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Camelot: 45th Anniversary Edition
Release Date(s)1967 (April 24, 2012)
After Lerner and Loewe's considerable success with their musical play My Fair Lady, the successful duo turned their efforts to T.H. White's history/fantasy novel "The Once and Future King" about King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and Lancelot and Guinevere with their musical play of Camelot.
Its first tryout came in Toronto in 1960, with its Broadway opening in December of that year, featuring a cast of Richard Burton (Arthur), Julie Andrews (Guinevere), Robert Goulet (Lancelot), and Roddy McDowell (Mordred). The musical was a particular favorite of President Kennedy and his administration was sometimes likened to Camelot.
As the last of the really active Hollywood Moguls of the time, Jack Warner had had great success with his film production of My Fair Lady in 1964. Then seeking to duplicate that, he turned to Camelot to produce a filmed version in 1967, budgeting some $15 million and using the services of director Joshua Logan. But there was little lightning in the bottle and the film comes across as a rather heavy-handed experience with the life sucked out of the music and little obvious sign in the film's look and feel of the money that was spent. Sadly, the original Broadcast cast was not used and we have instead Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, and David Hemmings - estimable performers to be sure, but not up to the musical vitality needed to make the effort a success in my view. The lack of the film's ability to capitalize really effectively on Lerner and Loewe's music is one of the saddest aspects. One would think it would be hard to fail with "If Ever I Would Leave You", "I Loved You Once in Silence", "I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight", and the "Camelot" number itself - all some of the finest numbers in the Lerner and Loewe musical canon. While yours truly isn't enamored of the film's delivery of the music, not everyone felt quite the same though. Critical consensus at the time of the film's release resulted in five Academy Award and six Golden Globe nominations (winning three in each, particularly for best music).
For the film's 45th anniversary, Warner Bros. has delivered a nice Blu-ray presentation, packaged in digibook format. The 2.40:1 Panavision image looks a little soft and somewhat dark in the opening titles/sequences, but fortunately, that's a minor issue and the image soon opens out into a crisp, clear experience that delivers some fine-detailed object and skin textures. Black levels and overall contrast score well. Colour fidelity is also good although the film doesn't have an aggressively primary colour look, preferring to accentuate darker browns and umber shades. Modest grain is pleasingly present and there is no evidence of untoward digital manipulation.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio delivers clear dialogue and a subtle level of ambient surround presence. The music is pleasingly conveyed with some solid separation in voices and instruments quite apparent. There is no sense of a strong dynamic range that really drags one into the home theatremusical experience, however.
The disc supplements include a reasonably good audio commentary by film critic Steven Farber though one punctuated by some silences. There's a good new half-hour HD documentary on the making-of the film, two vintage featurettes including one on the film's premiere, and five trailers. The Blu-ray disc is packaged in a 40-page illustrated digibook that also contains a CD soundtrack sampler (4 songs).
Those who know and like the film should be pleased with Warners' 45th Anniversary Blu-ray release. Others should try a rental first.