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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Entertainment > Circus > Animation > Children > Drama > Comedy > Stage > History > War > Murder > Circo (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)

Circo (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)


Picture: C/A-/B/B-     Sound: C/B-/B-/B-     Extras: C+/B+/B-/C     Films: B-/B+/B-/C



Despite 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.



Aaron 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.



Raro 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:




Containing 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 after this…



Alex de 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. and International).



The 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.


The 1080p 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.


The 1080p 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.


Finally 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.



The Dolby 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.


The 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


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