When Cinerama was producing its 3-panel travelogues in the 1950s, the South Seas made for a natural film subject, with all of the natural wonders and beauty of Polynesia, New Zealand, and Australia. After releases of This Is Cinerama and Windjammer on Blu-ray in 2012, we have been blessed in 2013 with sublime Blu-ray releases of restored versions of South Seas Adventure, as well as Cinerama Holiday. 1958 was a banner year for this subject matter since the number one film at the box office for that year was South Pacific.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hrs. 5 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVDAmaray
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 11/02/2013
This is the complete roadshow version of South Seas Adventure, complete with overture and intermission. The presentation begins with an image of dark velvet curtains covering a curved movie screen, just as though the viewer were sitting in the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood watching the roadshow presentation of South Seas Adventure. As the overture concludes, the curtains draw slowly back to reveal a beautiful tropical beach in the widescreen aspect ratio of Cinerama.
The Production Rating: 4/5
South Seas Adventure is the fifth and final travelogue produced by Cinerama in the 1950s. This film was apparently not as popular as its predecessors. This Is Cinerama was the top film in U.S. box office receipts in 1952, and its follow-up, Cinerama Holiday, came in at number 2 for the year in 1955. It seems ironic that this film did not do as well as the other Cinerama travelogues, given that the number 1 box office draw for 1958 in the United States was South Pacific. Did South Seas Adventure lose potential box office revenues to its competitor South Pacific? Whatever the reason, it seems unfortunate because South Seas Adventure is a terrific travelogue and does not show a diminution in quality from the earlier Cinerama films, regardless of the box office results.
South Seas Adventure consists of a number of different dramatic segments set in different locales, from Honolulu through the trade winds to Tahiti, New Zealand, and the Outback of Australia. South Seas Adventure, like the other Cinerama travelogues, is spectacle and eye candy in widescreen and multichannel sound. The sights and sounds of nature portrayed in this film are among the best that our world has to offer, and the film even has narration by Orson Welles.
South Seas Adventure is a fascinating time capsule of that portion of the world as it must have appeared in the late 1950s. I never had the chance to visit Honolulu nor any other locations of the South Pacific in 1958, and I am limited to observing how those places look today, but now I have a very good idea of what those locations looked like all those years ago, thanks to this film. Some viewers of this Blu-ray will have first hand memories of some of these locations from the time this footage was created, and Cinerama Holiday will be like watching home movies. Interestingly, South Seas Adventure must have been most audience members' first exposure to the sight of bungee jumping.
For those unacquainted with the Cinerama process, some explanation may be helpful. The Cinerama films were shown originally in special theatrical venues equipped with curved 146° film screens. As the emerging medium of television seemed to threaten the livelihood of theater owners in the early 1950s, new processes like Cinerama, Cinemascope, and 3D were created to bring audiences back to the movie theaters. Cinerama was one of the initial efforts to recreate the full range of human vision on a big screen, and consisted of 3 projectors running 3 adjacent panels of film simultaneously that was intended to appear as one wide image when illuminated on the 146° wide screen. South Seas Adventure was the fifth and final Cinerama travelogue to be released in this widescreen process.
South Seas Adventure is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio in the Smilebox format, which recreates the appearance of a Cinerama presentation on a flat screen by having the far side panels of the screen elongated to simulate the curved appearance of the 2.59:1 aspect ration on a 146° screen.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
For restoration of this film, the original negatives for all 3 panels were digitally scanned and restored. The 3 separate strips of panels were then matched up digitally and the join lines of the 3 strips were blended and minimized. The producer of this restoration encountered a serious challenge when they were unable to locate the entire first reel of all 3 panels. Fortunately, the deposit print stored at the Library of Congress still had the first reel serviceable, although damaged and color faded. The restoration is so excellent that anyone would be challenged to identify where the first reel ends and the second reel begins since the first reel(s) have been brought up to the same higher standards of the remaining reels.
The join lines in this presentation have been minimized, but not eliminated. In many sections, the partitions are invisible whereas in other scenes the join lines are perceptible from color fading at the edge of the panel strips. The color fading at the edges has been enhanced to make the joins less apparent.
Colors are much more vibrant and seemingly more correct than they were in the restorations of This Is Cinerama and Windjammer, which probably owes in part to the superior condition of the film elements for South Seas Adventure compared to those other films. Likewise, fine detail is excellent, and definitely an improvement over This Is Cinerama(which actually appeared very good in its restoration). Blacks and shadows are also solid. The documentary on restoration in the special features on this disc is recommended viewing to demonstrate how completely the restoration corrected fading on the original elements.
Such luminaries as Martin Scorsese and Leonard Maltin have been avid fans of the Smilebox process, but it may not be to everyone’s taste. The Smilebox presentation is very immersive in this presentation and does much to make one forget the join lines when they are visible. One cannot imagine this film looking much better in its overall presentation than it does on this Blu-ray disc.
The English DTS-HD 5.1 audio is without any apparent flaws. There is no hiss audible as there was during a brief portion of This Is Cinerama. The orchestral music in the soundtrack has a rich and full quality and clarity that rival and match anything in a modern film, and goes a long way to completing the meld between sight and sound for an immersive presentation. One would never know that pitch adjustment had been performed on the audio to restore the narration to natural sound. This is attributable to the slightly higher running speed of Cinerama film over conventional film (26 fps v. 24 fps). This is covered in greater detail in the special feature "Restoration of South Seas Adventure."
Audio Rating: 4/5
The special features include all of the following:
Special Features Rating: 5/5
Full length audio commentary: South Seas Adventure star Ramine Seaman and Cinerama historian David Coles provide a full length audio commentary for the film.
In The Wake of Captain Cook(23:04): This is a promotional behind the scenes film from 1958 made by producer and director Carl Dudley. This may have been created as a TV special to promote South Seas Adventure.
Carol Dudley Katza Interview(11:09): The daughter of producer and director Carl Dudley is interviewed in this featurette.
Saul Cooper Interview(29:36): Production staff member Saul Cooper is interviewed in this featurette.
Restoration of South Seas Adventure(19:29): Restoration director David Strohmaier and others discuss the source materials and demonstrate the scanning of the original 3 panels of footage and remastering in restoring the video and soundtrack elements of the film.
Behind The Scenes Slideshow(5:51): This is a presentation of stills from the film.
Trailer(3:52): This is a newly created trailer made in the style of a late 1950s movie trailer.
Renault Dauphine(6:15): This is a promotional film for the Renault Dauphine created and shot in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in the late 1950s in full 3-strip Cinerama.
Also included is a beautiful 24 page replica booklet of the original souvenir program for South Seas Adventure. The DVD is a flipper disc with the film on one side and the special features on the other side.
South Seas Adventure on Blu-ray/DVD Combo is a fascinating travelogue and time capsule of one of the most beautiful parts of the world as those places must have appeared in 1958, and recommended to anyone who is a fan of Cinerama, as well as those who will become fans of Cinerama by seeing this sublime restoration. The Smilebox presentation helps in the immersive quality of the film. The video and audio presentation are excellent. The special features are not just filler as they are on many discs, but actually recommended viewing to anyone who enjoys the film. The Cinerama travelogues were among the highest grossing films for box office receipts in the 1950s and it is easy to see why given the quality of this film. South Seas Adventure comes highly recommended, and viewers who enjoy this film are encouraged to seek out the excellent Smilebox presentations on Blu-ray of This Is Cinerama, Cinerama Holiday, Windjammer, and How The West Was Won, which also includes the excellent documentary Cinerama Adventure as a bonus feature.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Timothy E
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