I didn't have the problems with the first Blu-ray that everyone had because I understand the nature of the film itself. But the new Criterion IS better in every way - color, especially. Definitely worth getting if you love the film, which I do.
I read somewhere that the only reason he was among the Great Escapers to escape execution was because, as the first Canadian POW of the Second World War in Germany, Adolf Hitler himself had promised no harm would come to him. Sometime after the war, he and my father became friends, and for years was our Lawyer in Penetanguishene! According to my oldest sister, he was a really nice man, but his wife was a terrible alcoholic.
I was going to wait until closer to the 4th of July to watch the Criterion Blu ray of The Great Escape. But I decided to watch it last night.
I took stock of all the copies I have of this film. Without pulling out the laserdiscs, I know I have the Criterion and MGM laserdiscs. I have the MGM DVDs from 1998 and 2004 and the 2013 blu ray. I think I now have every home video iteration of this film. Except VHS. The Criterion laserdisc was one of my earliest laserdisc purchase! Watching the film, it reminded me of the first or second time I saw it, it was a special two night presentation on KTVU as I recall. And I recorded it on cassette tape. This was before the days of video tape.
I took a look at the DVD Beaver screen cap reviews. Very interesting that the Criterion blu ray more closely matches the Criterion laserdisc. I have not watched the MGM blu ray in a while, so I don’t remember the color grading being so blue, but I liked this Criterion Blu ray a lot. As I watched the first cooler sequences with Hilts, I remembered that one of the earlier discs has a major error as the framing was such, you could see the edge of the cooler set! So I was happy this wasn’t the case on the Criterion disc. It was either the MGM laserdisc or first DVD.
The 4th of July sequence has been questioned a lot about how it looks. To me, it looks great on this new blu ray, the brightness being lower I always thought was because Hilts sets off the explosion to wake up the camp, it’s very early in the morning. And everyone appears to be waking up. I guess the guards opened the window very early that day. And as I recall, Hendley comments to Blythe as he’s about to have a drink, “before your morning tea?”
in terms of the audio, I have to recheck it, the opening score sounded great on the 5.1 track. But I’m not sure I was hearing it right as I felt I was hearing a slight delay on the rear channels. As soon that the trucks arrived at the camp, I reset the audio to the mono track which was really stereo? So I’m not sure if there is a mess-up on my hardware settings as it sounded like all 5 channels were playing the same mono track when I had the DTS track going. But the rears as I said sounded like it was on a delay. I’ve never heard this on other discs. I felt the mono was great and clear dialogue, good audio range as the score is booming with the bombastic March as Hilts and Ives March into the cooler. The lower octaves were active on my speakers. So I’ll have revisit the film with the 5.1 track again and try to listen for the separation you guys are talking about.
I‘d like to review the special features too. I did look at one , the feature in the real Virgil Hilts as I didn’t watch that on the MGM disc. That was a good piece.
Until there is a 4K edition that is superior to this disc, this will be the go-to disc from now on. Though I don’t have a 4K display device, it looks great on 1080p. I’m not sure a 4K release would improve the image quality? More color depth?