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Blu-ray Reviews

Lost Horizon (1973) Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 81 Richard Gallagher

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Posted December 13 2012 - 03:11 PM

Lost Horizon, the wholly unnecessary 1973 musical remake of the classic 1937 Frank Capra film, is ponderous, plodding, and overlong, and it is further bogged down by a collection of forgettable songs written by the usually excellent team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Nevertheless, the film apparently has its fans and is now available in a beautiful Blu-ray release from Twilight Time.





Lost Horizon

Studio: Twilight Time/Columbia Pictures
Year: 1973
Rated: G
Program Length: 149 minutes                 Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p
Languages: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Subtitles: English SDH

The Program

Lost Horizon, the wholly unnecessary 1973 musical remake of the classic 1937 Frank Capra film, is ponderous, plodding, and overlong, and it is further bogged down by a collection of forgettable songs written by the usually excellent team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Nevertheless, the film apparently has its fans and is now available in a beautiful Blu-ray release from Twilight Time.

The film begins promisingly. A group of westerners, including United Nations peacekeeper Richard Conway (Peter Finch), is trying to escape from an unnamed Asian country which appears to be in the throes of an armed revolt. Conway is coordinating the arrival of rescue planes which have been dispatched to get the westerners out of harm's way. When the last plane arrives, Conway goes aboard with a journalist, Sally Hughes (Sally Kellerman); an engineer, Sam Cornelius (George Kennedy); a comedian/song and dance man, Harry Lovett (Bobby Van); and Conway's younger brother, George (Michael York). However, unbeknownst to the group the plane's pilot has been waylaid and replaced by a mysterious Asian man. The plane is supposed to be bound for Hong Kong, but it is not until morning that the passengers realize that the plane is headed west, toward the Himalayan Mountains.

They have no idea why they have been hijacked or where they are being taken. The plane lands for refueling but the passengers are forced to remain aboard. When the plane takes off it begins to climb to a high altitude and everyone is forced to use oxygen tanks. Then one of the plane's engines dies in a snowstorm and the pilot is forced to make a crash landing. The impact kills the pilot but the plane is remarkably unscathed and none of the passengers are injured. They prepare to spend the night in the plane, but after darkness falls they are greeted by a procession of men bearing torches. The procession is led by Chang (John Gielgud), who was educated in England and speaks perfect English. The following morning he leads the group on a trek through the mountains until they reach Shangri-La, a land where the weather is always temperate, sickness is unknown and the people live to the age of 100 or more.

At this point, Lost Horizon suddenly turns into a romantic musical, with eleven tunes by Bacharach and David. Conway is immediately smitten when his meets Catherine (Liv Ullman), a Shangri-La schoolteacher. His brother George falls for Maria (Oliva Hussey), who sings and dances for them during their first dinner in Shangri-La. Sam is interested in Sally, but before he can get anywhere with her she has to be relieved of suicidal feelings through counseling with a Shangri-La lama, To Len (James Shigeta). Harry, meanwhile, discovers that he has an affinity for working with the children of Shangri-La. Conway finally finds out why they were brought to Shangri-La when he gets to meet the High Lama (Charles Boyer).

The story pretty much meanders along, punctuated by the occasional singing and dancing. The pop music is oddly disconcerting and none of the songs will leave you humming afterwards, although one ("Living Together, Growing Together") became a modest hit for The Fifth Dimension. The principal characters are not particularly well-developed, so it is difficult to get wrapped up in what happens to them. While Shangri-La is depicted as a paradise, the typical resident there appears to spend each day involved in menial labor, such as tending to rice paddies and toting buckets of water. Film critics of the day noted that the physical labor was left to the Asians in Shangri-La, and they pointed out that other races are notable for their complete absence. As Pauline Kael put it, "There's probably no way to rethink this material without throwing it all away."

Lost Horizon is, however, a lovely film to look at, with outstanding, colorful photography by Robert Surtees. The film was produced by Ross Hunter and is directed in a workmanlike manner by Charles Jarrot. The film was trimmed to 143 minutes after its original release, but that footage was restored before Sony released it on DVD last year as part of its MOD program. I have not seen that version, but the Blu-ray looks and sounds superb so it undoubtedly is a significant upgrade over the DVD.

As is the case with all Twilight Time releases, this Blu-ray is a limited edition of 3,000 copies. Click here for ordering information.

The Video

Sony has provided Twilight Time with another first-class Blu-ray transfer. As noted, the cinematography by Robert Surtees is spectacular. The mountain scenes (shot near Mount Hood in Oregon) are beautiful and awesome, and Shangri-La is quite colorful. The image appears to be properly framed and it is sharp and well-detailed throughout. There is no evidence of any damage or excessive digital manipulation. Film grain is intact and the overall effect is pleasingly film-like.

The Audio

The 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack is quite good. Dialogue is mostly confined to the center channel and is clear and intelligible. There is effective use of the surround channels during some early explosions and the plane crash scene, although it does not compare with what we would expect to hear in a film made today. The audio really opens up during the musical numbers. If only they had been better songs! As is typically the case with Twilight Time releases, there also is an isolated score track. Curiously, I found the songs to be more pleasing when listening to the isolated track with the picture turned off.

The Supplements

There are more extras here than are usually seen on Twilight Time Blu-rays. Apparently these are the same extras which are found on the Sony MOD DVD.

We have the original theatrical trailer, which is introduced by producer Ross Hunter. This is followed by two teaser trailers and two television spots.

"Ross Hunter: On the Way to Shangri-La" is a vintage promotional featurette for Lost Horizon. It is framed at 4:3 and has faded colors, but is certainly watchable. It contains some spoilers, so viewers should avoid it until they have seen the feature. It has a running time of ten minutes.

There is an alternate scene with Peter Finch and Liv Ullman which is shown letterboxed. It runs for approximately two minutes.

Finally, there are recordings of Burt Bacharach singing demo versions of eight songs written for the film. He apparently accompanied himself on piano. Still frames from the film are shown while the songs are playing.

The on-screen catalogue of Twilight Time releases shows that Our Man Flint and Experiment in Terror are scheduled to be released in January.

Included with the disc is a typically insightful and informative 8-page colorful booklet written by Julie Kirgo.

The Packaging

The single disc is packaged in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

The Final Analysis

I suppose that if Lost Horizon had to be remade, it was worth the effort to turn it into something new. However, it was a box office flop and it was savaged by critics. Looking at it today, it has a certain amount of kitsch appeal, particularly a fertility dance which was cut from the roadshow version and has been restored here. Fans of Lost Horizon will certainly want to pick up this Blu-ray, because it is the definitive version of the film. Now what we need is a Blu-ray of the original Frank Capra classic.

Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable

Release Date: December 11, 2012


Rich Gallagher

#2 of 81 bigshot

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Posted December 14 2012 - 04:49 AM

Does this version have the infamous "Fertility Dance" number?

#3 of 81 Reed Grele

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Posted December 14 2012 - 06:02 AM

Does this version have the infamous "Fertility Dance" number?

It does.

#4 of 81 Ethan Riley

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Posted December 14 2012 - 12:25 PM

Watching it now. First truly Stupid Moment: they're flying at an extremely high altitude and bitching about how thin the air is and it's hard to breathe; and Sally Kellerman decides that's a good time to light up a cigarette.
 

 


#5 of 81 noel aguirre

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Posted December 14 2012 - 05:51 PM

Favorite moment: Sally Kellerman's dance on the rocks to George Kennedy singing "Reflections" - great choreography.

#6 of 81 Ethan Riley

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Posted December 14 2012 - 06:12 PM

Watched the entire movie in one sitting...! Now this was interesting; I've never owned LH on home video before. The only copy I had was a 90s vhs that I taped off AMC; it wasn't even in stereo because I didn't have a stereo vcr. To hear LH on the blu-ray boom out in lossless audio was shocking, to say the least. The incidental score is lovely. Too bad people keep singing all the time! I have some thoughts on why it was such a flop in its day. One of the things that always bugged me was the fact that it's a good 40 minutes into it before the first musical number. That's jarring right there. By that point, people were watching a pretty straightforward dramatic remake of the 30s version and all the sudden...BOOM! Olivia Hussey is floating around in a yellow parachute, singing something that sounded like background music from a Japanese tea house. (And by the way, does it ever occur to anyone as icky that Juliet and Tybalt are having an affair in this one? lol) And just when you're dismissing "Share the Joy" as said incidental background song, along comes James Shigeta in a silly red cap, his booming baritone breaking through any false hope that indeed you've walked into a (relatively safe) dramatic remake. It's kind of downhill from there; that's the point of no return. Shouldn't have been a musical, and that's pretty much all that's wrong with this movie!! One thing that could have fixed this particular scene was if they'd been playing "Living Together" in the background as soon as the procession began. It's very, very jarring for there to be silence and then suddenly have Shigeta start singing like that. Another weird non-transition into song occurs when Liv beings "The World is a Circle." For some reason, the frickin' kids are all shouting WHY? WHY? WHY? at her. And we never know what they're asking her. But her answer, presumably--is the lyrics to the song. And I still can't figure out what they might have been asking her. Actually, most of the songs in this flick pop out of nowhere. That was considered bad form at the time. In musical theater, it had been considered bad form to do that for probably the last 30 years. I think Oklahoma had broken the mold of songs starting up from nowhere. Oklahoma debuted in 1943. Lost Horizon debuted in 1973. BB and HD should have known better! Bad, bad! I had never seen the "Fertility Dance" before. God. People say it's camp, because the guys are almost naked. I wouldn't call it "camp." The scene's most direct antecedent would be the Olympian athletes scene from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," ("Ain't There Anyone Here For Love?" to be exact. In fact, I think they actually copied some of the choreography from that one lol). "Anyone Here for Love?" is camp, because it was silly and self-aware, and satirizing the fitness craze of the 50s. The Futility Dance is just sorta pompous. A question: what in the world happened to the footage for the reprise of "Living Together?" I mean the Kellerman/Kennedy reprise that takes place after they build the dam? The first reprise, following the Fertility Dance--is on the blu. Did they lose the 2nd reprise footage in the past? Any other cuts or trims that are known? The rest of the movie suffers from banal dialogue, lame almost non-existent choreography and actors intentionally looking into the camera. It's just lame. I don't know. I said before that the only way to save this flick would have been to drop all the musical numbers and release it as a drama. It'd probably be a respected classic today. Instead, it's a turkey classic. It's not campy; it's just sorta goofy. I dunno...I keep watching it every year or two anyway. There's something I've always like about it...I just don't know what!! Oh yes--the blu-ray is good. It's very, very good. One of the best blus I've seen for 70s films. Very, very good. The colors are amazing. And I repeat that the lossless audio is just fantastic. I never saw the Archive dvd, but I think it's worth it as an upgrade, for true fans. But whether the movie is good or bad, it is one damn fine looking blu. I hope now that the Warner Archives will farm out some of their other big musicals to TT. I would like the Boyfriend and a few others on blu...
 

 


#7 of 81 noel aguirre

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Posted December 14 2012 - 06:32 PM

I watched the entire movie with the isolated score which is brilliant. Why can't we get isolated scores with all musicals?

#8 of 81 noel aguirre

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Posted December 14 2012 - 06:39 PM

The fertility dance symbolizes all the sperms trying to fertilize the one egg( Olivia Hussey- obviously pregnant at the time hence making is basically a futility dance). The first dancer on the right looks like Lyle Wagoner from the Carol Burnett show!

#9 of 81 DP 70

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Posted December 14 2012 - 11:11 PM

My brother run this in70mm at the Columbia cinema in London on its release. He remembers it being a usa print and looked great for a blow up.

#10 of 81 GMpasqua

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Posted December 15 2012 - 07:28 AM

Originally Posted by Ethan Riley 

Instead, it's a turkey classic. It's not campy; it's just sorta goofy. I dunno...I keep watching it every year or two anyway. There's something I've always like about it...I just don't know what!!
 

for a bad film you sure seem to watch it a lot



#11 of 81 bryan4999

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Posted December 15 2012 - 07:47 AM

I watched the entire movie with the isolated score which is brilliant. Why can't we get isolated scores with all musicals?

I agree. And several films, like GYPSY and MARY POPPINS, had isolated scores on their laserdisc release that did not make it to DVD.

#12 of 81 GMpasqua

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Posted December 17 2012 - 04:35 AM

Wow! watched this last night and couldn't believe how good it looked. This has to be one of the best catalog transfers to Blu-ray this year, easily in the top 10. Okay the film has problems (some editing could have removed the lame lines and embarrassing moments) but the film looks great and you can see a lot of detail in the sets and costumes.  This must have been an expensive production. There is a lot to like on this disc, it's too bad the film never really hits the mark, but it's not the total disaster people have come to believe. It actually is quite entertaining (I watched the Capra version last week and the two films are pretty similar)


Hermes Pan may be the films biggest weakness.  The dance numbers are painful - why not choreograph the numbers around the strengths of the actors instead of having them do steps that were beyond their range? All the actors seem to be doing a professional job in the acting dept.


This must be the best Twilight Time release I have purchased to date (I have about 8 titles) I'm guessing the negative didn't get worn out in it's theatrical run, but for a film from 1972/73 it looks like it was shot yesterday. Of all the musical films to come out on Blu-ray this year (and there were quite a few) this looks the best (Although "Gypsy" looked pretty darn good also)



#13 of 81 Robert George

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Posted December 17 2012 - 09:15 AM

The quintessential "guilty pleasure".  Even being keenly aware of the films many flaws does not seem to blunt the enjoyment I seem to always get when I sit down to watch this film.  And yes, Twilight Time's Blu-ray is startlingly good.  better than I had hoped for, and likely better than the film deserves.


Lucky me.



#14 of 81 Mikey1969

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Posted December 17 2012 - 01:17 PM

Sony invested a great deal of time and money to restore this film ahead of their MOD DVD release last year...I'm glad it's getting a release on blu-ray. It may be a failure in many ways, but it's certainly a well-intentioned and entertaining one.

#15 of 81 Mikey1969

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Posted December 17 2012 - 01:19 PM

Sony invested a great deal of time and money to restore this film ahead of their MOD DVD release last year...I'm glad it's getting a release on blu-ray. It may be a failure in many ways, but it's certainly a well-intentioned and entertaining one.

#16 of 81 Moe Dickstein

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Posted December 17 2012 - 01:37 PM

The money want invested with MOD in mind...
Yes, these strange things happen all the time - PT Anderson, Magnolia

#17 of 81 Ethan Riley

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Posted December 17 2012 - 01:47 PM

The money want invested with MOD in mind...

Well, probably more for streaming and cable tv revenue; I think that's where the bulk of the money is. But hopefully, they'll continue to license with TT and bring more of their catalog to blu!
 

 


#18 of 81 Moe Dickstein

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Posted December 17 2012 - 02:03 PM

No, it was planned as a mainline release on Blu/DVD from Sony. When corporate axed most of the catalog releases, this one was finished but unreleased - that's why it went MOD and had menus and extras, they had been prepped for a regular release.
Yes, these strange things happen all the time - PT Anderson, Magnolia

#19 of 81 Ethan Riley

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Posted December 17 2012 - 04:03 PM

Oh, you meant "wasn't," then. I misunderstood. Although, I'm siding with Greg's theory that the negative was probably in pretty good shape; likely not too many prints have been struck over the years. This movie's always been hard to come by!
 

 


#20 of 81 Cineramic

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Posted December 17 2012 - 10:38 PM

There probably isn't a dramatic musical made where someone can't point something out that seems awkward or out of place. Even films like WEST SIDE STORY, MY FAIR LADY and THE SOUND OF MUSIC have their awkward moments. Lost Horizon is beautiful to look at in Blu-Ray. Intense detail within the Robert Surtees cinematography. There's a lot to appreciate about this film. The ambition of the project as a whole. The earnestness in the production and the handsome direction by Charles Jarrott. It was a big gamble hiring Bacharach and David to compose the score. Then, the most successful writing team in the country. It was inevitable that they would write a film musical. One imagines what the film might have been like it if had been scored by Lerner and Lowe score or Leslie Bricusse. I really don't have any problem with the way any of the songs were filmed with the exception of IF I COULD GO BACK. That song is actually very important to the story and wasn't realized the way it could have been. I think SHARE THE JOY, I MIGHT FRIGHTEN HER AWAY and I COME TO YOU are just fine. The livelier songs with their bits of silly choreography suggest a giddy happiness that Hilton wrote about in his novel. This is Shangri-La after all where at long last one is free of worry, strife and trouble. Why shouldn't paradise be a slightly goofy place ? LOST HORIZON is fun, quirky and at times, thought provoking. Even if it had been great it's doubtful the film would have been a success. Musicals at that time, even good ones (Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof) were only modest successes, not blockbusters. LOST HORIZON and perhaps MAME are the last dramatic musicals to be filmed in the traditional way, where as the film plays straight with the occasional song springing up to extend a characters emotion. It wouldn't be until GREASE in 1978 that a musical would be a blockbuster again and that had to be a terribly silly teenage musical aimed at the youth market. Today dramatic film musicals are operas, EVITA, LES MISERABLE. I've always thought LOST HORIZON got a bad rap. The film has too much going in its favor to be dismissed.





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