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Hatari! (blu-ray): Poor transfer; excessive digital sharpening; audio ok with Baby Elephant Walk! Decent movie, Elsa Martinelli!
on 19 February 2016
Hatari! arrives on blu-ray with MPEG-4 AVC @ 33.49 Mbps 1080p 1.78:1 encode. This transfer is extremely poor. The colours are weak and undersaturated. Detail is weak and inconsistent. Worst of all, sharpening has been applied throughout the image, resulting in digital noise and harshness. This electronic sharpening destroys any semblance of a film-like image. Even a relatively high bit-rate of 33.49 Mbps did not save this transfer disaster. It really did a great dis-service to Russell Harlan's (To Kill a Mockingbird) colour cinematography for Hatari! which was nominated for an Oscar. (2/5)
Hatari!'s original mono track has been presented as lossless Dolby TrueHD 2.0, with identical front and left right channels, and it's an effective track with good dynamic range and surprisingly powerful impact, especially during the dramatic chase sequences. When fierce animals like the rhino crash into the moving vehicles, the sound may not spread throughout the room, but it's enough to convey the danger. Many of the animal cries had to be imitated and dubbed by game experts and zoo collectors, because wild creatures don't emote on cue, but the various cries, growls and bellows sound convincing, and the human dialogue is clear. Henry Mancini's score is the highlight of the audio. Listening to Baby Elephant Walk and Theme From Hatari really brings back many happy memories. If you are interested in the movie soundtrack, Hatari! (a rare find) is found in Henry Mancini’s Eight Classic Albums box set. (4/5)
1 Hatari! was Paramount’s highest gross film in 1962.
2 Hatari! means Danger in Swahili.
3 Composer Henry Mancini wrote a brief piece of incidental music to go with a scene where a baby elephant is taken for a walk. The simple little song became an international hit as Baby Elephant Walk, and has been recorded by a large number of artists, including Lawrence Welk (48/1962) and Miniatured Men (87/1962).
4 Did you know that much of the action sequence audio had to be re-dubbed due to John Wayne's cursing while wrestling with the animals?
I was quite happy when Paramount announced release of Hatari and Gunfight at The O.K. Corral. I bought them both. I am quite pleased with Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (my review elsewhere), and I am deeply disappointed with Hatari!. Like Universal’s butchering Predator with too much DNR, Paramount did a similar job to Hatari!, which is really unfortunate. Russell Harlan’s beautiful Oscar-nominated cinematography was scrubbed with excessive digital sharpening. Paramount really should redo this film from scratch. Nevertheless, I am happy to see Elsa Martinelli and listen to Henry Mancini’s score, especially the very cute Baby Elephant Walk. Even the video was poor, it was at least in widescreen (DVD has 1.33:1). The audio is much better. The price is reasonable. The movie is decent, but the video is weak, and thus deserved my reserved recommendation.