Excalibur (1981) Audio

3 Stars

Compliments of the season to you all.

Excalibur has always had the misfortune of having a terrible quality audio track, even the director John Boorman has made mention of the fact that he’d like to re-mix it if the DME stems still existed.

To my ears it sounds a weird mix of aural issues, whether it was due to the dubbing theatre being faulty or ill-equipped, i’m not sure, but all elements, music & foley seem to lack any real sense of fidelity, especially for 1980/81, with a complete lack of dimensionality and only the most minimal of stereo or surround activity.

Does anybody know what went wrong? Or whether the stems still exist?

I guess the only alternative, if not, is to use the dialogue stem & re-foley the film, going back to the source masters for the music.

It seems to get released with every new format, laser, dvd, hd-dvd and blu so i’m guessing a 4K release is a possibility, hence the hope it will finally be “fixed”.

All the best

M

Published by

Kevin Collins

administrator

12 Comments

  1. Apparently, the film was originally released theatrically in mono, per Boorman's wishes, after realizing that the stereo track wasn't up to par. It wouldn't surprise me if the actual mix Boorman had trouble with is the one used on the DVD and Blu.

  2. The original theatrical release was mono. I remember one of the theatres I projected for trying to get a print in stereo first-run and we were told by Orion that no stereo prints were made. We complained that the one sheet poster claimed "Dolby Stereo" but they were adamant that there were none.

  3. It’s not just the poor stereo mix thou, it’s the poor fidelity of music and effects throughout that sound as if they are 10th generation copies of a badly recorded original!

    There are some very high quality mono tracks out there and this doesn’t sound anything like as good.

    M

  4. MarkantonyII

    It’s not just the poor stereo mix thou, it’s the poor fidelity of music and effects throughout that sound as if they are 10th generation copies of a badly recorded original!

    There are some very high quality mono tracks out there and this doesn’t sound anything like as good.

    M

    You're correct – it's a weak track.

  5. Peter Apruzzese

    You're correct – it's a weak track.

    Which is a real shame, because the film absolutely calls for a bombastic and active sound mix. Alas, Zardoz has had better treatment on home video than Excalibur. (Nothing against Zardoz. It's bat-crap insane and entirely unique.)

  6. I knew Boorman through several phone conversations years ago. I remember asking him why the posters stated the film being in stereo and it being released in MONO. I had brought up that WB’s Altered States and Wolfen had wonderful 70mm 6 track runs. Boorman told me it was intended that Excalibur be presented in stereo – however, there simply wasn’t enough time to meet the release dated promised. He was editing the film in Ireland and had to meet a deadline to present WB with a finish cut for release. This is also why the trailer contains a few shots from scenes not in the released version. The same was true for THE HERETIC where there are shots with special effects cut from the film. This dumb maneuver cut the scene from the HERETIC that explained why the film was entitled, “THE HERETIC”.
    Some publicity materials from both these films were released showcasing cut imagery from the release version. In EXCALIBUR the scene cut was Lancelot saving Guinevere from huns.
    THE HERETIC had an original running time of about 2hr 20mins. It was finally released at 117 mins. WB didn’t want a film running too long since it would mean less showings per day. The same was true for EXCALIBUR, but the trims were less.

    From what Boorman told me, time was the issue and full process was never given.

  7. ScottBos

    I knew Boorman through several phone conversations years ago. I remember asking him why the posters stated the film being in stereo and it being released in MONO. I had brought up that WB's Altered States and Wolfen had wonderful 70mm 6 track runs. Boorman told me it was intended that Excalibur be presented in stereo – however, there simply wasn't enough time to meet the release dated promised. He was editing the film in Ireland and had to meet a deadline to present WB with a finish cut for release. This is also why the trailer contains a few shots from scenes not in the released version. The same was true for THE HERETIC where there are shots with special effects cut from the film. This dumb maneuver cut the scene from the HERETIC that explained why the film was entitled, "THE HERETIC".
    Some publicity materials from both these films were released showcasing cut imagery from the release version. In EXCALIBUR the scene cut was Lancelot saving Guinevere from huns.
    THE HERETIC had an original running time of about 2hr 20mins. It was finally released at 117 mins. WB didn't want a film running too long since it would mean less showings per day. The same was true for EXCALIBUR, but the trims were less.

    From what Boorman told me, time was the issue and full process was never given.

    That makes sense re: the issues although i still can't believe the audio was considered technically suitable for theatrical release even for 1980/81 Mono. Given his advancing years it would be great if Warner's could give him the same chance as Ridley Scott, Robert Wise and others & allow him to complete post production as intended

  8. MarkantonyII

    That makes sense re: the issues although i still can't believe the audio was considered technically suitable for theatrical release even for 1980/81 Mono. Given his advancing years it would be great if Warner's could give him the same chance as Ridley Scott, Robert Wise and others & allow him to complete post production as intended

    I agree. Unfortunately, Boorman is one of those directors who is really only known in film buff circles. His biggest commercial success was Deliverance and that was quite a long time ago and is only present in current popular culture in the form of jokes about banjo-playing hillbillies and lines like, "You shore do got a purty mouth." Anyone under 40 might not even realize that those things came from Deliverance. Directors like Ridley Scott, Robert Wise, and Richard Donner had huge blockbusters that continue to make money for the studios that own the films so they've been given opportunities that other directors haven't, mostly as a way for the studios to have a new marketing angle for films they've released on home video multiple times.

  9. Brian Kidd

    I agree. Unfortunately, Boorman is one of those directors who is really only known in film buff circles. His biggest commercial success was Deliverance and that was quite a long time ago and is only present in current popular culture in the form of jokes about banjo-playing hillbillies and lines like, "You shore do got a purty mouth." Anyone under 40 might not even realize that those things came from Deliverance. Directors like Ridley Scott, Robert Wise, and Richard Donner had huge blockbusters that continue to make money for the studios that own the films so they've been given opportunities that other directors haven't, mostly as a way for the studios to have a new marketing angle for films they've released on home video multiple times.

    Very true, my thinking/hope was that as we are approaching the 40th Annv, the director is approaching 90 & the title sold enough to warrant being one of few HD-DVD releases, there is not only a marketing and sales angle, But a technical opportunity too.

    I'd still be interested to know if the DME's still existed and if the sound effects were from a library or set recorded, explaining the many issues that went unresolved.

    M

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