Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Alexander The Great (1956/MGM)

Alexander the Great (1956)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Film: B-



With hoped-for anticipation surrounding the Alexander (2004) epic directed by Oliver Stone, MGM has dug into their vault to release the 1956 version directed by Robert Rossen and shot in glorious CinemaScope.  While the film is quite flawed and is more designed to ‘wow’ the audience with its presentation versus its substance, even years later one can certainly appreciate the old ways of Hollywood.


This is the 136-minute, which derives from the United Artists Library and is shorter than the original 141-minute version.  Richard Burton stars as the title character alongside other familiars such as Claire Bloom, Stanley Baker, Peter Wyngarde, Peter Cushing and Fredric March.  The performances are essentially dead-on and with glorious sets, bringing the epic to life like never before you quickly see the way that money went on-screen, whereas nowadays its spend on the computer effects.


Let’s begin with some of the origins of the film, which was originally shot in CinemaScope and had 4-track stereo sound masters, which for this DVD has been converted into Pro Logic-type Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround sound.  The left and right are separated and then the rear is a matrixed stereo effect pulling some of the ambience towards the back.  The CinemaScope process at this point was reduced to a 2.35 X 1 aspect ratio.  MGM’s DVD offers the film in its original aspect ratio, which has been anamorphically enhanced.  The DVD does look clean and makes the print look very sharp, considering its age.  Also since this is CinemaScope, its nice to see that the film looks consistent across the framing, fine composition actually lensed by two cinematographers.  Robert Krasker shot the first half of the film, best known for his work on Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949) and later large-frame format shoot of the 1961 El Cid.  Theodore J. Phale shot the latter half, a cameraman less familiar to Hollywood productions, having mostly shot foreign films.  He did lens the 1959 Sci-Fi thriller The 4D Man with Robert Lansing, but few others.   My only real complaint is more in the overall colors and there appears to be some softness that does occur. 


There are no extras either, but this title goes for a nice bargain price that fans as well as those interested in epics will enjoy, also considering that Oliver Stone’s new telling of the story (also shot in a scope frame) did not fare as well as Warner Bros. had hoped for.  We will hold comment on that one for a later date, but obviously, the man’s personal life is dodged much more than Stone’s awkward attempt to deal with it.  Rossen sticks with the story as best he can, which is why you might want to see this version first.



-   Nate Goss


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com