A few words about…™ The Garden of Allah — in Blu-ray

The Garden of Allah is a film that needs to be experienced. 4 Stars

Shot in early 1936, and released in October, Richard Boleslawski’s The Garden of Allah, was an extremely important film in the history of cinema.

It was one of only five three-strip Technicolor productions released in 1936, and along with Wings of the Morning, a superbly produced example of the technology.

Keep in mind that the previous year, saw only a single Technicolor film, Mamoulians’ Becky Sharp.

It was the first Technicolor film to come from The Selznick Studio, which would continue using the technology to make a few other films. (See Ronald Haver’s book for more details).

The film was stunningly photographed (think Marlene Dietrich) by W. Howard Greene and Harold Rosson — who were strangely un-billed, but received special Academy Awards for their work.

The score was by Max Steiner, who also did some other work for Selznick.

The original elements survive, were combined a decade or so ago, and the results, with minor exceptions are magnificent. That film element has been mastered for Kino’s new Blu-ray, and for those who appreciate true Technicolor…

It’s a short (at 79 minutes), and magnificent piece of cinema history.

The Garden of Allah is a film that needs to be experienced.

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – Absolutely

Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

34 Comments

  1. That's all I needed to know, thank you Mr. Harris!!!

    Can't wait for this!

    By the way, I can only come up with four Technicolor movies for 1936…TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE, DANCING PIRATE, RAMONA and this one….what title am I missing?

  2. lark144

    Me too..that's what I was waiting for! I've been dying to see this film in a decent home video edition for ages.

    Mark, I'm assuming that you saw the 35mm print that played in NYC some 40 years ago, I forget where. Was it at MoMA during the Selznick series, or at Radio City? At any rate, it was an unforgettable experience.

  3. Will Krupp

    That's all I needed to know, thank you Mr. Harris!!!

    Can't wait for this!

    By the way, I can only come up with four Technicolor movies for 1936…TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE, DANCING PIRATE, RAMONA and this one….what title am I missing?

    Wings Of The Morning

  4. haineshisway

    Am I thinking of something else or do I not already have two versions of this on Blu-ray? One domestic and one import?

    I don't think so Bruce, We have a very good/solid DVD (that was released twice, I think) but nothing yet for blu-ray,

  5. bujaki

    Mark, I'm assuming that you saw the 35mm print that played in NYC some 40 years ago, I forget where. Was it at MoMA during the Selznick series, or at Radio City? At any rate, it was an unforgettable experience.

    Yes, I did. I think it was at MOMA during the Selznick retro. I was holding off on ordering it until Mr. Harris posted a review, and I must say that reading about how wonderful the original production was had me on the edge of my seat, wondering whether this Blu-Ray would hold a candle to the original prints. This is the first time that I've experienced a Hitchcockian frisson reading "A Few Words."

  6. Robert Harris

    The film was stunningly photographed (think Marlene Dietrich) by W. Howard Greene and Harold Rosson — who were strangely un-billed, but received special Academy Awards for their work.

    Being on the journey to take in every Oscar Winner for Best Cinematography, I find it compelling to learn that W. Howard Greene and Harold Rosson were un-billed. Due to the "Special Academy Award", as listed on the AMPAS Database, this purchase is already a given; but having yet seen it, I can only wonder about the credits. Who, then, is given credit; or are there no DP credits given at all? Looking forward to this one, though; as each of the remaining entries from the list that actually are making it to BD feels farther and fewer between. But, with that said; Kino has been doing an excellent job in their output and offerings from the first decade of DP winners.:thumbs-up-smiley:

  7. Robert Harris

    Keep in mind that the previous year, saw only a single Technicolor film, Mamoulians' Becky Sharp.

    And oh for a Blu of the YCM/Gitt restoration, which I had the incredible good luck to see screened years ago; it was like seeing something from an Egyptian tomb come to life.

  8. There is quite a bit of music among Max Steiner's acetates for THE GARDEN OF ALLAH that does not appear in the final cut of the picture, including a song sung by Dietrich. I suspect there was heavy editing before the final release. I'd have to check my print (LPP) but I believe the film was released in 10 reels. There is a scene near the end where Harlan Briggs played an American traveler. Briggs' part was cut but you can get a glimpse of him in the scene.

    I'll never forget Josh Logan telling the story – I believe on THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW – about refereeing a battle over dialogue between Boyer and Dietrich. He went to director Boleslawski for help and was told "Can't you see I'm busy with these damn camels!"

    PS – Does the Blu-ray have the original trailer in color? My print of the trailer is B&W.

  9. aPhil

    I pre-ordered The Garden of Allah from DeepDiscounts' 15% off sale based on the glowing review here.
    Was this the 2nd or 3rd or ? feature film shot in 3-Color Technicolor ?

    One would have to go to production and camera reports for that info

  10. This came today and I couldn't wait to tear it open. It really is magnificent! I said I wanted a 1080p version of the DVD with the same look and color timing and that's exactly what we got. I'm so happy with this, thanks for the stellar review RAH!

  11. Will Krupp

    This came today and I couldn't wait to tear it open. It really is magnificent! I said I wanted a 1080p version of the DVD with the same look and color timing and that's exactly what we got. I'm so happy with this, thanks for the stellar review RAH!

    Glad to hear that you are happy. When I saw the somewhat faded colors in the posted screencaps at another site I was afraid it would be comparable to the Nothing Sacred Blu-ray which you didn't like at all.

  12. Mark-P

    Glad to hear that you are happy. When I saw the somewhat faded colors in the posted screencaps at another site I was afraid it would be comparable to the Nothing Sacred Blu-ray which you didn't like at all.

    So was I 😉

    It is, however, beautiful.

  13. Not to get too far off topic, but I saw an original nitrate print of Nothing Sacred at Eastman House a few years ago ; if memory serves it was the same print used for the video transfer. When I checked the Blu-ray a day or two later when I returned home, it looked pretty much exactly the way I recalled the nitrate copy. It is what it is, to quote RAH.

  14. Rob W

    Not to get too far off topic, but I saw an original nitrate print of Nothing Sacred at Eastman House a few years ago ; if memory serves it was the same print used for the video transfer. When I checked the Blu-ray a day or two later when I returned home, it looked pretty much exactly the way I recalled the nitrate copy. It is what it is, to quote RAH.

    Not to get mired in another argument about the NOTHING SACRED blu-ray (when we were having such a good time) but prints make lousy sources for video masters and dye-transfer prints even less so. There's a perfectly good photochemical restoration of NOTHING SACRED that abc/disney performed about 16 years ago that has never seen the light of day.

  15. Rob W

    Not to get too far off topic, but I saw an original nitrate print of Nothing Sacred at Eastman House a few years ago ; if memory serves it was the same print used for the video transfer. When I checked the Blu-ray a day or two later when I returned home, it looked pretty much exactly the way I recalled the nitrate copy. It is what it is, to quote RAH.

    I had a nitrate decades ago, that I donated to MOMA.

    What you saw was the look of the era.

    Modern audiences would not appreciate the look.

  16. Robert Harris

    I had a nitrate decades ago, that I donated to MOMA.

    What you saw was the look of the era.

    Modern audiences would not appreciate the look.

    Known as the Natalie Kalmus era. 🙂 I wonder what Mrs. Kalmus would think of HDR?

  17. Interesting in that the reviewer at blu-ray.com seems to think the blu-ray is from a different source that the old DVD's were and he actually seems to prefer the look of the DVDs. I wasn't comparing them side by side and the blu-ray looked great to my eyes. I thought the source was the same (since they both have the same dupey looking section where Dietrich and Basil Rathbone go to visit the sand-soothsayer.) I will have to do a side by side, or at least flip back and forth between them (now that I went region free and have two players I can do that again) to see if I see what he does.

    Curious!

  18. Will Krupp

    Interesting in that the reviewer at blu-ray.com seems to think the blu-ray is from a different source that the old DVD's were and he actually seems to prefer the look of the DVDs. I wasn't comparing them side by side and the blu-ray looked great to my eyes. I thought the source was the same (since they both have the same dupey looking section where Dietrich and Basil Rathbone go to visit the sand-soothsayer.) I will have to do a side by side, or at least flip back and forth between them (now that I went region free and have two players I can do that again) to see if I see what he does.

    Curious!

    Careful! Don't ruin it for yourself. People are often happy with something until they start making direct comparisons to older versions. 😉

  19. Mark-P

    Careful! Don't ruin it for yourself. People are often happy with something until they start making direct comparisons to older versions. 😉

    This problem has ruined every relationship I've ever had. 😆

  20. Will Krupp

    Interesting in that the reviewer at blu-ray.com seems to think the blu-ray is from a different source that the old DVD's were and he actually seems to prefer the look of the DVDs. I wasn't comparing them side by side and the blu-ray looked great to my eyes. I thought the source was the same (since they both have the same dupey looking section where Dietrich and Basil Rathbone go to visit the sand-soothsayer.) I will have to do a side by side, or at least flip back and forth between them (now that I went region free and have two players I can do that again) to see if I see what he does.

    Curious!

    http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/The-Garden-of-Allah-Blu-ray/191281/#Review

  21. The blu-ray.com reviewer is completely correct in that they are either from different sources or different remastering has been applied to the same source. It wasn't, at first, even apparent to me. They FEEL the same until you compare them side by side, when it becomes obvious that the DVD is much warmer and with a golden yellow glow appearing over everything. The blu-ray, in contrast, is much cooler and still has dirt and speckles on occasion.

    I have no idea which one is right but neither of them is unpleasant. I will say that the caps-a-holic BD caps, for some reason, seem darker than the disc does in motion. The caps at Blu-ray.com feel more representative of what I'm seeing (for what that's worth.)

    In comparing the two directly, I would have to give the aesthetic edge to the blu-ray as the cooler tone allows the colors more room to breath and you can appreciate them more. The golden tone of the DVD seems somewhat oppressive at times and can overwhelm the color. Again, to mimic the heat of the desert MAY have been the artistic intent (I don't pretend to know one way or the other.) What I do know is that this blu-ray is the first time since seeing ALLAH as a teen in the mid 1980's (in a beautiful print broadcast over New York's WPIX11) that I got a visceral thrill watching the flashes of Tilly Losch's violently purple petticoats peeking out from under her dress during the dance number.

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