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High-Definition Matters by Barrie Maxwell

Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

Welcome to the latest edition of High Definition Matters. I have had a great time enjoying viewing a wide range of 14 different films for this edition - something for virtually everyone! Reviews of current fare include: Paramount's Ghost Protocol and The Adventures of Tintin; Lionsgate's Albert Nobbs; Fox's The Descendants; Atlantic-Alliance/Lionsgate's Haywire; Sony's Anonymous; and Warner Bros.'s J. Edgar, The Bodyguard, and Joyful Noise. Among classic title fare, I have coverage of Twilight Time's Demetrius and the Gladiators and Bite the Bullet; Warner Bros.' Jeremiah Johnson; Film Chest's The Red House; and Kino's Scarlet Street. I do hope you'll enjoy them all. Please note that I've also updated my Blu-ray release schedule which you can access elsewhere on the site.


Current Fare

In Ghost Protocol, the Mission Impossible franchise has delivered its best outing of Tom Cruise's reign and done so by managing the simple expedient of invoking the spirit of the original TV series - plenty of human mental ingenuity on display, reliance on masks, and dependence on opponents' human frailties.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (Blu-ray Disc)

One doesn't want to dwell too much on the plot convolutions, but suffice it to say that Russian-American relations are in the balance, the search for stolen nuclear launch codes is at the heart of the problem, and the IMF manages to get its actions disavowed by order of the President. IMF operative Ethan Hunt manages to Cruise his way through the mayhem with his appealing team of Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Carter (Paula Patton). To be sure, some of the action sequences are over the top in terms of what human beings are physically capable of and which even the original MF series would have disdained for its time, but accepting that, there's much to marvel at in some great set pieces that include a marauding sand storm plus Ethan Hunt's usual glass-scaling derring-do exploits. The overall impact easily made Ghost Protocol 2011's best-made and consistently entertaining action/adventure thriller. Now thanks to Paramount, the film also has been granted a superb Blu-ray presentation. The 2.40:1 image is one of Paramount's impressive efforts, excelling in all aspects from image sharpness and colour fidelity to the overall depth of field and detail. Complementing the video is a 7.1 Dolby TruHD audio mix that is state of the art too. 5.1 DD French, Spanish, and Portuguese tracks plus English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese sub-titles are provided. The Paramount release I looked at came with 2 Blu-ray discs and 1 DVD disc. Supplementary materials included some 14 featurettes on all aspects of production and ranging in length from 1 to 18 minutes; 15 minutes of deleted scenes; and theatrical trailers. Visually and sonically, the home theatre experience doesn't get much better than what Paramount offers in its Ghost Protocol product.

Based on Istvan Szabo's treatment of George Moore's story, Albert Nobbs has finally made its way to the screen through the efforts of actress Glenn Close and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, some 30 years after it first opened off Broadway in 1982.

Albert Nobbs (Blu-ray Disc)

Amazingly, Glenn Close's association with the title role in which she stars so impressively dates all the way back to that Broadway opening. It's a role that has stayed with her ever since. The story takes place in 19th century Ireland where Albert Nobbs, a woman who has survived by disguising herself as a man and becoming a waiter/butler. As the story begins, she is working at Morrison's, a Dublin hotel, where she has been for the past 17 years. At a time when the country was very poor, the incentive for people to stay out of the poorhouse was pervasive and Albert's solution to such a possibility is extreme indeed. So many years has she spent as a man, that she has essentially forgotten her own true identity, seemingly even her own real name. The details of Albert's life are sad indeed as we watch him/her guarding her hard-earned pennies intended to open her own business someday, all the time in worry that some failing in her work might cause loss of her job - a constant concern not only for her but for all her fellow workers. While the details of Albert's life make for a film of rather lamenting sadness, the rich collection of supporting characters in her world add amazing vignettes, particularly a painter (superbly played by Janet McTeer) who reveals himself not only to be a fellow woman in disguise, but one with a wife in the country - an inspiration for Albert to contemplate having a wife of his own in the person of an attractive young hotel maid (Mia Wasikowska). The film is dominated by Glenn Close's powerful and mesmerizing performance, and she's very ably backed up by the impressive supporting cast that includes the aforementioned McTeer and Wasikowska as well as the likes of Brendan Gleeson, Aaron Johnson, Pauline Collins, Brenda Fricker, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. Albert Nobbs is truly something different and an experience that will rest in your mind long after the film is over. Fortunately, Lionsgate has now made it available to us on a very nice 2.35:1 Blu-ray presentation. The image excels in its definition of textures, whether they be facial features or hotel architecture. Black levels are very deep, imparting great depth of field and the film's mainly muted colour palette is consistently well-rendered. A few instances of softness apparent are stylistic photographic choices rather than any deficiencies of the transfer. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix delivers an impressive atmospheric ambience throughout, well balanced with the clear dialogue and Brian Byrne's subtly fine score. And don't miss his closing credit music for the song "Lay Your Head Down" performed by Irish recording artist Sinead O'Connor. English and Spanish subtitles are included. Disc extras are highlighted by a very informative audio commentary by Glenn Close and Rodrigo Garcia. There are also several deleted scenes and the film's original theatrical trailer. Highly recommended.

One of 2011's best films was The Descendants - a film well-recognized for the fact with numerous award nominations, if few of the major rewards. For example, a total of five Academy Award nods for Best Picture, Directing, Actor, Film Editing, and Adapted Screenplay only resulted in success in the latter category - a shame and disappointment indeed.

The Descendants (Blu-ray Disc)

The film documents the efforts of Matt King (George Clooney) who must wrestle with the future development of a pristine stretch of Hawaiian land that had been in his family for years. Against the backdrop of a saga of family issues that seem overwhelming (relatives that are looking to cash in on the land, his own failing marriage, his wife dangerously close to death in a coma due to a boating incident, difficult relationships with his two daughters), King's task seems almost insurmountable. The film could have descended into unremitting depression, but it possesses such a wealth of humanity and sparkles with such wit and warm that it draws the viewer along on an unapologetic "high" throughout. The film comes from the celebrated director of Sideways, Alexander Payne, and he maintains brilliant emotional control of a story that could easily have gotten maudlin and out of control in the hand of someone less assured. In his task, he is strongly aided by a suite of strong acting performances, principally those of Clooney and three young performers playing his 2 daughters (Shailene Woodley, new-comer Amara Miller) and the older one's boyfriend (Nick Krause) who grows in stature significantly as a reliable character during the story. Robert Forster has an impressively effective turn also as the father of King's dying wife. The Descendants is available on Blu-ray from Fox in a 2.40:1 image that really makes one sit up and take notice. Image clarity is unrelentingly strong, delivering in terms of both the beauty of the Hawaiian locations and the sharpness of interior sets and character facial features. Colour fidelity is excellent, black levels are deep, and there is no evidence of any untoward digital manipulation at all. On the audio side, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is equally impressive. Dialogue is always strong and clear and there is a noticeably ambient sound field evident constantly when it should be present whether scenes are indoor or out. French and Spanish 5.1 DD sound tracks and English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also provided. The supplements consist of about a dozen featurettes on cast, crew, and production aspects; three music videos; and the theatrical trailer. A separate DVD copy is also included. Very highly recommended.

Pleasure indeed is in store for those who have not experienced The Adventures of Tintin from Stephen Spielberg. One of the past year's bigger hits, the film sets the standard for the best motion-capture film now out there.

The Adventures of Tintin (Blu-ray 3D)The Adventures of Tintin (Blu-ray Disc)

Even better, it really captures the flavour of Belgian author Hergé's creation of the appealingly intrepid investigator Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy and the countless action and adventure tales that the characters' many readers grew up on. The film's screenplay by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish focuses on two of the early Tintin adventures - "The Secret of the Unicorn" and "Red Rackham's Treasure". In it, Tintin (voice and motion capture performance by Jamie Bell) purchases a model of a 17th century ship that may contain the secret of the whereabouts of a treasure or maybe even the threat of a curse. Others are after the same prize(s) and Tintin soon finds the model ship stolen and himself captured by one of them - Sakharine (voice and motion capture performance by Daniel Craig) who stashes Tintin and Snowy aboard a ship bound for Morocco. The ship's boozy captain, Archibald Haddock (voice and motion capture work by Andy Serkis), is soon a reluctant Tintin ally. The film's shear atmosphere of mystery, suspense, and fun as we work our way through the story is infectious and drags us along relentlessly. The infectiousness almost makes one imagine that we have a young Spielberg at the film's helm rejoicing in his early days of filmmaking and the memories of his youth. Originally a joint Paramount and Columbia Pictures production, the film's Blu-ray release has been handled by Paramount. The 2.35:1 digital image essentially rendered entirely in the digital domain, it's no surprise that the result is superlative. Overall clarity and detail whether it be those of facial features or artifact and environmental textures are all consistently strong and the colour palette is both realistic and beautifully saturated. A 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is a worthy audio match to the impressive video. Dialogue remains clear in all situations whether those of some aggressive action or lengthy atmospheric scenes. John Williams's enjoyable score is well rendered. 5.1 DD tracks are also provided in English, French, and Spanish as well as corresponding subtitling. The supplements include over 90 minutes of HD featurettes dealing with virtually every aspect of production. A DVD copy of the film is also included. Virtually a reference level Blu-ray release from Paramount. Highly recommended.

The idea of the film Joyful Noise is much more interesting in the telling than the actual execution. In brief, Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton are the leading women behind the church choir of a small Georgia town fallen on hard times.

Joyful Noise (Blu-ray Disc)

A success for the choir at the national "Joyful Noise Competition" could lift all spirits, but each leading lady has her own ideas of how best to move forward to success when the choir's director (Kris Kristofferson wasted in one of the smallest cameos on record) dies suddenly. The film is obviously intended to inspire, but a less inspiring effort is hard to imagine. The two main stars (who rarely seem any less than larger than life in most of their films) never seem that engaged and all the supporting plot threads about family dynamics and church finances just hang limply. One would think it pretty difficult to not get the toes tapping with some stirring gospel music but director Todd Graff manages it. It doesn't even work if you take your eyes off the screen and just let the sound act as background music for some other activity you might want to pursue. Warner Bros. has released the film on a Bu-ray disc that meets its duty visually (via a 2.40:1 image) and sonically (via 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) were there anything that much worth actually to see and hear. The supplements consist of about half a dozen quite short pieces that touch on production issues, deleted scenes, extended songs, and one of the songs Dolly Parton wrote for the film. A good opportunity to save money for other more worthy discs!

In some of the supplementary content provided with the Blu-ray disc of Haywire, director Steven Soderbergh suggests that his inspiration for the film was a late-night television viewing of mixed-martial arts performer Gina Carano in action that suggested building a film around the woman.

Haywire (Canadian Blu-ray Disc)Haywire (U.S. Blu-ray Disc)

The resulting film just goes to show that all night-time ideas don't pan out too well. For one thing, Carano has no charisma and she can't act. Mind you she is done no favours by a screenplay that offers no originality and just assembles a sequence of events intended to occur in various international locales. What's it all about? Carano is apparently a black-ops agent for a government security contractor and after one operation in Barceloni, she is apparently double-crossed and left for death by someone in her own organization. The rest of the movie just keeps trotting out assassins after her as we are dragged through a bunch of other operations seemingly contrived to give cameo-like opportunities for the likes Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Bill Paxton. The film's action quotient comes from the mind-numbing boredom of mixed martial arts whose interest peaks in the film's first 5 minutes and glazes the viewers' eyes over thereafter. What a disappointment to see the director of the likes of Sex, Lies and Videotape, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, The Good German, and the Ocean's Eleven reboots reduced to such drudgery. Haywire is available on Blu-ray from Alliance in Canada and Lionsgate elsewhere. The 2.40:1 image is reasonably crisp, and colours offer modest saturation given Soderbergh's photographic choices which give the film a touch of a lemon-pledge patina on occasion. Shadow detail is somewhat problematic at times. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is not particularly ear catching. Dialogue is clear and decently centred, while sound effects are not super aggressive in either volume or in spread across the soundstage. A French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and English subtitles are provided on Alliance's release. Extras on the disc comprise three featurettes on Gina Carano, and on the men and characters of Haywire. Another worthy time- and cash-saving opportunity. Not recommended.

Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar is a 2011 film that I was very slow to catch up on. Touted early as a title to keep an eye on, the film never caught fire and made few year-end "best-of" lists.

J. Edgar (Blu-ray Disc)

That's somewhat unfortunate because in some ways, J. Edgar is a fascinating portrait of power - one not delivered quite like a standard biopic, but more introspectively and conveyed with an intense, demanding performance at its heart by Leonardo DiCaprio as Edgar Hoover. The approach to the material is skewed to Hoover's relationship with his second-in-command Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), who might have been his lover. The result is a portrait of power that along with the introspection, could have used more sense of dynamism in its coverage of and explanation of some of the key historical events that the FBI was involved in throughout Hoover's lengthy reign. One senses that director Clint Eastwood allowed the film to get away from him in this respect. J. Edgar has been released on Blu-ray by Warner Bros. As conceived by Eastwood, the film was delivered as a very dark and strongly desaturated image and the 2.4:1 Blu-ray image delivers that look accurately. With all the darkness, image crispness lingers well though, and shadow detail is amazingly strong. There is no evidence of any untoward digital manipulation whatsoever. A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track provides a competent but not attention-gathering sonic experience. Dialogue is clear and strongly-delivered when needed. Strong pyrotechnics are not this film's thing, but a bomb blast early on delivers quite impressively. The film has Eastwood's usual restrained music accompaniment and it shines subtly throughout. A French 5.1 DD track and English, French, and Spanish subtitling are provided. The disc's only supplement is the 20-minute featurette J. Edgar: The Most Powerful Man in the World that provides detail on Hoover's life with comments from cast and crew. I'd try a rental on this one first.

It was of course unfortunate timing that brought the film The Bodyguard to Blu-ray just when we were being bombarded in the media about the unfortunate death of Whitney Houston.

The Bodyguard (Blu-ray Disc)

Celebrating its 20th birthday in 2012, The Bodyguard owed its existence to Lawrence Kasdan who wrote the screenplay in which music and film star Rachel Marron (Houston) receives threatening letters and finds herself reluctantly employing former Secret Service operative and now professional bodyguard Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner) to protect her. Kasdan's script really made the studio rounds before finally being accepted. It's an at times difficult story to be comfortable with, and goes over the top in its Academy Awards ceremony finale, but the film does ultimately provide a decent entertainment value, mainly by virtue of the star power from both Costner and Houston. (Incidentally, an early version of the film had envisioned a teaming of Steve McQueen and Diana Ross as the stars.) Director Mick Jackson does a fairly good job of maintaining suspect and executing the action scenes with some style. Warner Bros. has brought The Bodyguard to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1 image that yields a subtly film-like feel, delivering some modest grain and what appears to be an accurate reproduction of the film's original dark and somewhat soft look. Colour fidelity is good. A DTS-HD Master audio track delivers some effective ambient effects and also shines with Whitney Houston's musical vocals. Occasional gunshots can be brutally sharp and penetrating at times. Half a dozen or more foreign languages DD tracks and subtitles (including English SDH) are provided. The main supplement is a good, almost-30-minute retrospective, making-of documentary with participation from Costner, Houston, and Kasdan. The music video of "I Will Always Love You" and the film's theatrical trailer are also present. Recommended.

Roland Emmerich's Anonymous is an interesting meditation on William Shakespeare and a thoroughly entertaining experience throughout.

Anonymous (Blu-ray Disc)

The existence of the film provides quite a diversion from the usual charged product of director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla, 2012) and enlivens things with a cast that comprises such worthies as Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis, Vanessa Redgrave, and Derek Jacobi. Now there's been a lot of nonsense written in the press and in academia to the effect that to question Shakespeare's writing of what has been attributed to him is almost sacrilegious, particularly when it's mounted in the form of a popular film whose existence might somehow subvert popular belief. What better way to air and possibly strengthen or disarm such theories (even if they are more akin to conspiracy theories than thoroughly-documented scientific theories) than to do so through popular "what-if" scenarios? It's like Oliver Stone's JFK film controversy. No one's claiming irrefutable proof in Anonymous, merely suggesting an alternate reality that may or may not have validity based on one particular source analysis. In the film, the case is plead that Shakespeare's plays were not written by the great man, but by the likes of Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, whose education and life opportunity made him much more a likely person to have been able to produce such works. Aside from its central issue, Anonymous also delivers a diverting portrait of the Elizabethan court and its politics. In the end what we have is a cracking good tale. There are inaccuracies in time and events as there commonly are in historical-based films. If you let it all fool you into thinking that you're watching unvarnished truth rather than a popular entertainment, more fool you. Take it all as an invitation to investigate further yourself what lies at the root of the issue. The film has been brought to Blu-ray by Sony and the 2.35:1 encode is superior in all respects. The elaborate costuming and period sets are crisply captured with an incredible array of detail and texture jumping out at one throughout. The film's rather subdued lighting is well captured with colour vibrancy little to be seen. A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix works effectively to create a continuously atmospheric experience while dialogue strongly centred in the middle and cleanly reproduced. A French 5.1 DTS-HD track, a Spanish 5.1 DD one, and English, French, and Spanish subtitles are all included. Disc supplements include an interesting audio commentary by Emmerich and writer John Orloff, deleted and extended scenes, and three featurettes dealing with casting, period recreation on screen, and the evidence that the film elucidates. Recommended.


Classic Fare

Jeremiah Johnson (1972) lies right in the middle of Robert Redford's iconic early 1970's acting period beginning with 1969's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and carrying through 1975/76's Three Days of the Condor and All the President's Men.

Jeremiah Johnson (Blu-ray Disc)

Directed by Sydney Pollack, the film has Johnson abandoning civilization for the life of a western mountain man in the mid-1800s, a task for which he is little prepared. Inexperience and vendettas with the Indians seem to rule his life and it is only with the aid of an old trapper (Will Geer in a delightful portrayal) who takes him in hand, that Johnson can come to terms with his chosen life. Pretty-boy Redford delivers a gruel-looking effort and the results are a favorite of his efforts for many viewers, including yours truly. Sydney Pollack's direction keeps things looking intense throughout the Utah location shooting. The film had actually been promised to us by Warner Bros. as an early Blu-ray release, but only now has finally made it to HD. The 2.40:1 image offers a somewhat gritty look that mirrors the theatrical experience. Black levels are very deep and film grain is judiciously maintained. Colour fidelity is very good with the odd patches of reds and blues strikingly shining out from the predominant earth shades. Overall image crispness is not high, but neither should it be, given the film's original photographic choices. The audio offers a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that maintains a mono-like feel to most of the main proceedings, while adding in the surrounds to enhance ambient effects quite pleasingly. About a half-dozen different European language mono tracks and subtitles are included, along with English SDH subtitling. Supplements comprise audio commentary by Redford, Pollack and writer John Milius; a vintage production featurette; and the theatrical trailer. Recommended.

In the late years of World War II while working in Hollywood, the famed German director Fritz Lang produced a couple of similarly-contrived films noir starring Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett entitled The Woman in the Window and Scarlet Street. Scarlet Street is the better of the two, with Robinson really shining against type as a meek man whose life experience in the film is well removed from the mean streets of the gangster Robinson so often inhabited.

Scarlet Street (Blu-ray Disc)

He plays mild-mannered book-keeper Chris who, impressed that his boss seems to have a mistress, senses a similar opportunity for himself when he chances upon a young woman Kitty (Bennett) who is being mistreated by her boyfriend Johnny (Dan Duryea). Chris is too naďve to realize the real streetwalker/pimp situation that he's run into. The couple takes advantage of Chris, specifically, his painting efforts on the side, and the result is a shocking crime of passion that delivers a fascinating denouement for the film that makes for one of the most surprising classic films of the era. Fritz Lang at times claimed Scarlet Street to be his favourite film and it's easy to see why. It's certainly a high-watermark for film noir in areas of plot complexity, noirish fatality, and look. The script is by Dudley Nichols, based on the French novel "La Chienne" ("The Bitch") previously filmed by Jean Renoir in 1931. Scarlet Street is now available on a 1.37:1 Blu-ray from Kino Lorber under its Kino Classics line. It was mastered in HD from a 35mm negative preserved by the Library of Congress. From what appears to be a pretty good source product, the results highlight a very nicely-detailed grayscale that show off some very deep blacks too. The image sharpness is leagues above any of the numerous old standard DVDs out there. Facial features and clothing and set textures all fare well. A few speckles and minor scratches intrude, but they are never an issue. The disc offers an LPCM lossless mono mix that delivers all dialogue clearly. I did note one or two minor examples of hiss, but it was never an issue either. There is no subtitling offered. The release provides a superior audio commentary by film historian David Kalat and a publicity gallery. Recommended.

The Red House, one of a number of 1940s films that has really only been available on lackluster public domain DVD editions, is been granted a reprieve by Film Chest, by virtue of the company's recent Blu-ray release.

The Red House (Blu-ray Disc)

The film, a 1947 United Artists release originally, and sometimes referred to as a film noir, stars Edward G. Robinson as moody farmer Pete Morgan who lives with his sister (Judith Anderson) and an adopted daughter. Adjacent to his farm is a wooded area including a mysterious red house that may be cursed and a possible source of seemingly strange noises in the night that Pete warns all away from visiting. The connection to film noir is tenuous indeed, the results being more in the area of moody melodrama and thoughtful horror. As such, the film is a very atmospheric experience and well rewards one's 100-minute investment of time. Both Robinson and Anderson deliver very fine work and the film also offers the chance to see early work by budding players of the time such as Rory Calhoun, Julie London, Allene Roberts, and Lon McCallister. The film doesn't stint in crew quality either, with the reliable Delmer Daves handling the direction and Miklos Rozsa the score. Film Chest has released a 1.37:1 Blu-ray version of The Red House, transferred from original 35mm elements. It offers a rather scrubbed look belying some apparently liberal use of DNR. Despite that, the image is quite sharp and offers acceptable contrast except for some minor blown-out whites that can diminish the film's atmospheric look on occasion. The results are far and away the best visual presentation the film has ever received for the home video market. A DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track delivers clear understandable dialogue although the overall sound seems slightly distorted. There is no hiss, but one does detect the occasional pop. Supplements include audio commentary by William Hare that doesn't go much beyond describing what you can see for yourself on the screen. There's a restoration demo and a reconstructed trailer. Recommended.

Bite the Bullet is a fine product of that particularly interesting half-life of the western that graced the second Hollywood Golden Age of the 1970s - a time when many of the old western stalwart heroes had seen their day, to be replaced by a combination of more urban types, mounted at times strangely on horses, such as Gene Hackman, James Coburn, Jan-Michel Vincent, and their like.

Bite the Bullet (Blu-ray Disc)

It was not that they weren't completely effective or convincing as westerners, just somewhat jarring in their presence in the wide-open spaces. Such is the ethos of Bite the Bullet, a 1975 Columbia production that invites us to enjoy a western adventure in the grand tradition, one in which a 700-mile endurance horse race takes us across the American Southwest with some fine steam train footage mixed in. Of course, our riders reflect all sorts of backgrounds, from a former Rough Rider (Hackman) to his friend and now a gambler (Coburn), to a onetime prostitute (Candice Bergen), a wealthy English sportsman (Ian Bannen), an arrogant kid (Vincent), and to a weary saddle tramp (Ben Johnson). Each different character is well etched by the players. The film is directed with affection and an effective feel for the western landscape by Richard Brooks (who had another significant western success in 1966's The Professionals). Bite the Bullet has been made available on Blu-ray by Twilight Time as part of its arrangement with Sony. The 2.35:1 image is exceptional, offering a crispness and clarity that are a model of their kind for such outdoor adventures. Colour fidelity is impressive with vibrancy good and well delineated against the deep blacks that are also well-delivered. There is no evidence of untoward digital manipulation such as edge effects. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is also fully up to the mark, with dialogue consistently clear and strong, and well balanced against a music score from Alex North that really captures both the large-scale rhythm of and disparate character threads in the story. English SDH subtitling is provided. The disc's supplements include the theatrical trailer and a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio isolated score track. Highly recommended.

Demetrius and the Gladiators, released in 1954 by Fox, was a sequel to the company's initial CinemaScope production, The Robe. The plot continues to revolve around Christ's red robe, with Demetrius (Victor Mature), the freed slave from The Robe, entrusted with it at times.

Demetrius and the Gladiators (Blu-ray Disc)

It's an article that Roman Emperor Caligula (Jay Robinson in fine scene-chewing form) is also urgently seeking and what he views as something with virtually magic powers. Demetrius finds himself enrolled in a gladiatorial school, which introduces a sub-plot of the school owner's wife Messalina, played by Susan Hayward. For my taste, Demetrius and the Gladiators is a slightly more entertaining film than The Robe mainly due to the well-staged gladiatorial contests. The film is now available to us on Blu-ray, courtesy of Twilight Time and its arrangement with Fox. The 2.35:1 image doesn't deliver one of the better sharp HD experiences, particularly in more distant shots. This is apparently due to the variable quality of Fox's original elements and the lack of a The Robe-style restoration from which Twilight could work. Colour vibrancy is a mix of good and less-so during the course of the film. If the video is somewhat lacking, The 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio audio is much less so a problem. There are some very nice dialogue directional effects and some subtle ambient surround evident. There are no English subtitles. The score by Franz Waxman sounds luminous throughout. The disc's supplements include the theatrical trailer and a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio isolated score track. I'd try a rental on this one.

Once again that's it for this outing, I'll return with you all again soon.

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com
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