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A nigh-on flawless presentation for a true British classic
on 25 September 2009
Anyone who has only ever seen Michael Anderson's definitive 1954 war film on a muddy, soft television transmission or the previous standard definition DVD should prepare themselves to be floored when they sit down to watch this new 1080P Blu-Ray.
The visual presentation is nothing short of perfection, and I do not say such things lightly. To their credit, Optimum have got absolutely EVERYTHING right on this one.
Firstly, the frequent temptation with HD to crop films that were originally shot Academy down to fill a 16:9 frame has been resisted, with the film retaining its full original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, pillar-boxed within the 16:9 frame.
The clarity of the image is so stunning that I cannot imagine they used anything other than the original negative, which would mean that the film would have had to have undergone a full-blown restoration (not cheap!)
Grading is absolutely first rate, with a terrific grey scale and no discernible clipping of white areas of the image. I did notice some slight black crush on very dark jackets, but this may well just be my TV. The image is as sharp as a razor, with the amount of extra detail being revealed nothing short of staggering for a film made over fifty years ago.
Most importantly, this sharpness is entirely natural and I did not detect the slightest bit of artificial processing of any kind; no edge enhancement, no artificial sharpening and no DNR.
The image retains a wonderfully natural, film-like quality with grain present throughout, as it should be, but always mild and controlled, and never bothersome.
They've even left the original, beautifully ornate BBFC censor card on the front, a lovely touch which is much appreciated as it helps transport you immediately back to the time that the film was made (well, it does me, anyway!).
Sound-wise, things aren't quite as impressive. The film is constrained by the inevitable technical limitations of the time, and I suspect by the rather compressed, mid-rangey sound that they used an optical track rather than a superior magnetic one. However, not knowing what sound materials survive on the film, it is not really fair to criticize. The Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 track (most likely twin-channel Mono) is completely adequate for a film of this period, and as long as you don't go into it expecting a full immersive surround sound mix and accept it for what it is, you shouldn't be disappointed.
Extras wise, there is absolutely squat, unfortunately, not even a trailer, but again expecting reams of bonus features for a film of this vintage (the term 'making-of' hadn't even been invented yet!) is rather unfair. An interview with Richard Todd would have been nice, though.
Finally, for purists who may be worried, don't be... they've left the dog's name alone!