(2010/First Run DVD)/Dumbo: 70Th
Anniversary Edition (1941/Disney Blu-ray)/Fellini’s The Clowns (1971/Raro Video Blu-ray)/The Last Circus (2010/Magnolia Blu-ray)
C/A-/B/B- Sound: C/B-/B-/B- Extras: C+/B+/B-/C Films: B-/B+/B-/C
the arrival of film, recorded music, TV, the Internet and new technology all
the time, there is something about the circus and clowns that continue to
endure, fascinate and survive long after similar entertainments (like
Vaudeville) have faded away. One reason
is how it has survived in pop culture and the mix of animals and people doing
unusual things continues to define spectacle.
Here are four new releases to prove the point.
Schock’s Circo (2010) is a new
documentary about the Ponce Family and their smaller circus operation, still
active today dealing with the trials and tribulations of keeping their business
and their family together. At a short 75
minutes, it is a tight examination of how this culture continues today and
authentically so. Not as predictable as
expected, it is a good character study of the people (including the audience
and those close to the family) and shows that the circus is not just a thing of
the past as people still love it. It is
not just surviving in the form of a few big name versions either. Very interesting. Extras include a Making Of featurette, composers Calexico on the making of the score
and Follow-Up: The Ponces Now.
In all of
animation history, there is nowhere the circus figures more prominently that
the brilliant 1941 Disney classic Dumbo,
which (after some delay) has finally arrived on Blu-ray in a version that
expands upon all previous editions including this DVD we covered years ago:
This 70th Anniversary Edition
comes with that DVD, but it is the Blu-ray itself that is amazing with new
extras to go with previous ones and playback that will stun anyone. The extras include BD Live, Disney View and
Cine-Explore interactive features exclusive to the Blu-ray format, as well as a
game, trivia, Art Galleries, two animated shorts (The Flying Mouse, Elmer
Elephant), feature length audio commentary track, three classic making of
featurettes (Taking Flight, Celebrating Dumbo, Magic Of Dumbo (on the famous amusement park ride)) and two never
before scene deleted song and deleted scene.
Video follows up their DVD release of Fellini’s
The Clowns with a Blu-ray edition.
Though the film was a TV event in Italy,
it was released in theaters in the U.S. and you can read more about it
in our DVD coverage at this link:
the same extras (down to the booklet), I was disappointed with the playback
quality on the DVD despite the restoration.
The Blu-ray is a major improvement, more of which I will address below
la Iglesia is a name director, but I have not been impressed with his more
recent work, including The Oxford
Murders (reviewed elsewhere on this site) so I wondered if The Last Circus (2010) would be any
better. It essentially boils down to a
happy clown and sad clown battling it out for the same woman, done the very
long way narratively, but despite the ambition, budget and good acting, it is
all over the place and includes everything we have seen before in every horror
and even superhero film of the last 20 years.
It is also rather predictable and is not as complex as the Fellini
film. The look is clichéd and toned
down, the ending unsatisfactory.
However, if you are interested, you should see it yourself. Extras include a Making Of featurette, Visual
Effects featurette, an International Teaser and two trailers (U.S.
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Circo
being the only DVD here and a documentary shot on digital video, plus mixes in
older analog video, so it is a hodgepodge of quality, though even the newest
video has aliasing errors and an overall softness.
1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image on Dumbo,
on the other hand, is stunning and the best option to playback the
classic. Unlike the DVD with its
weaknesses, the Blu-ray offers brilliant color range, remarkable detail and
great depth in a clean copy of the three-strip Technicolor classic. Next to an actual classic dye-transfer
Technicolor print (which are worth a good bit of money if you have one), no
version of Dumbo is going to look
better than this edition (save another good film print) and except for narrow
limits, is as true to the original film which will amaze all viewers. You would never know it was seven decades old
and counting, making it as incredible as any of the classic animated Disney
Blu-ray editions we have seen to date.
1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image on Clowns
is also a three-strip Technicolor film, though it was shot on a single strip of
color film, than broken down to be printed in the old dye-transfer Technicolor
way, but I was so disappointed by the DVD that the Blu-ray is a true revelation
and really does capture how this was intended to look. Again, a real dye-transfer Technicolor print
is worth some serious money, but this Blu-ray totally makes the DVD weak and is
as good as any Fellini on Blu-ray to date.
we have the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Circus and not only can it not compete
with Dumbo or Clowns in overall playback (despite have potential detail
advantages), but Iglesia and Director of Photography Kiko de la Rica A.F.C.,
have toned down the color and detail to its detriment. Was this so we would take the story more “seriously”
or to make it more “gothic” or like a Horror film? No matter, it works against the final result
and is unengaging unless you really fall for the clichéd look.
Digital 2.0 sound on Circo is barely
stereo, usually monophonic and has location audio issues since it is a
documentary, so expect to have some patience, subtitles notwithstanding. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix
on Dumbo does the best it can with a
monophonic film of its age to be upgraded today, especially helping the
music. A restored Dolby Digital 2.0
version of the original monophonic audio is also included, but it is no match
for the DTS-MA which is as good as this film, will ever sound.
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on both Clowns and Circus are towards
the front speakers, but Clowns
offers nice repurposed sound while Circus
has a soundfield that has the best sonic moments of the four, only to pull back
too much for its own good.
- Nicholas Sheffo