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Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, May 12, 2010.
The best looking and most accurate version of Spartacus out there is still the Criterion release.
Amazon had a deal wherby if you pre-ordered any two of Spartacus, Elizabeth, Elizabeth The Golden Age and Out of Africa you got five dollars off each pair. I pre-ordered all four and was shocked to see the 'Patton syndrome' had infected the last three. Ever the optimist, I'd hoped that the negative reviews of the HD-DVD of Spartacus would have been a caution to Universal (or GE) and felt sure they wouldn't risk screwing up again. Apparently they did, so I cancelled that last part of my order today. I returned the other three with the truthful reason: 'Problem with the video. Image looks plastic.'
Disappointments like these make me nervous for 'Lawrence of Arabia', for me the greatest movie ever made (once again, a million thanks to Robert Harris for rescuing it for posterity!). After the let-downs by the various incarnations on a variety of formats, VHS, Laserdisc sets (the best image at the time but a pain to have to deal with 4 or 5 LP-sized discs that, in the superior 'CAV' edition had only 30 MINUTES of video on each side...!!!) and DVDs of every stripe imaginable, including 'Superbit'. I could have bought a house with the money I've spent on trying to obtain the holy grail of transfers for this masterpiece.
I wouldn't worry. Thats a Columbia (Sony) picture and I can't think of any of their titles since the early days of Blu-ray (Fifth Element, XXX, etc) that have had video quality problems like the recent crop of Universal titles. The only problem I see with LoA is the delay in getting it released! /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif
Criterion reigns supreme. Would be hilarious if Criterion could get a spike in DVD sales when the BD release date comes, leaving the powers that be scratching their heads.
A great deal of time, effort and expense has been going into LoA. You can feel secure that there will be no problems.
Now, that really is good news!
This is disappointing, but not unexpected, considering Universal's recent track record. Thanks for the honest review, Mr. Harris. I have canceled my pre-order at Amazon, and put the reason for cancellation as "Yet another poor video transfer from Universal, this time on Spartacus. I refuse to purchase shoddy work from a studio, and will re-order Caddyshack separately.".
FYI, I had Caddyshack bundled on the same order to get free shipping.
Thanks for the review. One trend I see in substandard Blu-ray discs is the use of a ten year old HD master. One thing that should be clear by now is that no amount of digital tweaking can make an old HD master look up to par for Blu-ray. Either perform a new transfer to generate a new HD master, or don't bother releasing the film in Blu-ray.
Try 2012, lots of compression artifacts in that one, the fact i found the film kinda dull means it didn't bother me as much as it usually would.
Supporting this release by purchasing it, is nothing more than a continuation of the crime committed against the film by Universal (GE). In this case especially, considering the classic nature of the film..."better than DVD", or even "as good as DVD, but with better audio", is NOT good enough, and serves only to support the absolute wrong committed against the film. Try renting it instead, if you must watch it. The last thing Universal (and by default GE) should get, is one more dollar they might otherwise have had. This IS a principle worth standing up for.
I'm sorry but, as has been said in similar cases before, the only message which Universal will receive if people don't buy it is that classic movies don't sell, which will harm the prospect of further classic titles. I will buy this because (1) I want to make up my own mind about a disc and see for myself - not take decisions by what others may say, regardless of how qualified and (2) it's a film which I definitely want and I know that whatever deficiencies it may have, it will look a lot better on my 42" TV screen than my existing DVD.
I'm not sure that's always a safe assumption. You would think it would be, but a stellar DVD transfer could easily beat a shoddy HD one. Resolution is not the only measure of image quality, nor would I rate it the most important. And for that matter pixel count, which is what we're really talking about here, is not the same as resolution. If I DNR all the high frequency detail out of a 1920 x 1080 image scanned from film then algorithmically sharpen what is left, the image still has the same number of pixels but clearly doesn't contain as much information.
Thank you and I appreciate what you are saying. However, I have not come across a Blu-ray disc which to my eyes was not considerably better than the equivalent DVD. Even those widely derided PATTON and THE LONGEST DAY Blu-rays looked great to me (and others I have shown them to) in comparison to the DVDs.
Try popping in Evil Dead II and compare it to the old THX DVD release and then get back to me. /img/vbsmilies/htf/wink.gif
Please keep in mind, the quality of a blu-ray on this site is based upon industry experts and home theater enthusiasts. Their level of acceptability is so much greater than the average Blu-ray /DVD purchaser. Many people who by DVD's aren't as concerned with the quality to the extend that someone like Mr Harris would be. Most people have never seen classic films in a theater and if they did it was so long along they can not possibly be able to compare what they saw to a current DVD/Blu-ray. Nor are they familiar with the elements of restoration.
Many thought "Patton" looked great on Blu-ray - it was just on the larger set that the quality became an issue.
Buying classic films on Blu-Ray WILL look better than the DVd, and it will send the message to the studios that classics will sell
Classic films on Blu-ray WILL NOT necessarily look better than DVD. Compare the DVD of 'Out of Africa' with the DNR'd-to-death Blu-ray version and notice Meryl Streep's and Klaus Maria Brandaeur's faces. Their skins look plastic, not flesh-like. They remind me of the cover of the program for the play 'Private Lives', starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Their faces were airbrushed (in extremis) in a mindless attempt to make them look younger. In Burton's case, the result was the removal of all the wonderful character that one associated with him. Not a wrinkle, not a pockmark, no age-related sagging was in evidence, in contrast to the actor I saw on stage and later on the street.
Thanks for the input Mr. Harris. I will purchase the Criterion DVD and look forward to the restoration info it provides. I hope we get an 8k transfer of the IP you speak of for a new Blue Ray. Also,to make things right, a limited national re release on the silver screen would be an outstanding idea. I know I can find it playing somewhere, but I would like to see it on a weekend at my local cinema. Just a few days would be all im asking for.
If anyone's interested in purchasing the Criterion release and doesn't mind buying used, Secondspin.com has several copies available for $22.99 plus tax and shipping. If you're quick they currently have a 25% off special on CDs and DVDs going that, for me anyway, brought the shipped cost to $19.97. Use coupon code SSMY15. The catch? The 25% off deal ends today. I've purchased quite a few used CDs and DVDs from Secondspin.com over the years and have never been disappointed.
No one but Mr. Harris can say which version of Spartacus is best. There is online reading material on the restoration, read it. Then if anyone thinks they know better than he, I will say no more.
Industry experts absolutely should do reviews and on the best possible equipment. We should not assume that people who do not appear to be as interested in HD as us, don't have eyes. My Grandmother who does not care for screen size at all period or HD for that matter, even makes remarks when she sees a visually stunning movie. I think when I get her a Blue Ray player, she will use it.
A top quality transfer up to the demands of Mr. Harris, however lofty, will help sell the movie better than what we have. Keep in mind that larger HD sets are getting easier to obtain.
Here is an idea for those that say not buying classics such as this will send the message that classics don't sell.
Buy the classics which have had great transfers, buy The Searchers or The Professionals or The Wizard Of Oz or any other classic which looks the part and don't buy Patton, The Longest Day and Spartacus and oh another thought, email the studio and let them know you are doing this and your reason why, if they know they might eventually think that they are losing potential sales and put more effort into the releases.
Of course if you just don't buy and forget to email then maybe they will not bother with the classics.
You can find emails for the studio's online although perhaps this site and others might start listing the email addresses and that way a small campaign can begin, hell i might start doing that on my own site soon even though my traffic is miniscule compared to big sites such as this.