DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Black Orchid

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Aug 26, 2004.

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  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    The Black Orchid


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    Studio: Paramount
    Year: 1959
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 94 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
    Subtitles: English
    Retail Price: $14.95





    Rose (Sophia Loren) is a young Italian woman who has just buried her husband who was murdered by the gangsters he worked for. Rose’s depression soon takes another turn when her young son gets sent to a boarding school for breaking into parking meters. News gets even worse for her son after many attempts at running away, one more attempt will send him into a reform school where he won’t get released until he is much older. With all the heartbreak going on, Rose spends her evenings alone making what money she can.

    Down the street is Frank (Anthony Quinn), another widower who is getting ready to see his only daughter married. Frank is the type who keeps a smile on his face no matter how much bad luck life delivers him. When he first sees Rose he notices her extreme beauty but soon he becomes interested in the person that he has so much in common with. Rose finally drops her guard and the two become quick friends and soon start to fall in love but Frank’s daughter, bitter with jealousy, refuses to let their relationship go anywhere.

    Perhaps I missed something or the entire film went over my head but the back of the DVD case called this a sensitive comedy romance and a couple other film books I owned called this a bittersweet romantic comedy but I certainly didn’t find any comedy in The Black Orchid. Why this film would be called a comedy is beyond me but it’s certainly romantic in the sense of meeting two lonely people who must travel a hard road and learn tough lessons before seeing a greener field.

    The movie has its heart in the right place, although near the end things start to tumble a little bit. The biggest key to the film is its two stars who both turn in wonderfully charming performances. Sophia Loren has always been known for her beauty, which is in pull blossom here but she also manages to be quite believable as the distraught widow trying to make good for her troubled son. Loren does a very good job during various quiet scenes where she must confront her past and she also fairs very well in her louder, bleaker moments where she’s trying to push people away from her.

    The key highlight to the film is Anthony Quinn who was an actor who never received enough praise for his work. Quinn gives one of the most charming performances I’ve ever seen in a film and this here really brings the relationship of all the characters together. No matter who he’s sharing the screen with Quinn sells the viewer on each subject brought up and we can’t help but want him to smile and be happy no matter what. Quinn features a certain grace that makes him appear to float through his scenes and this adds all the believability that a viewer will need.

    They certainly don’t have star chemistry like this any more and that’s one shame when it comes to people refusing to watch older films. Director Martin Ritt (Norma Rae, Stanley & Iris) does a very nice job at holding the film together and not letting the melodrama become too thick, although his selection for the music score is really distracting. The score seems to be something from The Twilight Zone, which really isn’t needed here. The biggest problem with the film is the forced, if cute, ending and some of the scenes with the daughter become very obnoxious and annoying. Other than that The Black Orchid offers two great stars the ability to shine and create a wonderfully quiet little film that has enough charm to make it worth watching.


    VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. This is without a doubt one of the strangest problem discs I’ve had to review at this site or any other one for that matter. The one problem with the transfer happens to be quite big and that’s the overly bright contrast that really puts a damper on the otherwise nice transfer. For starters, it really appears as if edge enhancement was placed right on Loren’s face because there are so many scenes where the contrast is high that it’s hard to make out her skin detail. The strange thing is that in these scenes there isn’t anything else wrong in the frame. The contrast seems to be a bit high only on her and at first I thought this was some strange technique used by the director but after some research I realized this wasn’t the case. The contrast is way to high in various other scenes but the look of Loren’s face was quiet shocking. The contrast problems also hurts the start of the film when Loren is leaving the funeral parlor. She’s wearing a black dress but as she walks the black dress appears to turn a white/gray color that certainly isn’t correct. In the scenes where the contrast isn’t set too high we’ve got a pretty good transfer with deep blacks and only a few minor speckles throughout. I didn’t notice any print damage and only a couple minor digital artifacts that are only seen on the staircase in Loren’s apartment. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like this so I’m not sure what the problem was.

    AUDIO---The Dolby Digital Mono track appears to have been remastered and it sounds great. Dialogue is crystal clear without any sorts of hiss, scratches or jumps. The dialogue sounds remarkably fresh and the detail in the background is also quite nice. Everything from the crickets to kids playing in the streets sounds very clear.

    EXTRAS---No extras are included.

    OVERALL---Although the DVD case is quite misleading, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I enjoyed this film. Loren and especially Quinn make this a must see for all fans of classic cinema. Paramount has done a wonderful job on the Mono track but there’s something seriously wrong with the video. Again, I’ve never seen contrast effect one face in a transfer but that’s the case here. The contrast levels are messed up in various scenes but why it effected Loren’s face in such detail is quite weird. At $10, I’d still recommend the disc due to the movie but it’s a shame the video is how it is.


    Release Date: August 31st, 2004
     
  2. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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    !
     
  3. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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    Wow!
    How Paramount going to be DVD Studio of the Year, with this on their resume?
    Charming review of some charming performers.
     
  4. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    Let me be a dissenting voice re this transfer then - I thought it looked swell, wonderfully sharp and vivid, with deep blacks - I simply don't see these problems discussed here at all. There are some anamolies, if you want to call them that, in the credits sequence, but that is because there are some strange opticals going on. Once you go away from that, I didn't see any of these problems and, in fact, I'm baffled by the comments here.

    I agree totally about the performances, which are terrific. I rather liked the film - somehow I missed it on its original release. I found it charming and sweet. It does get a bit soapy toward the end but that didn't bother me too much. It IS a strange score - very romantic, very dramatic, and then suddenly a theremin appears (or Ondes Martinot - hard to tell).
     
  5. TedD

    TedD Supporting Actor

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    This is only a problem disc if your system either can't handle, or lacks the ability to be adjusted to handle a very very very wide dynamic range.

    This is a disc that was clearly mastered with little regard to the standards for NTSC video.

    The standard dynamic range should encompass from 16 bits for black (7.5 IRE in the US NTSC world) to 235 bits for white (100 IRE). However, the bits from 236 to 254 ARE available for encoding although they are supposed to be reserved for "headroom". BTW, the bits from 1 to 15 are also available for use, although they are intended to not be visible on a display adjusted to NTSC standards.

    Systems or displays that don't have the capability to reproduce a higher IRE than 100 or "whiter than white" will clip the brightest highlights which accounts for the lack of detail on Michael's system in Sophia Lorens face on certain scenes.

    One of the advantages of using an HTPC and FFDShow with Zoomplayer is the availability of adjustments to set and save both the black and white levels on a per-DVD basis.

    So, Michael has a system that can't handle the additional dynamic range on the whites (or is not adjusted to handle them), and Arthur does.

    After adjusting my video black and white level settings to handle the extended dynamic range, I have to agree with Arthur.

    My take:

    It is a very good transfer with deep blacks and intense whites that do still contain the detail of the original source (I know because I can see the film grain in the brightest highlights).

    Ted
     
  6. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Agreed.
     
  7. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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    Would it be the conscious than, that one MUST adjust one's video display. Too 'enjoy' this DVD, as presented?
     
  8. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    I adjusted nothing and I thought it was a great transfer. So, either my TV just handles this sort of thing well, or I don't know what. I put it on my computer as well, and it looked equally as good.
     
  9. TedD

    TedD Supporting Actor

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    Only if you are as picky (read anal[​IMG]) as I am when it comes to accurately recreating the original experience of watching a film.

    Ted
     
  10. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    After I originally posted the review, I checked the disc again on a different player and I did have a better opinion of the video quality. I was going to change the review but felt it would be best to keep it as was since it's the same player I've reviewed everything else on. As I said in the review, this was the first time I had ever seen a transfer looking that way so it was certainly just the way my player was showing it.
     
  11. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I watched this dvd on a Pioneer Elite-720 with a Denon-2900 player and found the video presentation quite good.





    Crawdaddy
     

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