Roman Epics - Quo Vardis, Fall of the Roman Empire, El Cid etc on DVD?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Alistair_M, Sep 6, 2003.

  1. Alistair_M

    Alistair_M Second Unit

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    We have a few good roman epic special editions on dvd (Spartacus Criterion, Cleopatra 3 disk, Ben Hur and Gladiator).

    But I love to have special editions of:

    Fall of the Roman Empire
    El Cid
    Quo Vardis
    The Robe

    I remember reading on one of the HTF chats about possible special editions being worked on but this was mentioned maybe a year or so ago. Any news on these coming to dvd?
    I expect they may well need restoring.

    Several have been released on region 2 but they are all rather poor editions.
     
  2. Bill Burns

    Bill Burns Supporting Actor

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    I'm happy to say that Fox has an edition of The Robe out in Region 1, as well as its sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators. Neither are reference quality transfers, but aside from some noticeable EE they're quite pleasing (the films themselves could stand additional restoration, but are very watchable, with generally strong, stable color reproduction and fine detail). There remains, based on material at The Widescreen Museum (on-line), some suggestion that The Robe was composed for 2.66:1 projection and only changed to accomodate a soundtrack on the same film print with the picture after it was shot, suggesting that an original negative might yield a still wider, and "intended" as such, element, but the DVD seems to use the film's release ratio of 2.55:1. Here are links to both at DVDEmpire (they can be found at other e-tailers as well, of course):

    The Robe

    Demetrius and the Gladiators

    I believe Miramax was said to control rights to at least El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire, but beyond rumors of ongoing restoration efforts that are more than a year old now (perhaps even two years old), I've found nothing further on-line. I've always enjoyed Anthony Mann's work, and trust Miramax will restore The Fall of the Roman Empire to its 65mm Super Panavision original format, and derive from this (and not a reduction element) any new video master, hopefully and presumably an HD master that may then be downconverted for DVD and also used, in the future, for any HD-DVD release. To create that master from a reduction element ('Scope Panavision 35mm) would be a great disservice to the film. Super Panavision's correct aspect ratio is 2.2:1 or 2.21:1, while 'Scope Panavision's is 2.39:1, usually written as either 2.35:1 or 2.40:1, so any announcement from the company that includes AR information may offer a clue as to the fidelity of the product they'll eventually bring to market (as recently seen in the announced 2.35:1 AR for their parent company's Sleeping Beauty, a Technirama product originated on what's known as eight perforation 35mm, a format twice as wide -- twice as tall, but photographed horizontally and thus twice as wide instead -- as the "usual" four perf 35mm and in this case intended for 70mm printing; its correct AR should have been around 2.21 or 2.25:1, and I trusted the announcement was an error, given the restoration effort that went into the film, but other threads here have indicated that Sleeping Beauty, despite all of that effort and fan anticipation, was, indeed, sourced from reduction [​IMG] ).

    According to the IMDB, El Cid was shot in the same Technirama film format used with Sleeping Beauty (billed as Super Technirama 70 because the eight perf 35mm would be printed to standard 70mm for projection), and so the above applies for this film as well. Restore it to, and source it from, large format, Miramax. Don't drop the ball on this much-loved epic.

    I'm not sure if Quo Vadis? is in the works or not; it may be part of the above Miramax group, but I don't recall. Whoever owns it, it's a flat 35mm production, and so its character is different from the above-discussed films. Earlier versions of the story (the IMDB lists two, one from 1912 and the other from 1924) would make wonderful accompanying releases.

    I hope all of these find their way to DVD soon, but only if restored, mastered, and transferred with the proper care. [​IMG] Six years into the DVD game and counting, we should expect nothing less.
     
  3. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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  4. Ernest

    Ernest Supporting Actor

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    I have all those titles on DVD and in very good quality. I converted the laserdisc to DVD-RAM, using a Panasonic recorder, re-formated to 16 x 9 and deleted the blank side break and re-recorded to a DVD-R. There was no need to re-format Quo Vadis it was shot in the early 50's in 1:33 x 1 before "widescreen" became polupar. If you have a DVD recorder Quo Vadis is being televised by TCM in November.

    You forgot two more great titles 55 Days at Peking and Mutiny on the Bounty. I also converted these titles from laserdisc to DVD-R. I am glad I held on to most of my laserdisc because they convert very well to DVD-R. It makes it real hard when the commercial version is released to justify a purchase. Because the conversions came out so good I will probably pass on buying the commercail versionis, when and if they are ever released on DVD.
     
  5. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

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    It'd be nice if Criterion could recover the rights to El Cid and expand upon their laserdisc special edition, with perhaps a commentary, studio correspondence and a gorgeous anamorphic 65mm transfer.
     
  6. Alistair_M

    Alistair_M Second Unit

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  7. TedD

    TedD Supporting Actor

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    Ernest, sorry, but I have to disagree.

    There is no way a 480 line resolution non-anamorphic composite video LD that has been transferred to DVD is going to look anywhere near as good as a newly transferred DVD master, probably done in HD and down-converted to NTSC component video.

    Doing this is merely a stop-gap procedure that may produce a DVD suitable for a 50" and under TV.

    Better than nothing, but I would buy the real thing in a heartbeat, especially since I can still run my LD through my Holo3D card and watch the resulting scaled LD without any MPEG2 conversions.

    Ted
     
  8. StevenFC

    StevenFC Second Unit

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    You're not alone, Alistair. I would love to see Quo Vadis?, El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire on DVD.

    I think that it's just a matter of time before we see them. I would guess that we'll see them in 2004. When it was announced that Cromwell was coming out this year, that pretty much told me that the historic epic type of film was starting to get attention from the studios.

    I think that older "classics" in general will really hit their stride in 2004. What choice do they have? They can't make films fast enough to keep up with the demand for quality films on dvd. So I'd be shocked if we don't see a deluge of older films in 2004.

    I can already see that I'll be buying another DVD storage rack soon. [​IMG])
     
  9. BruceKimmel

    BruceKimmel Stunt Coordinator

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    Fall of the Roman Empire, El Cid and Peking are all available on Region 2 DVDs from France. They're all enhanced for widescreen. Unfortunately, they just don't look that wonderful and the sound is mono.
     
  10. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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  11. Andy_G

    Andy_G Stunt Coordinator

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    They are out of stock at amazon.fr. Does anyone know of another source?
     
  12. Mark Anthony

    Mark Anthony Second Unit

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    Just to point out that Fall of the Roman Empire was shot in Ultra, not Super, Panavision and thus should be presented between a 2.55 and 2.76:1 ratio - I'd personally prefer the latter showing its full negative width

    M
     
  13. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Technically, Ultra Panavision films need to be shown at 2.55:1.

    The 35mm reductions for Raintree County, Ben-Hur, and It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World were all 2.55:1.
     
  14. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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  15. StevenFC

    StevenFC Second Unit

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    I'll try and remember to check the region 2 section at Laser's Edge next time I'm there to see if they carry those. Unfortunately I don't think they list them on their website.
     
  16. Markus Mathis

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  17. Bill Burns

    Bill Burns Supporting Actor

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    Mark Anthony -- you're absolutely right. My mistake -- The Fall of the Roman Empire was, indeed, shot in Ultra Panavision 70. A bit of research at The Widescreen Museum yields info regarding release printing for Ultra -- and while it seems that with 35mm anamorphic reduction and in-theatre matting Empire and a number of other Ultra pictures would've seen a screen ratio of about 2.39:1 (or for those issued as dye transfer some hard matted 2.5:1 reduction prints), I'd actually advocate what I advocate for all Ultra, Super Panavision, Todd-AO, Technirama, VistaVision, and other large format films (including the infamously contentious Raintree County, the first M-G-M Camera 65 or Ultra Panavision film, but itself seemingly printed only to 35mm reduction; according to TWM info, Ben-Hur, also commonly seen in reduction, was the first Ultra film -- again credited as MGM Camera 65, the same essential process later updated to newer camera housing designs and lenses with a change of hands in ownership, but for all intents and purposes interchangeable -- to be printed as 70mm, with extended roadshow engagements; but even at 70mm, it was often matted in theatres to 2.5:1 or so, with hard matted reductions also carrying that approximate AR): a return to the full negative AR, or more accurately that Aperture of projection protected for large format (usually 70mm) printing*.

    While TWM's material on this is extensive and, frankly, convoluted, making specifics difficult to extrapolate for titles they do not directly address (there are too many sections to link here, but info can be found under Ultra Panavision, Super Panavision, Cinerama, and additional links to articles and spec lists from these sections of the site), in general it seems, from their info, that all Ultra films were exposed to an Aperture that recorded an approximately 2.21:1 area ratio of negative (the actual Aperture measurement is offered under the "film specs." section of M-G-M Camera 65/Ultra Panavision), with 1.25x anamorphosis further applied to the image, expanding that 2.21:1 area to 2.76:1 (Super Panavision would later use the same Aperture and 2.21:1 image, now recorded flat and thus projected as 2.21:1). 70mm prints could be made for the full, protected projection area of 2.76:1, but were often either matted by the theatres (TWM says that 1962's Mutiny on the Bounty was the last Ultra film to find its way to some portion of its audience at a full 2.76:1 ratio) or reduction printed to 35mm in the first place, reducing the ratio to 2.39:1 (the site says 2.35:1, but the Aperture their spec sheets list in fact yields 2.39:1, though in-theatre alignment and matting could, of course, intrude on this to varying small degrees). As mentioned earlier, Ben-Hur, when reduced to 35mm and dye transfer printed, was hard matted to yield, at the expense of some vertical negative area, a somewhat wider reduction ratio of 2.5:1.

    So ... one is left with a quandary. Does one present a film as it was released, or as it was shot? I always (there are no exceptions in my mind) favor "as it was shot," and here, more accurately, "as it was shot for its native format," because that's almost certainly the preferred or foremost composition the director and cinematographer were protecting on the set -- despite the TWM's assurances to the contrary, I'm here to tell ya', it makes no sense to shoot in 65mm if you have no expectation your film will ever be shown in 70mm (image+sound), apart from the use of limited 65mm shooting for FX dupe grain matching (see the documentary on Close Encounters of the Third Kind's two-disc incarnation). It's more expensive and more cumbersome. Unless someone can point me to an interview or other direct evidence from Mann or his cinematographer that they preferred the reduction ratio and/or the 35mm projection Aperture composition is what they most wanted seen, I'll favor returning to the camera negative (1.25x anamorphic 2.21:1, which yields a screen image of 2.76:1) and presenting it unmatted. This is an argument entirely apart from what's known as "Full Aperture" or Super35 shooting today: theatrical composition on the 1.37:1 negative is designed, on such shoots, around some variety of matting, often 1.85:1, sometimes a 2.40:1 extraction. Presenting the "Full Aperture" of 1.37:1 may be something intended for broadcast versions, but screen comp is always or almost always designed first for the theatre (there may be exceptions, but this is a fairly fast rule so far as I can find) on a feature production using that format. With large format productions, all or virtually all will undoubtedly be shot first and foremost to protect for the "premiere" showing of the film: large format. That it's protected for 35mm reduction is, not unlike the 1.37:1 protection of Super35, less important -- whichever comp and version the filmmakers consider definitive is what should be preserved for home video, and thus the "extraction" from Super35 is what we should see and, similarly, the full protected projection Aperture for large format films such as Ultra Panavision 70.

    And so ... Miramax should, as argued earlier, return to large format for all films shot as such (including The Fall of the Roman Empire), but, moreover, should present the visual results unmatted as 2.76:1 (projection Aperture, not shooting Aperture, if the latter exposes frame lines or other anomalies), giving the film the 70mm character it was denied in theatres. [​IMG] Sorry again for the mistake earlier regarding Super Panavision (which again is essentially the same 65mm process absent anamorphic squeeze, or in other words filmed with spherical, rather than anamorphic, lenses)! :b So far as I can find, the other specific film info I originally posted is accurate.

    * Which you advocated above as well, Mark. [​IMG]
     
  18. Bill Burns

    Bill Burns Supporting Actor

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    While it's peripheral to the thread, I know there has been some hoopla on-line (at various sites) regarding the fact that certain home video editions of Ben-Hur (I don't know if this is true of the DVD or not) were overmatted to create a 2.76:1 image from a print already reduced to a narrower ratio (presumably sourcing from 35mm). As explained in detail at TWM (see the lobby link in my earlier post, where you can navigate to Ultra Panavision), all (all) Ultra Panavision is, in fact, shot in 65mm at 2.21:1 with 1.25x anamorphosis, and therefore has an Aperture ratio, once the anamorphic image is projected flat, of 2.76:1. The projected Aperture is smaller than the shooting Aperture, but yields the same AR: 2.76:1. Therefore all 65mm M-G-M Camera 65 and Ultra Panavision productions (there seems to be some debate if M-G-M Camera 65 ever used a heavier anamorphic squeeze, yielding a still wider ratio, but let's then say all of these productions shot to the above spec of 2.21:1 x .25) should be presented, on DVD, at 2.76:1. The reductions and matting done in theatres may have been descretionary and supported, but these films were protected for full 2.76:1 projection, as large format productions this protected projection Aperture is most likely the preferred Aperture (and thus ratio) of the filmmakers, and each of these, including Empire, Raintree County, Ben-Hur, Mutiny on the Bounty, and so on, should be therefore presented as unmatted 2.76:1, sourced from large format, at home -- in my (strongly held) view.

    Any edition of Empire that either mattes to 2.5:1 or finds itself taken from reduction at 2.39:1 will find no sale with me. [​IMG] Six years into the DVD format, as I mentioned earlier, it's time, I think, to do away with needless compromise and demand only the best the format has to offer -- there's so much high quality, faithful film work on DVD that I just cannot justify (knowingly) spending money on anything that cuts corners or rushes into production without the advanced research that would yield an accurate and respectable final product.
     
  19. RolandL

    RolandL Producer

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    I agree with Bill that the Ultra Panavision/MGM Camera 65 films should be presented on DVD in the 2.76:1 aspect ratio. Check out these scenes from the 2.35:1 laser disc and 2.76:1 DVD of The Greatest Story Ever Told -
    http://www.cinerama.topcities.com/gsetdvdvslaser.htm
     
  20. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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