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A Few Words About A few words about...™ The Sand Pebbles -- in Blu-Ray (1 Viewer)

Robert Harris

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By any era's standards The Sand Pebbles is brilliant filmmaking.

Released in 1966, the production had initial engagements in major cities serviced by 70mm blow-up prints derived from the original 35mm Panavision camera negative. This translates to potential wear on the negative.

The Sand Pebbles initially opened at a Roadshow length of 196 minutes and was later cut to 179, which is quite properly the version now released via Blu-Ray disc. The original Roadshow is still available on standard definition in Fox's latest special edition.

Produced and directed by Robert Wise, who was still riding the wave of his Sound of Music, this is a massive production, with wonderful production values at all levels, and to be to the point, just brilliant storytelling.

Audio is lossless, and beautifully rendered. Image from the blackest blacks to the whitest whites (think naval uniforms) and everything in between is gorgeous.

Grain looks proper.

Fox has done a superb job harvesting an image from their film elements, and replicating them, still looking like film on this new Blu-Ray disc.

The Sand Pebbles is one of the great film of the '60s, and in its newest incarnation comes Extremely Highly Recommended.

RAH
 

Robert Crawford

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I actually prefer the shorter version of this film, but Fox should have included both versions on this BR release.
 

Brent Avery

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Thoroughly enjoyed this film last night - numerous times in the past but of course this latest version on BD sure makes having a projector setup worth it! And I might add the sound track surpasses the last 2 disc SD edition. I was only getting the DTS core ( over optical ) - not the HD lossless through the Nu Force processor I use and it was quite dynamic and detailed, in fact I will probably watch it again just to listen to it! Now I know why I don't go to the Cinema anymore - as far as I am concerned they have not been able to approach movie making like this for many years.
 

Robert Harris

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It could not be branched "seamlessly" as nothing would have been seamless. Totally different elements, which would have in no way matched.
 

Michael Osadciw

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I must agree with Robert on this disc. I intended to get a review up on this title before street date but that just won't happen. I might as well chime in here saying both the audio and video on this disc is superb. I was pleasantly surprised with the audio mix. It's 5.1 and has directional dialogue intact accross the front soundstage. In almost every scene, there is phantom imaging of dialogue between center left and center right and fits exactly over top of the actor on the screen (my screen is 8 feet wide and my speakers are a 10 foot spread). The sound travels with the moving actor on screen too.
The 5.1 and the 4.0 soundtracks are different. There is a pull to the left surround channel in the DTS-HDMA 5.1, wheras it's clearly mono surround with DD 4.0. The music score is much more prominant in the surrounds (as well as some hiss) with the 5.1. These channel levels sound correct and not high by any means.
This contrasts with the soundtrack on A Bridge Too Far, were the DD4.0 is the preferred selection for surround envelopment. The discrete 5.1 DTS-HDMA encode, while lossless, is one of a mix that has reduced activity in the surrounds making them almost inaudible and uneffective.
Mike
 

GregK

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Thanks for passing along the audio specs and mini-review, Michael!

It's good to hear FOX is still preserving the directional dialog, and offering a choice of mixes, vs simply offering redundant audio formats.
 

DavidJ

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Thanks for another great review. Despite having an affinity for war films this is one I've never seen (and I haven't seen The Longest Day properly), but I will definitely have to check it out. I really appreciate these threads for the discussion of the the history of the films and their presentation. I always learn something.
 

Aaron Silverman

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Quick question. . .how close is this film to the source novel? I was thinking of reading it but am not sure whether it's worth waiting to watch the movie until afterwards. :)
 

benbess

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The Sand Pebbles--spoiler alert

Because of homework and other things, my son and I had to spread this film out over about 10 days. We just finished the second half. What a movie. I thought it was excellent. I recommend seeing it on blu-ray, because the picture quality is nothing short of outstanding for a film from the 1960s. It stars Steve McQueen, who is impressive in this film.

So, Wise, coming off the epic success of The Sound of Music, directed this very different kind of epic. It's perhaps just as great a movie, but very different and rather tragic.

Almost every main character that you care about ends up dead in the end. What's interesting to me is how much this film reminded me of Apocalypse Now. I wonder if there was any influence.

Boy, the thing Steve McQueen shouts just before he dies, "What the hell happened!" is pretty intense. He's ended up doing what the captain would most have wanted him to do, even though he and the captain have been at odds for the whole film.

The captain himself, quite well played, I thought, clearly cracked at the end. He was almost like the crazy Kurtz character, but few people knew it. He wanted to die in battle as a hero, and I guess he got his wish.

And yet, overall, the nihilistic climactic battle seemed profoundly anti-war, esp. with the whole speech about surrendering nationality.

Anyway, what a film. Amazing that it was released at the end of 1966, at the height of the Vietnam War. I would not call it at all an endorsement of involvement in that war. Does anyone else have a thought about that?

Anyway, one of the great films of the 1960s, I think. Great work by director Wise, Steve McQueen, and the whole cast and crew.

McQueen I think served in the Marines in real life, and so that helped him bring some realism to his role. And the author of the novel, Richard McKenna, who died of a heart attack not long after the novel was finished, served on a navy ship in China ten years before the fictional events in the novel and the film. McKenna's background also lent the piece some realism, I think.

I'd never even heard of the film before I got my blu-ray player a month ago or so....
 
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theonemacduff

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Probably too late to contribute to this thread, but I was just watching the film on AMC in a bastardized 1.78 copy; and it looked very much as if they had achieved that ratio by simply lopping off the sides. Somebody asked: is the book different than the movie?
I read the book when I was a teen, because I had seen the ads for the film, and didn't have the money to go see it right away (paperbacks used to be way cheaper than film tickets). When I did finally see it, several months later – as a roadshow, it played town for over a year, like Dr Zhivago did a year or so later – what was missing from the film was very little, mostly a question of details, the kind of thing which is easy for a writer, but which isn't necessary in a film. To be honest, I don't remember the running the blockade sequence from the book, but then I read it a very long time ago. I do remember that in MacKenna's final scene in the book the narrator says something like – it was as if a hand had simply wadded up a sheet of paper and thrown it away – this being his reference to the futility of the mission which the sailors were on, and the way in which twentieth century life is bureaucratic and supposedly "inauthentic." I really enjoyed the book when I was 15, but suspect I might find it a little to programmatic at my now advanced age. :) The film struck me at the time as a pretty faithful translation of the book, that it preserved the spirit of the book. I seem to recall that some of the language in the book was saltier than in the movie, but that's to be expected for a 1966 film.
 

Richard V

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benbess said:
The Sand Pebbles--spoiler alert
Anyway, what a film. Amazing that it was released at the end of 1966, at the height of the Vietnam War. I would not call it at all an endorsement of involvement in that war. Does anyone else have a thought about that?
I most certainly interpreted this film as entirely anti-war, anti-imperialism, and with an cryptic anti-American criticism of America's foreign policy. It seemed obvious by the tone of the film that the sentiments of American foreign policy rang just as true in 1966 as it did in 1926. That was about par for 1966, when America seriously began to question itself.
 

DP 70

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I saw this a few years ago in 35mm and Dolby Digital and the sound was one of the best DD tracks i have heard.
 

Jacksmyname

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Hi all. An old thread I know, but as I'm watching this one right now, I thought I'd come back here to re-read what everyone thought about it.
I first saw it on a TV broadcast back in '68-'69, and have seen it countless times since. It's one if those movies that just grabbed me the first time I saw it.
As always, Robert's and Michael's reviews are spot on. IMHO, audio and video are both 5's. A beautiful Blu Ray disc of a terrific film.
 

STLCardsfan

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I haven't seen "The Sand Pebbles" but my dad saw it when he was in the Marines. Since it was released in 1966, it was probably when he returned from Vietnam. I will ask him and also ask what he thought about it and its themes that people have mentioned.
 

Robert Crawford

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Yup, a great film with perhaps McQueen's best acting performance. I saw it in my youth back in 1966, and have bought the latest home video release of it since then. I'm going to schedule this BD for another viewing in the near future.
 

larrdog

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Pulled Sand Pebbles out last night, after reading these reviews.i had it as part a 4 disc war collection but never watched it. It is very good. Thanks for sharing
 

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