DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Greatest Show on Earth

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Scott Kimball, Apr 5, 2004.

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  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    The Greatest Show on Earth



    Studio: Paramount
    Year: 1952

    Rated: NR
    Length: 152 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    Audio: English and French Dolby Digital Mono

    English Subtitles, Closed Captioned in English

    SRP. $14.99 USD


    Release Date: April 6, 2004




    Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth may seem dated today, what with some hokey performances and DeMille’s occasional narration, but it still manages to entertain after 52 years.

    The story follows the Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus, with circus manager Brad Haden (Charleton Heston), trapeze artists Sebastion and Holly (Cornel Wilde and Betty Hutton), and “Buttons” the clown (Jimmy Stewart), as they travel the country trying to keep audiences coming to the Big Top.

    Almost half the film is recorded circus acts, occasionally broken up by a MovieTone News-like documentary on the traveling circus – oh… and there is a drama involving a love triangle and a clown on the lam (Stewart, in the outstanding but understated performance of the picture). These three major elements are deftly edited together, resulting in an exciting couple of hours with the circus.

    It’s an entertaining fluff piece that I count among my guilty pleasures - but I’ve always wondered how this film could win Best Picture over the likes of High Noon or The Quiet Man, or the criminally un-nominated musical of that year, Singin’ in the Rain. It’s not that The Greatest Show on Earth isn’t worthy of attention – after all it’s got charm, pretty colors, and a cool train wreck (not so cool by today’s special effects standards)… but it was an over-hyped fluff piece – typical of DeMille’s work – a big movie about nothing.

    The Greatest Show on Earth is sort of like cotton candy. It’s mighty tasty, but not very filling.

    Video
    The picture is presented in a fullscreen aspect ratio (the original aspect ratio was 1.37:1). Any minor discrepancies there may be in the aspect ratio will be hidden by your display’s overscan.

    Filmed in Technicolor, the circus colors come alive in this transfer. They are beautifully saturated in neutral tones – the colors really pop. The picture is slightly soft, showing the age of the print. Occasional blemishes also belie the film’s age – but overall the image is outstanding, considering the age of the film. Grain is very fine. Contrast is a touch on the low side – bright whites are rare. Black levels are strong enough, with acceptable (if less than perfect) shadow detail.

    Considering the film is 52 years old, I can find little to complain about with the video transfer.

    Audio
    There isn’t much to talk about regarding audio, which is delivered in your choice of English or French Mono. Frequency response is acceptable given the recording technologies used. Voices are always clear, dialog always understandable. There is little in the way of bass… the film’s audio rarely made use of my subwoofer, never reaching the crossover point with any strength or regularity. Some of the music occasionally suffers from mild distortion – but it’s distortion I’ve always associated with this film (it’s not a result of the authoring of this disc).

    Special Features
    There are no special features.

    Final Thoughts
    With a suggested retail price of $14.99 USD, you’ll likely be finding this bare-bones release in a bargain bin near you. At that price, it’s can’t miss entertainment.
     
  2. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

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    I have to give a thumbs up for considtany putting out great transfers at bargain prices, but surely a classic of this magnitude could be served up at a bit of a higher S.R.P. and include some extras.
     
  3. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    This movie has always been a guilty pleaure of mine. I didn't even realize that it was coming out, and at that price, I will pick it up. Thanks for the heads up, Scott!
     
  4. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    I've had this on LD for many years. The new DVD is welcome. I echo Dave's desire for some extras. [​IMG]
     
  5. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    I watched this last night. I've never seen it lookingh this good. Nice job Paramount. And as I said above, some extras would have been the cherry on top!

    PS - I noticed a problem with a word in the Subtitles. Early in the film when Holly is practicing a trick, The Heston character says he will "ground her" if she continues. The Subtitles say "drown her". That gave me a couple of chuckles. [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  6. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    for such a low price, I will snap this up
     
  7. Bradley-E

    Bradley-E Screenwriter

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    For the price I do not mind no extras. The picture quality was very good and I enjoyed watching the film again after so many years. Considering how awful some of the SONY, MGM and ARTISAN catalogue titles are. This is a breath of fresh air. Good work Paramount.
     
  8. LarryH

    LarryH Supporting Actor

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    Ha this been released? A Blueshirt @ BB told me the reason I couldn't find one there was that it had been delayed a week. He said he had looked it up. I see DVD Empire shows it in stock, so I guess BB was, shall we say, bending the truth a bit.
     
  9. Larry Bevil

    Larry Bevil Second Unit

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    Watched it tonight. Excellent color transfer.
     
  10. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    I take it for granted that the Blueshirts don't know anything.
     
  11. Dane Marvin

    Dane Marvin Screenwriter

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    I will be buying this someday, as I generally like fluff-pieces like this one. That it won Best Picture that year isn't surprising. The Academy continues to this day to award good showmanship. A few years later, they awarded the not too dissimilar (but better) "Around the World in 80 Days" with Best Picture and comparable films today -- like "Titanic" still often emerge as Oscar favorites.

    But as you said in the review, the omission of "Singin' in the Rain" from even the pool of nominees is among the greatest crimes perpetrated by Oscar. At least AFI has given the film its due.

    Nice to know that Paramount has given us a good transfer for TGSOE. Here's where I would normally talk about how Warner Bros. probably would have given this a 2-Disc SE (or at least a couple special features on the single disc), but I digress. I'm looking forward to this!
     
  12. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Just watched this for the first time on DVD this
    morning.

    Some thoughts....

    First off, I was a bit disappointed that a film
    of this magnitude and spectacle was not filmed in
    widescreen. The film seemed out of place in its
    full-frame ratio.

    I felt this was a good film, certainly not great,
    and definately not worthy of a Best Picture when
    you consider Singin' In The Rain was released
    that same year.

    I mean, as a whole, this was a simple movie. It
    was mostly circus acts tied in with a little love
    story. Nothing out of the ordinary here that makes
    it deserving of its award status.

    The transfer was excellent. Paramount did a superb
    job with this title. However, as is usually the
    case, the studio skimped on any supplements it could.

    I loved the Bing & Hope cameo. That was
    priceless and probably the best part of this film.

     
  13. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I don’t think that there were any commercially released widescreen films back then (’52) Ron.

    IIRC, the very big deal was the next year 1953 with the release of The Robe. At least that it was got the theaters to upgrade their projection systems and screens to accommodate the widescrren formats.

    I think that VistaVision was a bit later.

    It is certainly possible that some isolated, widescreen movies were made that predated The Robe. But they did not penetrate to the small-town theaters that I knew.
     
  14. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Ronbo,
    I knew you would love that scene. I must have seen that scene 30 or 40 times over the years and it still cracks me up.

    By the way, there weren't many films released prior to 1953 in any widescreen format. You had a few films filmed in an early widescreen format like Grandeur, but there weren't many of them prior to CinemaScope revitilzing the widescreen concept.




    Crawdaddy
     
  15. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I forgot to mentioned that the reason why "The Greatest Show on Earth" was given the AA for Best Picture is the same reason why countless Oscars were given out to some questionable winners over the years. Basically, it was a life-time achievement Oscar to Cecil B. DeMille. I hope I'm not the only one watching the great documentary that Turner Classic Movies is showing this month about Mr. DeMille. The second part of the documentary is being shown tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET.

    Anyhow, I always thought the following films were more deserving of the 1952 Best Picture award.
    • High Noon
    • The Quiet Man
    • The Bad and the Beautiful
    • Singin in the Rain
     
  16. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Thanks for the info on the widescreen process.
    A real shame that this film came before that
    era really came to light.


    I have seen these films, and you are correct
    that all are better than The Greatest Show
    On Earth
    .

    It amazes me about Singin' In The Rain not
    even getting a nomination. My God, it's the greatest
    musical ever made.

     
  17. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Thanks also for the widescreen info
     

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