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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Large Frame Format > Nature > Life > Existentialism > Action > Natural Disasters > Ship > Oc > Chronos (1985/Image Blu-ray)/Rescue 3D (2011/IMAX/Image Blu-ray 3D)/Samsara (2012/MPI Blu-ray)/Windjammer: The Voyage Of The Christian Radich (1958/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)

Chronos (1985/Image Blu-ray)/Rescue 3D (2011/IMAX/Image Blu-ray 3D)/Samsara (2012/MPI Blu-ray)/Windjammer: The Voyage Of The Christian Radich (1958/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)


3D Picture: X/B+/X/X     2D Picture: B+/B+/A/B & B-     Sound: B/B/A-/B & B-     Extras: C/C+/C+/B     Films: B-/B-/B/B



Here is another round of great demonstration-quality motion pictures shot on various quality large-frame film formats and all offering not some of the best playback performance you can get in the Blu-ray format, but all that also turn out to be exercises in pure cinema and great filmmaking.


This includes two films by Director Ron Fricke that are part of a trilogy worth going out of your way for.



We start with Chronos (1985), Fricke’s first dialogue-free look at our world with no script and non-stop terrific images that synergize into a commentary about the greatness of life.  This is the third version we have covered of this long-popular film and for home theater fans, demo disc.  After the long-discontinued HD-DVD version, we covered the Koch/R&B Films edition on Blu-ray at this link:





That was an improvement over the old HD-DVD version because it was progressive scan and was one of my early demo favorites.  Now, Image Entertainment has reissued it on Blu-ray and though it is the same video master with the same menus, a few years has made a nice difference as this new pressing has improve depth, detail and naturalism that shows even more color and is an even more film-like presentation.  Since I have seen this in several versions, even I noticed the narrow improvements.  It is not enough to raise my picture rating, but I like this Blu-ray presentation the best of all and strongly recommend this version for fans now that it is available.


Extras are the same as the previous version, though the paper pullout is not here this time.  The disc retains the full length audio commentary by director Fricke, composer Stearns, and production manager Alton Walpole, plus small new features like “Animations” and “Locations” that tell you about the locations separately with the former and with icons that appear as you watch with the latter


By 1992, the 70mm Iwerks-shot IMAX/OMNIMAX release would see a sequel shot in the great 70mm Todd-AO format called Baraka.  Here is the link to that Blu-ray, long a terrific demo and an even more complex film:





And now, 20 years later, Fricke and Producer Mark Magidson are back with the third film in what is now a trilogy, Samsara (2012) has been an indie hit and is now the biggest box office success of the new Oscilloscope film company in their short and distinctive history.  MPI has issued the Blu-ray and this Panavision Super 70mm production is as visually spectacular as its predecessors, uses the latest 65mm Kodak T-grain negative film stocks and has some of the most impressive visuals I have ever seen on any Blu-ray.


Not that all the shots are perfect, but they are often close and this is as good as any Blu-ray out there, sure to challenge the best HDTVs and even new Ultra HD TVs and projectors that are on the way.  Continuing the approach of the previous films, this one took 5 years to make, was again shot all over the world and has more eye-opening visuals, sometimes very hard to watch as this is the most cynical and sometimes darkest film yet.


Religions of the world are contrasted with new cities of power and wealth, as well as life, death and poverty, but by shooting in the most advanced motion picture film format in the world (far above the best HD out there), this becomes another new eye-opening experience, a very special film and another visual groundbreaker.  Some people may find the colors fake, but instead, they are hyper-realistic at times and in an age of increasingly tired and generic HD production and bad narrative features, Samsara has heart and soul few films do anymore and it makes its 102 minutes not just another “movie” but one of the best visual experiences of the year.


Oh, and you do not have to see this trilogy in chronological order, but if you get the best copies we recommend here, it increases the arc and trajectory of one of the finest and most underrated cinematic achievements of the last 30 years.  I hope they make many more!


Extras include the Original Theatrical Trailer and a five-part behind the scenes featurette on the making of the film including interviews with all the great people who made it.



70mm is the choice format for IMAX films as well, but they use a huge block of it, plus have been making some of their film in 3D for decades including some of the best in that period.  Steven Low’s Rescue 3D (2011) is a short but terrific look at the highly dedicated people who go to help out the helpless around the world when disaster strikes including military personnel and others who really make a difference in our world, yet never get enough thanks or credit.  The film corrects this.


Though we get some solid digital graphics, the film thrives with its stunning images of lands, disaster areas and how the various situations presented are dealt with.  It makes one feel proud and will the recent gun massacres that need to cease, the unexpected bonus of the film is to remind us of the good people out there who want to help others, makes a difference and back the idea that life is worth living and people are worth protecting and saving.  Anything short of that equals a very sick world, so the film shows us the now-seen-enough healthy side of this.  In 3D, it is also fun and terrific, further enhancing the experience, but IMAX 70mm is so sharp, it has depth and detail you don’t even need glasses for but I liked the 3D too.


Extras include trailers for the many other great IMAX films Image is issuing on Blu-ray, including some more in 3D and About The Rescuers section that tells us more about the awesome people we are introduced to throughout the film.



Last but definitely not least is a very special, little seen event film that has been resurrected by the great people at the Flicker Alley company that is one of the landmark widescreen films ever made.  Directed by Louis De Rochemont III and Bill Colleran, Windjammer: The Voyage Of The Christian Radich (1958) was made in a brand new format called Cinemiracle, a new competitor to the highly successful, highly profitable Cinerama process that used three 35mm camera to produce a very widescreen film and three projectors to show it on a very big, wide screen.  So much money had been made by Cinerama that you can see why someone would want to introduce a competing version.


The first big difference with Cinemiracle was they found a way to make the seam lines between the three projectors less so and you could now project all three locked film prints from one booth.  Instead of boasting dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor like some copies of various Cinerama hits could, Cinemiracle raved about EastmanColor and by the time the film was made, the stocks had become faster, more naturalistic and more efficient.


Though many parts of this fun, terrific 142-minutes epic are fictionalized, this longtime film favorite of many classic movie fans (including those in Norway who see the ship of the title as a point of national pride) is a spectacular journey with the ship and its new crew (run by experienced ocean goers) set a new high standard for the idea of a film going to sea, bringing the feel and experience of being on water to a new realistic high and some even had sea sickness when they first saw the film, especially at a time when widescreen filmmaking was so new and multi-channel stereo sound like this film was still very rare.


Though the original camera materials thankfully exist, Flicker Alley’s crew painstakingly were able to create a new 4K Ultra HD master from a fading 35mm EastmanColor print using stills, press materials and the print itself to determine the color, detail and depth the film offered in the reduction print they had to work with.  I have to say that the result is stunning, bringing back to life a one-of-a-kind gem that deserves to have a brand new audience.  Like the other films here, this is meant to be an event film you will experience and never forget.  One advantage Windjammer has is that it new it was competing with the already established Cinerama, so they go all out to deliver a film to top what was several films in the competing format and it is so much fun and has so much energy, that it never feels as long as it is.


The ship is incredible and the footage captured as stunning as ever going on 55 years later.  I can see its influence on MGM’s Ultra Panavision 70mm remake of Mutiny On The Bounty (1962, reviewed elsewhere on this site) with Marlon Brando and can say even after so many great water-centered IMAX films that this is one of the best films set on the water ever made.  A pure love of the sea and this ship are hard to pass up and the Cinemiracle people delivered a great film.  Sadly, it did not do well at the box office and Cinerama bought the company out, reissued it as theirs and only adapted the single-booth innovation for the remainder of the life of their format.


Except for some odd moments where the crew starts singing, this is a very consistent viewing experience and it would even be fair to say Windjammer is an unrecognized classic.


Extras include a nicely produced miniature reproduction of the full color original program for the film and a DVD version of the film, while the Blu-ray adds an Original newspaper ads Slideshow, 14-minutes-long Breakdown Reel when one of the three projectors would occasionally fail, the Original Theatrical Trailer (3 minutes long), 2010 7-minutes long clip of the Christian Radich ship today, a Cinemiracle Windjammer Image Gallery of the booklet, a 9-minutes behind-the-scenes slideshow, a 13-minutes-long look at the painstaking work it took to save the film called Windjammer Gets A “Facelift” and a new 56-minutes-long documentary called The Windjammer Voyage: A Cinemiracle Adventure by film historian Dave Strohmaier, all of which should be seen and experienced after seeing the actual film!



For more on the This Is Cinerama Blu-ray from Flicker Alley and Sony’s new, equally amazing Lawrence Of Arabia Blu-ray, read about both (and get both) at this link:






The 1.78 X 1, 1080p full HD MVC-encoded 3-D – Full Resolution digital High Definition image on Rescue 3D is, as noted, well done, fun and one of the best live-action Blu-ray 3D releases of the year, but the 1080p 2D version is also amazing since the 70mm IMAX shoot is so good.  I think it is a strong presentation in both ways, as is the slightly upgraded 1080p 1.78X 1 digital High Definition image on the new Chronos, which really shows off how good this film is and we all knew always was.

Though Panavision Super 70mm is 2.20 X 1, Image has decided to present Samsara in a still-stunning 1080p 2.39 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer that like Baraka, is an 8K scan of the 65mm negative materials.  Despite the controversy the color might offer to some, I liked it and some of it will compare in interesting was to previous films of all kinds, like the Buddhist Temple visit with images similar to Scorsese’s Kundun (shot in Super 35mm film format) and the sense of a new way to look at time lapse and large land images versus the previous films in the trilogy since the Kodak/Panavision combo is so stunning.  I should note that I had problems getting the disc to play on some machines, so have patience when you start playing it.


The 1080p 2.59 X 1 digital High Definition Smilebox image transfer of Windjammer can show the age of the materials used of course, especially when they were fading like much of the EastmanColor stocks of the time, but with the three projected strips pre-aligned for the Flicker Alley crew, they went frame-by-frame to further erase those lines, get every bit of detail out of each frame and bring out as grainless a presentation as possible (grain shrinks when you reduce a large frame film print like Cinerama, Cinemiracle, VistaVision or 70mm to 35mm) and the result are some stunning shots and we can see the advantage of the faster EastmanColor film stocks of the time in a mere six years since This Is Cinerama was issued.  Like all large-frame format films of the past, they tend to look newer and fresher that most films of the same time period (which at that point would include 35mm TV production) and a few shots are so jaw-dropping that they offer demo-quality performance for all home theater and movie fans.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD version is not bad for the format, but it simply cannot compete in the color, detail and depth departments with the remarkable Blu-ray.


All the sound across the four Blu-ray are in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless sound mixes, but Samsara is the sonic champ with a stunning 7.1 presentation that offers some of the best sound recording and playback of any Blu-ray in the past year.  It is also one of the best-integrated 7.1 mixes on Blu-ray I have heard to date.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on Chronos is at least as good as the previous out-of-print Blu-ray, while the same on the Rescue 3D Blu-ray may have narration towards the front/center speakers, but this was a film originally designed for a giant IMAX or OMNIMAX theater, so this is totally accurate and the soundfield is very rich, warm and consistent throughout. 


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Windjammer can also be towards the front speakers, but it comes from a 7-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects, so that is to be expected and like the same upgraded presentation on Flicker Alley’s This Is Cinerama, a terrific representation of the original theatrical sound in the giant screening rooms that actually showed the film.  The DVD offers a good, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of that new soundmaster, but as good and lively as it is for the format, it is simply no match for the DTS lossless on the awesome Blu-ray.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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