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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Chariots of Fire -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Jun 22, 2012.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I got to know Hugh Hudson a bit through David Lean, who had a very high opinion of Mr. Hudson's Chariots of Fire, which won four Academy Awards in 1981, inclusive of Best Picture.

    There are a number of films that are based upon challenges to the human spirit, but very few the reach the stratosphere in terms of quality. There's another from WB, that I've been waiting to see on Blu-ray, and it's by master filmmaker Phil Kaufman.

    Mr Hudson's work holds that same excitement, but takes it a step further in a different direction. Actually, a David Lean direction, which I presume is at least one reason for the collegial regard.

    Chariots of Fire is, at least to me, something akin to a classic Bentley Continental or going back to even earlier times, a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.

    Think Wilton carpet, Connolly hides. Hand-hewn, with each element designed and struck with perfection. While I can't state that every detail in the film is dead on, that certain places or things may not have existed as they appear in the film on the dates represented, that's not what this is about. Rather, viewing this film, especially on a large screen, and this is one of those films that demands a large screen and a great sound system -- more on that shortly -- as it is the overall aura that takes you back to the period, and that works. Needless to say, production design is magnificent.

    In brief, the film concerns two British runners competing in the 1924 Olympics, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

    The film is peopled with great British actors of the period. Ian Holm, Sir John Gielgud, Nigel Davenport, along with a turn by filmmaker Lindsay Anderson. The leads, Ben Cross, Nicholas Farrell, Nigel Havers and Ian Charleston are magnificent. I've often wondered, but never asked, if in casting the production team went for actors who could run (or appear to run), or whether the actually running was learned during production.

    Brilliantly photographed by David Watkin, with an immense attention to detail, the new Blu-ray from Warner Bros. is a perfect example of the reproduction capabilities of Blu-ray as a system, and absolute proof, once again, that film can be replicated on Blu-ray.

    Chariots of Fire is a magnificent image harvest by Warner's MPI, with color and densities by the incomparable Jan Yarbrough. For those who may be into the details, the film was referenced from a new answer print stuck in 1997, from the original timing lights, with occasional touch-ups improving the grading. Original color reference from 1981 was no longer viable, as prints had faded.

    Grain structure is dead on. Colors are perfect, with black levels, shadow detail, etc. all in place. I would expect no less.

    The film was scanned in 4k from the OCN, and everything was done correctly. Actually, they took it a step further than that, and I'm thrilled with the results. An early sequence always had dupes, and it was obvious. Warner's Ned Price was able to locate, and scanned the original elements from which the dupe had been prepared, and replaced those dupes with original.

    For sound, the original stems were pulled from the UK, and a new 5.1 mix was created at Warner Sound, presented on the Blu-ray uncompressed. The film's score by Vangelis is a standout.

    I'm trying hard not to gush about this Blu-ray, but it's just that good.

    Extras include a commentary and interview with director, Hugh Hudson. Four documentaries, deleted scenes and screen tests.

    My advice. Preorder while the initial release book packaging is still available. This one is worthwhile. The Blu-ray is currently under $29 at Amazon, and worth far more, as this is a must own release.

    When you receive your copy, play it loud.

    Final thoughts.

    Look for a young Kenneth Branagh as a Cambridge student.

    For those into packaging, the cover is beautifully done.

    Very Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Cinematographer

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    I've actually never seen this although I always intended to. Methinks this will be a blind buy on Blu-ray for me.
    Vincent
     
  3. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    This movie beat out 1981 classics like "Raiders Of The Lost Ark", "Atlantic City" and "On Golden Pond" for AMPAS' Best Picture Oscar...can't wait to see this finally done justice for home theater on my system!!!
     
  4. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Lead Actor

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    Watched this at the theater with my folks when I was 7. I wasn't too fond of their taste in movies at the time, but I sat still, and didn't fidget so I think they were happy. Fast forward 20 years later I watched it again, understood it, and loved it. Great film. Good to know it's represented properly on Blu-Ray.
     
  5. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Perhaps they've learned the valuable lesson of using a reference print (if available) - would they only have done that simple thing for The Searchers. Maybe now that they've figured that out, they'll go back to that film and The Wild Bunch and work splendid wonders. I have no doubt that the multitudes of fans for those two films would be happy to triple-dip without a squawk.
     
  6. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    It is always nice when your (all time) favorite film receives a "Very Highly Recommended" from Mr. Harris. Thank you for raising my anticipation for this release. :)
    I saw this theatrically the first time in October of 1981 on a Tuesday evening at around 9:30 PM at the Meyerland Plaza theaters in SW Houston, TX. I worked an evening shift at the time and had arranged to leave early that day so that I could attend a viewing and was transfixed by what I witnessed that night. For me, the film is just about perfect with a strong synthesis of acting, writing, scoring, cinematography, and direction all working at top levels. I'm not British, and I'm certainly not athletic but this film's emotional resonance has always struck a chord within me that very few films can match.
    The point of the verbiage being that I can still recall first viewings of a few favorite films from that (and later periods) in my life, with this one being very meaningful. I am ecstatic to hear that Warner Bros. had done justice to this film with this Bd release.
    BTW, despite numerous viewing of this film - I missed Branagh's presence in the film. :eek:
    - Walter.
     
  7. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Lead Actor

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    The movie's okay, but "Chariots of Eggs" was much better!
     
  8. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    Re: Post 7. Well, you and I are consistent in our opinions. :)
    I haven't viewed The Artist as of yet, but I think it is a pretty safe blind purchase.
    - Walter.
     
  9. AlanPaterson

    AlanPaterson Extra

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    'Chariots of Fire' is a special film for me as I have memories of working with Ian Charleson (who played Eric Liddell) just before he died in 1990. I scripted, shot (on 16mm) and directed a short film ('This Civilised World') for the Institution of Civil Engineers here in the UK and Ian was hired to provide the links and voice over to the engineering projects covered by the film. I remember during the filming that Ian looked very thin and his eyes were quite puffy so we couldn't use many of his close ups. At the same time as we were shooting this film in and around London, Ian was playing Hamlet at the Barbican. I remember his gentle sense of humour and his politeness. Being a fellow Scot probably helped and the shoot went well. It was on a Sunday evening that I heard on the radio that he had passed away and I was pleased that he had got to play Hamlet before he died - the pinnacle of an actor's career. He had bravely requested that it be announced that he had died of AIDS, so that a focus was placed on the problem - and I believe he was the first celebrity to have died of it.
    Ian's death, sad as it was, left us with a problem though, as he died before recording his voice over for our film. Another male voice would have sounded odd within the same sequence so in the end we got Sue McGregor to do it and it worked well as a 'two hander'.
    I also met 'Chariots...' scriptwriter Colin Welland while shooting a promo in London for Toohey's Lager. Colin was at the product launch to try to get backing from the Australian drinks company for his local Rugby team. I shot an interview with him and he put in his plug, which I left in the final edit for the bosses in Oz to see. I never heard if he got his sponsorship though. He was writing a script for a film about Stephenson's 'Rocket', which as far as I know still hasn't been made into a movie.
    Alan
     
  10. FoxyMulder

    FoxyMulder 映画ファン

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    Nice to see another catalog film done justice on Blu ray, hopefully you will be able to review the new cut of Revolution soon and tell us if it's an improved film, as you will be aware that one was also directed by Hugh Hudson.
     
  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I may be aware, but am not certain that I will.

    I've always liked this film, that seems to get a bad rap from some quarters.

    RAH
     
  12. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    I wasn't planning on replacing my DVD, then I read all this, and I think it's now a Must Buy. I'm particularly excited about the replaced dupes making the whole film better than ever.


     
  13. atcolomb

    atcolomb Screenwriter

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    I have both the both the 1997 and the 2005 dvd releases. The 1997 dvd release was a full screen 1.33 "open matte" presentation with a ok print of the film, speckles, some black grit, plus a few scratches. The 2005 1.85:1 anamorphic print dvd release was highly disappointing...the entire presentation is extremely soft, with a strong presence of grain and soft colors, and missing detail and sharpness. A few months ago one of the HD channels did broadcast the film and that looked very good...sharp with excellent colors so i am guessing the blu-ray release will look even better than that so i will buy the blu-ray for sure when it comes out.
     
  14. FoxyMulder

    FoxyMulder 映画ファン

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    When it comes to DVD formats i believe many people confuse noise with film grain.
     
  15. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    I will have to disagree with Angelo's assessment of the two DVD releases. The original 1.33 DVD is opened on the top and bottom and zoomed in - cutting off the sides of the frame and completely destroys the compositional elements of the film's cinematography. The 1.33 DVD has motion artifacts and a harsh digital look which was a problem on a number of early DVD releases. I can't think of a single good thing to say about the original release other than the film was available in an optical media for the first time for those who did not have Laser Disc players - that's about it. It does contain the proper cut/edit which was mishandled on the 2005 release (see next paragraph.) So I guess that is two things.
    The 2005 SE was a big step up from the original release and did a good if not excellent job of presenting the film. I have not seen an HD broadcast or the Blu-ray as of yet so I can't speak to color performance of those presentations vs. the 2005 SE DVD. Based on my recollections of the film I thought the 2005 release was faithful to the original presentation within the limits of DVD technology. My biggest complaint with the 2005 DVD was how an edit in the film was compromised. The scene which features a cut from the theater where the British team is watching news reels to the scene with Brad Davis training is one of the more striking cuts in the film and was botched on the 2005 SE. Seeing the edit on the 2005 DVD was pretty jarring due to the timing differences vs. the theatrical presentation. (I realize that sounds like a nitpick but for me it is very noticeable.)
    In any event, I believe that Angelo and I will both agree that the Bd release is superior to the prior DVD versions. :)
    - Walter.
     
  16. Jeff F.

    Jeff F. Stunt Coordinator

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    Does anyone know if the UK version is region free? Amazon UK is offering this for L$9.00.
     
  17. atcolomb

    atcolomb Screenwriter

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    I did the comparison between the two dvd releases in 2005 when the SE dvd came out and that was my first impression when i switched between the 2 dvd's from my receiver and watching it on a 32" tube tv. Now that i have a larger HD tv i will have too look at both of them again with a better understanding of how good or bad a dvd should look. Walter has some good points about the two dvd releases and it's great that it will be released on blu-ray and maybe it will be reviewed on DVD BEAVER along with the comparisons to the dvd's.
     
  18. ackbak

    ackbak Extra

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    I have this on my short list of wish list catalog titles. Wife and I both love this movie and I cannot wait to add this one to my collection, great news that it was a proper transfer on BD.
    Icing on the cake :)
     
  19. JParker

    JParker Second Unit

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  20. Adam Gregorich

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