A Few Words About A few words about...™ Cleopatra (UK) -- in Blu-ray

Robert Harris

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I first saw Cleopatra in 70mm at a theatre in Miami, Fl. in the fall of 1963. The version that I saw was uncut, and I will never forget how I marveled at look and textures of Leon Shamroy's 65mm cinematography. So much so, that I'm certain that I bored my date to invisible tears.

The film, which I've always respected highly for it's breath-taking scope and the literacy brought to it by director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, has taken the long road to Blu-ray, but at least it has made an appearance.

Derived from large format elements, and with audio in DTS-HD Master, it looks and sounds very nice. But I wondered if it might look better, and did a comparison to other 65mm Blu-ray releases.

Here's what I'm seeing.

The Sound of Music looks to be the best. Mad World very nice, but not quite matching in quality. Then come Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, West Side Story and with a very similar look, Cleopatra.

While differences may not show up on smaller screens (I've not had the time to check), in projection there are two different looks, which led me to a bit of research. It seems that the two looks, one with far more film-like grain structure, and a more cinematic feel came from one post facility, and the second group, from another. In the former, the images are more highly resolved.

Cleopatra, which looks fine, does not come close to matching the look of The Sound of Music. Might the domestic release be re-scanned. Doubtful, but not out of the realm of possibilities, should the studio wish to hold full-rez data files on the subject.

The differences, in a general sense, can be night & day when it comes to Blu-ray, and far more intensive and important when it comes to restoration and archiving.

The better scans come from Foto-Kem, which is not a surprise.

Speaking of full-rez, one might ask the meaning. Marketing has been around the web referencing scans at 2k, 4k, 6k and 8k. And 4k is generally considered full resolution for 35mm, and is measured perf to perf.

4k is four times the resolution of 2k. 8k four times the resolution of 4k in 35mm, and only used, as far as I'm aware, for the prime harvest of an image, which will then be down-rezzed to 4k. Files can be huge. The added resolution enables the scanner to see, and reproduce, everything on the film element.

When one refers to an 8k 65mm scan, the reference is correct, but has a different meaning than it would for 35mm / 4 perf. With a image approximately twice the width, a larger scanner is necessary, and that mechanism scans at 8192 pixels, vs. 4096 in 35mm.

But the actual scan is still roughly 4k, as the actual area scanned for 65mm is 8192 x 3584. The scanned area for 35mm 4k is 4096 x 3144.

The scan of a large format production affects viewing pleasure precisely the same way that it would in film projection. With an image that is enlarged only half as much as standard 35mm, resolution, dependent upon the quality of projection and optics, should be at least three times the quality, and possibly more than an anamorphic 35mm image.

Just for fun, let's make things just a bit more complex.

VistaVision is usually scanned at 4k, which is more than enough to capture the image. But some post facilities or marketing firms will refer to it as a 6k scan.

Which is it.

But isn't.

A VVLA scan is still 4096, but with twice the area, now 4096 x 6144.

Hence... 6k.

Sort of.

But not really.

Back to Cleopatra.

One of the most important films ever produced, and possibly the largest production. Beautifully photographed, directed, and played. It was originally planned as a two part production of close to six hours, but was released as a single show.

Image: 4

Audio: 5

Recommended.

RAH
 
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trajan

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Its a shame that the Entr'acte music is still misplaced at the end of disc one. Maybe they they will fix this for a North American release, but I doubt it.
 

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I've been enjoying this film. Thanks for this fine review.
 

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My only problem with the UK Blu-ray is the color - it's not bad at all, but is just a bit too brown, and very noticeable in certain scenes. The clarity is wonderful. I'd love to travel back in time and see this film on the big screen - I'm trying to remember where it played in LA - the Beverly?
 

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I shouldn't really chime in, as I've had my two penneth' worth about this title. But I was playing around with it yesterday, & got the best results by turning the colour up. It does make the blue a bit electric, does nothing for the yellow, which has been pretty well killed off in this transfer, but the picture does look better. That's my main problem with this transfer, it looks subdued, when it should look vibrant (that's 1963 vibrant).
 

Robert Harris

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Originally Posted by Billy Batson /t/319047/a-few-words-about-cleopatra-uk-in-blu-ray#post_3903573
I shouldn't really chime in, as I've had my two penneth' worth about this title. But I was playing around with it yesterday, & got the best results by turning the colour up. It does make the blue a bit electric, does nothing for the yellow, which has been pretty well killed off in this transfer, but the picture does look better. That's my main problem with this transfer, it looks subdued, when it should look vibrant (that's 1963 vibrant).
It is entirely possible that this transfer was the basis of the old "five star" or whatever. As I mentioned above, when it comes to the Colonies, it may be an entirely new product.

RAH
 

Robert Harris

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Originally Posted by kagemusha98 /t/319047/a-few-words-about-cleopatra-uk-in-blu-ray#post_3903588
CLEOPATRA premiered at the Pantages and ran for 72 weeks.
I would be willing to bet that during those 72 weeks, the theatre did no go through more than 3 prints.
 

john a hunter

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Robert Harris said:
I would be willing to bet that during those 72 weeks, the theatre did no go through more than 3 prints.
Interestingly, London's Dominion Theatre ran South Pacific for 4 1/2 years with only 2 70mm prints. The first the original cut and then the now "standard" roadshow version.
 

Robert Harris

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Originally Posted by john a hunter /t/319047/a-few-words-about-cleopatra-uk-in-blu-ray#post_3904292
Interestingly, London's Dominion Theatre ran South Pacific for 4 1/2 years with only 2 70mm prints. The first the original cut and then the now "standard" roadshow version.
The major UK cinemas have always been of the highest order. I recall visiting the booth of the Marble Arch in 1989 with Freddie Young, and noted to management my opinion that one could literally eat a meal from the floor with no problems. The house was that clean and polished.

RAH
 

Moe Dickstein

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Thanks for sharing your expertise on this title. Lets hope that something even more wonderful gets released on these shores, but certainly glad for this release to tide us over in the meantime!
 

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eric scott richard said:
I just wish the Entr'Acte music were placed at the beginning of Part 2.
Where is it placed? Or is it missing altogether?
 

Guest
They keep placing it at the end of the first disc..they did it on dvd and now they have done it on the UK blu-ray.
 

Robert Harris

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Originally Posted by eric scott richard /t/319047/a-few-words-about-cleopatra-uk-in-blu-ray#post_3904836
They keep placing it at the end of the first disc..they did it on dvd and now they have done it on the UK blu-ray.
I believe the situation is less of "they have done it [again]," and more they have not changed anything, as this may be the prior transfer.

RAH
 

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Robert Harris said:
The major UK cinemas have always been of the highest order.  I recall visiting the booth of the Marble Arch in 1989 with Freddie Young, and noted to management my opinion that one could literally eat a meal from the floor with no problems.  The house was that clean and polished.
RAH
Robert, if you'd been in my local multiplex watching The Woman in Black with me on Saturday night you'd have cried. I could barely bring myself to walk on the floor.
Having said that the sound and picture were stragely good.
Steve W
 

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I was going to wait for a USA release, but since this is region O Blu-ray ...
 

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Richard: I don't think you'll regret it. It's pretty impressive--both as a film as as a blu-ray.
 

Richard--W

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Thanks for the reassurance.
It's one of the few epics where pomp and circumstance and spectacle for it's own sake aren't tedious.
It spawned a number of European-made spin-offs in the mid-1960s, some of them with a budget, which might make an amusing box-set if gathered together.
But then I like this story, and I have all the films about Antony and Cleopatra and Caeser except for the porns (there are several) and the 1917:
 

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Richard: Great poster of the lost 1917 version. Wonderful. Do you have any more? Love it. I assume you've seen the Twilight Zone episode Queen of the Nile? I like that a lot as a mini, mini Cleopatra with a twist. It makes a fictional and indirect reference to the poster you've just posted above.
 

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