DVD Review HTF REVIEW: A Farewell To Arms (1957)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Osadciw, May 24, 2005.

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  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    UPDATED MAY 28, 2005.


    [​IMG]

    A FAREWELL TO ARMS





    Studio: 20th Century Fox
    Film Year: 1957

    U.S. Rating: NR
    Canadian Rating: NR

    Film Length: 152 minutes
    Genre: Drama/Romance

    Aspect Ratio:[*] Cinemascope 2.35:1 enhanced widescreen
    Colour/B&W: Colour by DeLuxe

    Audio:[*] English Dolby Digital 3.0 channels[*] Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono[*] French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Closed Captioned: Yes
    SLP: US $11.98
    SLP: CDN $16.98






    Release Date: May 24, 2005



    Film Rating: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Starring: Rock Hudson (Lieutenant Frederick Henry), Jennifer Jones (Nurse Catherine Barkley), Vittorio De Sica (Major Alessandro Rinaldi), Mercedes McCambridge (Miss Van Campen), Alberto Sordi (Father Galli)

    Directed by: Charles Vidor & John Huston
    Screenplay by: Ben Hecht
    Novel written by: Ernest Hemingway



    Based on the popular Ernest Hemingway novel, A Farewell To Arms is the 1957 theatrical film of the story about war and love. During World War I, high up in the Italian Alps, an American ambulance driver Lt. Henry falls in love with a British V.A.D. nurse Catherine Barkley. She isn’t ready to fall for him yet because she’s been heartbroken over a fallen soldier before. But he pledges to her his return just before he is sent off to war on an offensive attack against the German-Austrian army. He vows that their one night love affair will be a love for a lifetime.

    Lt. Henry is injured in war and is forced to spend time in the hospital to heal. He is treated by Nurse Barkley in many different ways, more than any nurse would with her time on duty, and the two of them must decide what to do with their love. It is forbidden in the time of war for people in their positions to be married. The only alternative they may have is to run away and become deserters of war. An act like this is punishable by death. But a decision such as this results in an uncertain future for their love.

    One of the many stories of love and war, Hemingway’s popular novel has transformed from book to play and to film. Translated to film, I found it slightly weak in dialogue and performance, and felt as if it tried to resemble that of a live theatrical performance. I would assume that wasn’t the intention here. Jennifer Jones’s acting seems quirky and she comes across as being very strange. Hudson’s acting feels too overacted. During the day, this was a popular film and still remains a favourite by many. I thought the overall story arc was very good and suspense is held very well throughout the final third of the film.


    VIDEO QUALITY
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I am extremely disappointed with the quality of this print. It’s not even close to the quality of releases FOX has been putting out for other classics. Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the image is very very very soft. It is so blurry that background images and people’s faces in the distance can’t be resolved. The image is very 2-D giving no sense of depth and borders of some objects overlap into others (for example, the red cross on the nurse’s white outfit smears into the white.)

    The image also suffers from an occasional jitteriness, possibly from the film but at other times due to bad compression. When images move across the screen, there is the occasional delay in motion and I believe it is the result of poor compression because the very rapid "delay" eventually catches up with the rest of the picture. I’m not good with industry buzzwords for this effect but I know it when I see it. There is also compression noise that buzzes around on the screen too.

    Also evident is lens distortion mostly likely from the original photography and squeezing. The sides of the image are distorted and you can clearly see this as the camera pans across a room – objects change in width from fat to skinny.


    UPDATE: I have removed the nasty flesh tone comments I made about appearing too orange. That was an error on my part: I accidently left my projector's colour temperature set at 5400K rather than 6500K. My apologies to all.

    My comments regarding the prominent softness, the edge enhancement, the poor compression/lagging all stay true. I've just upgraded my DVD Player to a Denon DVD-3910 and use a Monster Cable M1000 HDMI to my projector, recalibrated the chain and the above comments still hold true.

    Thus, I've added only half a star more to the video quality because of my original error with colour temperature setting.



    AUDIO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    This is an interesting encoding I don’t see to often; it’s labelled as Dolby Digital 3.0 surround, but is really stereo with a center channel. The channels encoded are Left, Center, Right only. You could force it into surround sound if you wanted to. I chose to listen to it as it was.

    Dialogue is spread out over the three channels as well as some sound effects and music. When sitting in between the three speakers, everything is anchored in the center where it should be. There are direction center to left effects that pan with the image which is pretty cool and bass is sometimes present with explosions. Other than this, this is a fairly limited-range sounding soundtrack that occasionally peaks in distortion. Dialogue is always clear but sounds a little on the thin side.


    SPECIAL FEATURES [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Included here is the theatrical trailer in 2.35:1 and is enhanced for widescreen TVs. There is also a Fox Movietone News menu that has three selections in it.
    [*] ”A Farewell To Arms” Hollywood Premiere New Year Sensation (1.04) shows talent coming out to the premiere.
    [*] Photoplay Magazine Awards (1m) shows Hudson receiving his medal.
    [*] Meg at the Premiere of “A Farewell To Arms” shows Princess Margaret showing up for the show.


    IN THE END…

    In widescreen and on DVD, A Farewell To Arms is available for those of you interested in the story and for those of you who adore the film. While the quality of the presentation is lacking in lustre, the popular Hemingway story shines on film and on DVD.

    Michael Osadciw
    05.05.24
     
  2. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Produced by David O. Selznick 18 years after his monumental success of Gone with the Wind, A Farewell to Arms does pale in comparison.

    However, the Selznick touch is evident, from the CinemaScope version of the original Selznick logo, to the main title sweeping across the screen, there is never a doubt that this a major production.

    While it has not stood the test of time as well as many other Selznick films, technically the DVD appears to be as sharp as a mid-1950s CinemaScope production can be expected; the color is rich, well-textured and accurate, and overall the DVD has a pleasing appearance.

    While I generally would not wish to disagree with an HTF review, A Farewell to Arms, at least on a 34" widescreen monitor, and while not problem free (there are occasional non-distracting digital glitches) did not seem to exhibit the problems mentioned above. That said, what may occur at 110" could be another story.

    RAH
     
  3. Steve JD

    Steve JD Stunt Coordinator

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    The 3.0 mix is a bit odd since the original release had 4-channel mag sound (although some of Fox's earlier stereo films didn't have much info on their surround tracks).

    RAH, does the Left/Centre/Right on the DVD sound like it's taken from the theatrical mix, minus the surround track, or does it sound more like some fake-sounding remix?
     
  4. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    Fox certainly has the original stereo tracks as they have used it on earlier pan and wscan and letterboxed showings on Fox Movies.
    While Fox scope films genereallly have a wide stereo spread and wide left center right dialogue, this does not always seem to be true if the film is not mixed at Fox in Los Angeles.
    Earlier screenings of Farewell seem to have centered dialogue. the score was recorded in Europe because of a musicians strike. the film might have been mixed there too.
     
  5. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    Hi Robert

    Yes, on a 110" screen, the video quality is fairly unattractive [​IMG]

    Regards,
    Mike
     
  6. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    Sadly, this was the last film Selznick made, he would die in 1965 with his worst fear coming true: his obit began with his being the GWTW producer. I've always thought the problem with this Hemingway adaptation was the same problem with Fox's other Cinemascope Hemingway film The Sun Also Rises- the actors are too old for their parts! It would've made more sense with Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, Shirley MacLaine, Joanne Woodward, or Fox contract star Joan Collins as Catherine Barkley. For Fredric Henry: Paul Newman, Robert Wagner, Elvis Presley (don't laugh- with the right director he could pull off a really great dramatic performance, as he did for Michael Curtiz in King Creole), Anthony Perkins, Steve McQueen, John Gavin.

    This film was the last act in Mr. Selznick's obsession in making Jennifer Jones the undisputed Queen of the Screen, which explains why he had his thirtysomething wife play a girl who is at most in her early twenties. By this point, his legendary hands-on approach really got the best of him. The age thing was one issue, but he really goofed in firing John Huston as the film's director! Of all Hollywood directors, Huston was the one whose life really played like a Hemingway story and he probably would've delivered a film that may have been more to the spirit of Ernest Hemingway's attitude toward life, even with its somewhat older cast. Talk about a misssed opportunity.....
     
  7. Thomas T

    Thomas T Producer

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    After the initial post, I was very worried but having just watched the DVD I heartily concur with Mr. Harris. Would I have liked a sharper picture? Yeah, but what we get is a handsome and richly colored presentation.

    Of course, I watched it on my 32" monitor so I have no idea what it would look like blown up to accomodate a larger television.
     
  8. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    Mr. Harris & Thomas,

    Please see my update comments in my review.

    Regards,
    Michael
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Fair enough. 5400 will give quite different result.

    RAH
     
  10. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    Its true that the cast dis too old. Jennifer certainly is and she was in her 1950s doing strange graimace at odd times mode. Was rock Hudson too old?
    this seems part of a series of Famous novels Fox made into movies with overage casts - see also Sun Also Rises and especially Tender is the Night. One gets the feeling that the Lost dgeneration has been lost and drinking for over 25 years !!
     

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