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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Geography > Travel > Arts > Large Frame Format > Russia > Drama > Crime > Racism > New Wave > Li > The Best Of Cinerama (1962) + Cinerama's Russian Adventure (1966/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD Sets)/The Chase (1966/Columbia/Sony/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Dunkirk (2017/Warner 4K Ultra HD

The Best Of Cinerama (1962) + Cinerama's Russian Adventure (1966/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD Sets)/The Chase (1966/Columbia/Sony/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Dunkirk (2017/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/One-Eyed Jacks (1961/Paramount/Universal/Criterion Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: A Picture: B & C+/B & C+/B/B+/B+ Sound: B- & C+/B- & C+/B-/B/B- Extras: B/B-/B-/B-/B- Films: B-/B-/B/B/B

PLEASE NOTE: The Chase Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last, from the links below.

Though most feature films are being shot on and in HD of some higher definition or another, it has not brought on the 'democratization' of filmmaking (save documentaries, fortunately) that was oddly assumed as automatic and if anything, HD combined with increasingly phony-looking CGI visual effects have actually driven ticker sales and audience excitement down. The majors all still save all their films on photochemical safely film prints just in case the HD fades, degrades or is otherwise erased.

Yet, many films are being filmed on film, even partially, because it is a different look and feel than HD and the idea that 'digital will 'eventually' look like film' missed the point and overgeneralizes about both formats to the point of ignorance. The idea is to increase the visual palette, not narrow it and even the box office is paying for that worldwide.

This is why I waited a while to feature several different films shot big in several different big screen formats to make a point of why film never was is or will be irrelevant to filmmaking as an artform or should be disregarded because somebody wants to be 'hip' with the latest technology, no matter how fleeting or soon obsolete so much of it will become. The idea is to take what you shot with and really do something different, smart, unique and compelling with it, have some inspiration and aspiration in visual storytelling. Talk is cheap and wishes about technology 'catch up' with other technology is silly, tired, bad science fiction and a shallow waste of time.

Christopher Nolan is part of a very talented, smart group of filmmakers sticking not only with film, but in his case, braking new ground in how to shoot in large frame formats, which is any format larger than standard 35mm film, which itself is the standard most HD is still trying to catch up with. He also shows that huge amounts of energy are being wasted on triviality as noted above and far from enough in making better feature films. That is why I am combining some key big screen films, all restored recently on Blu-ray here, with the 4K 2160p version of his latest commercial and critical smash, Dunkirk. More on that in a minute, but we start with two more releases in the format that launched the larger frame format race in the 1950s...

The Best Of Cinerama (1962) and Cinerama's Russian Adventure (1966) continue the remarkable saving and resurrecting of the original films in the three-projector format that melded the three synced images as one very wide image, thee 35mm film strips where each frame I just a little taller than the regular square of 35mm film (6 perforations versus 4). The first film combined footage from all the previous hit films, while the latter takes a film shot in the large frame format in the former Soviet Union and (I guess to de-communize it?) has Bing Crosby narrate it, taking footage from six Kinopanarama films and making them into a second compilation feature. They both are fun and worth checking out, though some might find them slightly choppy, they still have the travelogue sense of the earlier Cinerama and like films that started popping up in its wake.

Running over two hours each (143 and 127 minutes respectively), they are remarkable records of people and places captured in unprecedented depth, detail, color and realism and like any other big screen films, are meant to be not just mere movies, but experiences to really enjoy and become engrossed in. For those who have not seen the earlier Cinerama films (like the many we have reviewed elsewhere on this site), they are both great crash courses that will surprise and even stun those too used to the boring 'selfie/surveillance camera' mentality of repetitive digital images.

We'll get into the technical performance and extras in the end as we intend to with the rest of these releases, but I have to tip my hat to Flicker Alley and their hard-working associates for going out of their way to make the return of all these priceless, vital film possible. To give you more about Cinerama, I include this link of our coverage of the first film, the 1952 blockbuster This Is Cinerama (with the great Lawrence Of Arabia Blu-ray upgrade) at this link...


Next we have Arthur Penn's The Chase (1966), shot in regular 35mm film, but with anamorphic Panavision widescreen lenses to be as big as possible and as was the case back in the day, the big event films like this were also often considered for 70mm blow-up, shooting larger than they would today in most cases. This remarkable drama did not do well in its time, Producer Sam Spiegel took it out of the hands of up and coming director Penn (on his way to becoming one of the most important filmmakers in Hollywood; the late, great Robin Wood sites this film as the beginning of the New Wave of U.S. filmmaking in his brilliant book Hollywood: From Vietnam To Reagan (...and Beyond) reviewed elsewhere on this site) who disowned it after Spiegel had the film reedited, changed the ending to be commercial and even had new music added to it without telling anyone.

Yet, it was and is enough of a landmark to show that a new period was upon us and maybe the greatest in U.S. film history. Considering the cast, it is amazing more people have not heard of it. Marlon Brando is a local Sheriff in a small, corrupt town in the South, when a jailbreak (one of the 'breakers' is Robert Redford!) shakes up the isolated, angry, racist, sexist, troubled town that is too quiet for its own good. Redford's character is being blamed for things he did not do, but he's already been stigmatized by his criminality, but this is a town (reflective of elsewhere) that makes anyone who does not fit into a certain money and power elite expendable. Then there is a wedding ahead, so you know all hell is going to break loose.

Lillian Hellman adapted from a Horton Foote book (working closely with Penn) and so you can see the high level of talent that was working all around here. When you read the following, you to will scratch your head as to why this film got 'lost' in some shuffle. Angle Dickinson is Brando's wife, Jane Fonda knows the Redford character well, being his sister. The great E.G. Marshall is the evil head of power in the town, with the rest of the cast including Robert Duvall (!!!), James Fox, Janice Rule, Diana Hyland, Jocelyn Brando, Richard Bradford, Miriam Hopkins and Martha Hyer. So how does something that would instantly generate very strong curio interest alone get forgotten? It was apparently to honest, even reedited badly.

Fortunately, finally, Sony has released this Columbia Pictures gem as a Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray well restored in the final version that actually hit theaters and even here, you can see, feel and watch something important, different, smart and great starting to happen. Spiegel would also drive David Lean away, losing two of the greatest directors any producer could ask for in the space of a few years. Too bad the studio was not spending more money and shooting it in 70mm, as they might have stopped Spiegel from what he did and whether we'll ever see anything close to Penn's original vision is unlikely at this time.

This is why seeing even this version of The Chase is so important. It is a great film more people should know about and I hope this will inspire you to find out more about it.

Circling back to Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk (2017) Nolan has shot Panavision and other regular 35mm in big ways too, then started trying out regular 70mm, real 70mm IMAX and VistaVision (horizontally shot 35mm with a huge 8-perforation frame) with each film (like his Batman Trilogy) moving more and more to larger frame footage. This take on the amazing tale on how hundreds of thousands of British soldiers were saved by secretly, simply taking them back home through non-military seagoing means has been bashed for excluding other countries who struggled there, other side stories or forgetting some key points as if Nolan would forget or not care.

I understand some of the concerns, but the point is not revisionist history or bashing any of the great Allied forces who obviously did help. One film is not going to be able to tell the whole story of what happened there (and I doubt a TV mini-series would suffice either), yet this was a hit and at a time when so many 'safer commercial' films rightly bombed. Because it is what Nolan and associates actually do here that is impressive, even if they sacrifice some key history and even have a few missed opportunities cinematically (which I cannot get into without spoiling the film or going off into a long, deep essay) to make this all work. Despite those few things missed, this film is actually a lover letter to the spirit of the real Britain, the Britain after the Empire falls, after WWII, after this incident which Nolan very wisely realizes is their Vietnam moment and how they recovered quickly from it because they had to.

By pairing it down only to British soldiers and citizens away from home, it becomes a character study of those great people who barely accomplished what the Empire and Royalty really could not: save the country from early, total annihilation from the Nazis and other Axis associates. It becomes an adventure in an all-too-real world and they make it so enveloping (especially with the larger-frame film format) that it is isolating in its own way, echoing the pain and situation England was uniquely alone in without dismissing anyone else. By additionally avoiding all the cliches of all the great British war films of the past, for which there are many (The Battle Of Britain a prime later example) it becomes all the more natural and best of all, a new, fresh take on events that only adds to the classic cannon in the best way possible.

The young mostly unknown cast is remarkable (even the singer Harry Styles gets for real in unexpected ways) backed by Tom Hardy, James D'Arcy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy and Kenneth Branagh (whose own 70mm remake of Agatha Christie's Murder On The Orient Express was released later the same year) shows that you have to almost reinvent the War genre to do it well. Nolan succeeds just enough in this and that is why this is one of 2017's best films, even with a few reservations on my part.

Warner has instantly issued it as one of their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray set and for the 4K picture alone, it is the set to own, but more on that below.

Finally, speaking of genres that now need reinventing to work, Marlon Brando's One-Eyed Jacks (1961) was the great actor's only directing work, bold like The Chase and big as some other big screen (Sayonara) and large frame format films (the Mutiny On The Bounty remake) so he was still in demand and an actor in his early prime when he took on this Western tale where he plays one of the bank robbers in a heist that goes wrong for him. A Revenge Western on the surface, it becomes a character study of masculinity and a side of the West that had rarely been considered in the genre to that time.

Joining John Ford's classic The Searchers (1956, reviewed elsewhere on this site) as the other great Western shot in the VistaVision format, the film was originally issued by Paramount and is apparently the last ever fully shot in the format to this day. After dropping into home video public domain for way too long, Universal gained the rights and this restored version is arriving from no less than Criterion in another one of their great Blu-ray releases that makes nothing less than a real event.

Response to this one has been great and Brando handles directing chores better than you might think, having learned from his classic work before. The great supporting cast includes the great Karl Malden, Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Timothy Carey, Pina Pellicker and Elisha Cook, Jr., so you can see Brando wanted to be further challenged and after seeing this restored and as great as it was meant to be, I can say that it really is one of the great Westerns and its rediscovery is long overdue. An excellent example of large frame format epic filmmaking, it can finally be appreciated as intended and will impress more than just Western fans.

The 2160p HECV/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on the 4K version of Dunkirk switches between 2.20 X 1 for the Panavision Super 70mm footage and 1.78 X 1 for the 70mm IMAX footage and after seeing literally thousands of video discs in my lifetime, I can say with great confidence that this is one of the best image-performing releases I have ever seen in my life with stunning, demonstration quality sharpness, color, depth, detail, range and fidelity that can be jaw-dropping and puts it up there with the greatest cinematic classics of all time visually. Having seen the film in 70mm, I can further confirm that this is extremely close to that print and will be a demo for many, many, many years to come. The 1080p Blu-ray included is also impressive and will not disappoint for what it is, but the 4K 2160p disc will sell Ultra HDTV sets.

The 1080p 2.58 X 1 Smilebox digital High Definition image in the two Cinerama Blu-rays look good for compilations and color, detail and depth are fine considering the limited budget and how hard it was to fix these films. Best Of actually updates the This Is Cinerama footage by getting to use (and afford to use) the full three 35mm strips transferred for the first time to digital HD. I can see improved detail, depth and clarity, yet I still like the older Blu-ray of the whole original film (see the link above) as it is still from a three-strip Technicolor reduction to 70mm print, so you have to own both to appreciate the film. Russian is from footage originally produced in the Sovcolor format, derived from older Agfacolor (via the AGFA Wolfen plant, their first, that landed up in Soviet territory/East Germany just after WWII and was used to make color film for the USSR, including the building of a factory within Russia) and fortunately, this is Sovcolor holding up when developed and stored properly.

Of course, final prints for this U.S. release were not Sovcolor (reportedly, they are Kodak), but it impresses enough just the same, making it a unique entry in both Cinerama and all large frame format releases in the U.S. and beyond. The anamorphically enhanced image of both DVDs of the Cinerama films look soft and are passable, but no match for the Blu-rays overall.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on The Chase can sometimes show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film on home video and though Penn was expecting someone else, Director of Photography Joseph LaShelle, A.S.C., gets the big shots in. this film was originally issued ion 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints and you can often see how good that would look here. Nice!

That leaves the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Jacks fully restored, far, dar superior to all the awful 'public domain' prints of the film and also more than living up to its original release in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor lensed by Director of Photography Charles Lang, Jr. (Charade) was scanned at 6K before the finishing touches delivered this amazing presentation from the original VistaVision materials. It is truly like never having seen the film before and yet another excellent example of that format on Blu-ray.

As for sound, though Dunkirk has a 12-track master, Nolan has decided that the 4K and regular Blu-rays of the film only offer a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixdown that is guaranteed to disappoint some fans, but it is at least well done and as good as any soundmix here. We'll find out why he did this in detail at a later date, we surmise, but it is from a true state-of-the-art recording and you can even hear that here.

The two Cinerama Blu-rays also have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes, but they tend to show their age and the limits of the recordings. Since we also get narration and the film footage is a series of revisits, we can assume some of the audio might be a generation down, but its not bad for its age, especially considering it goes back to the first film in the series introducing stereo surround to movie audiences worldwide and who knows what the Russian film sound was originally like. A PCM 2.0 Stereo version is also added to the Blu-rays and sound fine, while the DVDs have lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes that are even weaker and lose some of the good sound from the DTS-MA.

The last two films are presented in monophonic sound from whatever their soundmasters were, with The Chase offering a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix that sounds like a stereo mixdown of some kind, while the PCM 2.0 Mono on Jacks comes from its original three-track magnetic soundmaster and is honestly some of the best monophonic sound I have ever heard on home video. Except for Chase and Dunkirk, I cannot imagine these Blu-rays sounding any better than they do here.

Extras in all these releases include an illustrated booklet on their respective films including informative text and essays, except Dunkirk, which has a bonus Blu-ray containing a nearly two-hour, multi-part making of documentary split into the following parts....

Creation: Revisiting the Miracle

Creation: Dunkerque

Creation: Expanding the Frame

Creation: The In-Camera Approach

Land: Rebuilding the Mole

Land: The Army On the Beach

Land: Uniform Approach

Air: Taking to the Air

Air: Inside the Cockpit

Sea: Assembling the Naval Fleet

Sea: Launching the Moonstone

Sea: Taking to the Sea

Sea: Sinking the Ships

Sea: The Little Ships

Conclusion: Turning Up the Tension

Conclusion: The Dunkirk Spirit

and it also has Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber capable devices.

Both Cinerama releases have as their booklets a facsimile representation of the original program booklets tied to their releases. The Best Of Cinerama also adds...

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Cinerama historian David Coles

Shellarama (1965): Shot in Super-Technirama and released on 70mm, this Shell-produced short follows the journey of Shell oil from raw source to refined fuel, more fascinating than you'd think

Bridge to Space (1968): A 70mm short documentary shot on Merritt Island and at Cape Canaveral that is a must-see

"The Rangerettes": Deleted Scene from Seven Wonders of the World featuring Kilgore College Rangerettes

"Battleship Iowa Arrives in San Pedro": A Cinerama short film shot in 2012

"Reconstructing The Best of Cinerama": A restoration demonstration with Dave Strohmaier

"Cinerama Troika": Interview with the principles behind Cinerama travelogue restorations (Blu-ray only)

"Remembering The Best of Cinerama": Interview with Norman Karlin, Cinerama editor (Blu-ray only)

Slideshows: "Who's Who in Cinerama History"; "Show Places of the 1950s"; and more! (Blu-ray only)

and The Best of Cinerama Trailer

Russian Adventure adds...

Fortress of Peace (1964): A Swiss Army propaganda film shot in Cinerama and nominated for the 1965 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film

Concorde (1966): A 70mm Cinerama short about the then soon-to-be-unveiled supersonic airplane

"Working With Our Father on Russian Adventure": An interview with film editors Craig and Hal Dennis Jr., sons of producer Hal Dennis

"Reconstructing Russian Adventure": A restoration demonstration with Dave Strohmaier

Russian Adventure Trailer

Trailer Gallery: Collection of trailers from other Cinerama shows (Blu-ray only)

and we get Slideshows: Ads and publicity materials, sample script pages, and "Russian Adventure Study Guide"

The Chase adds an Original Theatrical Trailer, an Isolated Score Track of John Barry's fine music, and a full length Audio Commentary with Film Historians Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo (who also supplies an excellent essay on the film in the included booklet), and Nick Redman.

One-Eyed Jacks includes a new introduction by Martin Scorsese who helped to get the film restored, excerpts from voice-recordings director and star Marlon Brando made during the film's production, a new video essays on the film's production history and its potent combination of the stage and screen icon Brando with the classic Hollywood western, Trailer and the booklet included has an essay by film critic Howard Hampton.

Nice that all these films are loaded with great extras!

To order The Chase limited edition Blu-ray, buy it and many other great, exclusive releases while supplies last at these links:




- Nicholas Sheffo


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