keeping it all inside a theater except for a couple of Zach scenes to give Michael Douglas something to do. Problem was, he then made every possible wrong decision from then on out, the topper being replacement of "The Music and the Mirror," one of the show's magic moments, with "Let Me Dance for You," which is a pretty pale imitation. And yes, I liked a lot of things in Sweet Charity too.

#19 of 19 GMpasqua

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Posted November 22 2012 - 02:51 AM

Originally Posted by Rick Thompson 


And only the sheer quality of South Pacific saved it.
As for Attenborough, he still only had six films under his belt by the time of A Chorus Line. One of them was Gandhi, which got him an Oscar (though it bored me silly). The thing is, he had the guts to make a great decision right off the bat: keeping it all inside a theater except for a couple of Zach scenes to give Michael Douglas something to do. Problem was, he then made every possible wrong decision from then on out, the topper being replacement of "The Music and the Mirror," one of the show's magic moments, with "Let Me Dance for You," which is a pretty pale imitation.
And yes, I liked a lot of things in Sweet Charity too.

I believe the producers of the film "A Chorus Line" are more to blame than the director.


The producers decided to remove the songs and add the flash backs - they were nervous mid America would get bored if they stayed on the stage the whole time.


Casting Michael Douglas was a mistake - the character should have remained a voice until he confronts Paul on stage - 2/3's into the script.


When the film sticks to the stage libretto it almost works - almost.

And poor Alison Reed - who should have been wonderful, was so misdirected and given the unfortunate task of stopping the show with excessive whining when the action on stage was much more interesting, instead Alison should have stopped the film with "The Music and the Mirror" like all other Cassies did on stage.







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