on 14 June 2011
Both the new FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE Blu-ray from Anchor Bay and the previous Koch version from Germany use the Weintraub/Miriam Collection restoration elements. The Koch Germany release is complete, while the new Anchor Bay drops the roadshow overture, intermission and exit music (as well as a commentary track in the special features). The mastering of the UK release (as with EL CID) is again warmer (richer reds); the Koch version gives the Roman cloaks an orange hue and the film a more golden aura (perhaps a minor question of accuracy). The missing portions on the UK version should disqualify it for purists, but this general-release cut is still a major improvement over the dvd version. Both are satisfying presentations with some compromises. The elements for FALL appear in better shape than those for EL CID, but still display softness in some scenes. Filtering has definitely been done to both blu-rays. The DTS-HD soundtracks on the Anchor Bay and Koch sound identical. FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE still deserves to be rediscovered in high-definition, inspite of marginal mastering flaws of less-than-stellar restorations; and the bigger the screen, the more pleasurable the experience.
The Fall of the Roman Empire is mainly remembered, if at all, for two things - being one of the biggest flops in history and for being the film that was shamelessly plagiarized by the much inferior Gladiator. Which is a great pity, because not only does the film have much to recommend it but also in many ways it's the summit of director Anthony Mann's filmmaking, putting everything he ever learned to perfect use to create a magnificently realised portrait of a very different screen Rome. Whereas mad emperors are the staple of the genre, he dispenses with the standard image of Rome as a force of evil to be resisted and replaces it with a Rome that is an idea and an ideal to be fought for: there is no triumph when this empire begins to destroy itself, only disgust at a missed opportunity for true greatness. In many ways, like El Cid, it's an extension of Mann's favorite Western theme of a corrupted man dragged to his own redemption against his wishes, kicking and screaming all the way - only this time, redemption is steadfastly resisted.
In many ways it reworks elements of El Cid - rival siblings bickering over the throne, the assassination of a ruler, even the final fight owes much to the duel for Calahorra. But unlike the Cid, Stephen Boyd's Livius is unable to truly inspire (his own army is bought off at the gates of Rome) and he leaves the Empire to its decline in chaos out of disgust: the complete antithesis of Mann's great description of the appeal of the enduring appeal of the Western - "a man says he's going to do something, and he does it." Here, the hero walks away and the audience stayed at home in droves.
It's not the only chance Mann takes - Alec Guinness' Marcus Aurelius tries to avert his impending death by bargaining with an invisible Ferryman, who speaks with his voice, while almost the entire first half of the film takes place on Rome's northern borders, bringing the empire to the emperor. His handling of the many setpieces is astonishing, from the funeral that Martin Scorsese rightly described as an epic eulogy for an entire style of epic filmmaking, to the astonishing coronation triumph where he gradually reveals the massive Forum Romanum set in a succession of increasingly impressive shots that show how much has been lost now that real sets and extras have been replaced by CGI. Equal kudos here to Colosanti and Moore's stunning design that creates a screen Rome unlike any before or since, not of whitewashed marble but of stone and wood and gold leaf and color, built for real in massive three-dimensional sets - the Forum was actually built full scale on the plains of Las Matas and filled with thousands of extras. But the spectacle isn't just gratuitous: you get a real sense of the sheer scale of the empire, and more importantly a sense of a world outside these characters that depends upon their actions. Throw in Dimitri Tiomkin's finest score, a world away from the standard Roman Empire 'sound,' and some impressive supporting performances (Guinness and James Mason's warm double-act a standout) that offset some of the weaker performances(step forward Sophia Loren in Yul Brynner-Westworld autopilot mode), and it adds up to a film well worth seeking out
Sadly, unlike the 2.35:1 German and French DVDs, Universal's R2 DVD is atrocious - a cropped 1.85:1 transfer from poor source material with faded colours and no extras save a trailer for Gladiator. Anchor Bay's UK DVD and Bluray are a marked improvement, boasting the plethora of extras from the US Weinstein/Miriam DVD (though the theatrical trailer has atrocious quality), but sadly the film is still missing the three-minute 'trilemma' scene cut after the premiere (it still exists, but the cash-strapped Weinsteins didn't think it worth the money to restore) and the picture has been mastered from 35mm elements to save money with the result that, while the best version available in the UK to date, it's still short of what a 70mm epic should look like. The establishing shots in the forest scene look washed out in places and there could definitely be more detail in places, while unforgivably the brief overture, entr'acte and play-out music have all been dropped. So, not the ideal presentation but for the foreseeable future probably the best we'll get.
on 16 May 2011
[ASIN:B004OWWZ1C The Fall Of The Roman Empire [Blu-ray]]]
Buyers of this new long awaited UK release need to be aware that both the commentary from the US DVD and the Overture/Intermission are missing. Very strange as all the other extras are included. Still an essential purchase as it's great to have it in Hi-Def but certainly NOT the definitive version. The sound is great but the image varies and is a little soft at times.
Don't get rid of your standard DVD just yet.
on 24 August 2011
This is a lovely release from Anchor Bay - the extras are particularly good, albeit in standard definition, and provide a good 2 1/2 hours of extremely interesting insights into the making of this great epic.
A couple of moans though. The Overture, Intermission and Exit Music have been edited out, removing about 7 minutes of running time.
Plus, for those who have been singing the joys of the 2.35:1 ratio as opposed to the admittedly terrible 1.78 ratio of the vastly inferior DVD release, bear in mind that this, as well as El Cid', were actually shot in Ultra Panavision, and correctly, should be in a 2.75:1 ratio. You can see signs of cropping throughout the entire movie, and it's especially noticeable in the opening credits to both films.
Don't get me wrong, the 2.35 ratio is a great improvement, and the blu-ray is a really lovely print, but this is a common occurrence with movies from the 50s and 60s which are cropped down from Cinemascope, Cinerama, Todd-AO and Ultra Panavision to the 2.35 ratio. Not many distributors will present those original 2.55 or greater ratios as they were originally intended - a couple of exceptions are Ben Hur and Battle of the Bulge, both from Warners noticebaly, which retain the 2.75 ratio.
Perhaps there is some concern that the greater the ratio, the thicker the tram lines on the screen to provide the width?
Personally, I want to see these kinds of movies in ALL of their glory, but I guess I'll have to put up with 2.35 for now.....
on 24 May 2011
This is a very disappointing release. The picture is much better than the DVD but the subtitles that existed there have NOT been ported across. It is hard to understand why and for the hearing impaired this release is useless. I found the voices not that well focussed and as a consequence it was hard work trying to follow the dialogue. Such a sloppy attitude to such an important matter is hard to understand in this day and age. The disc is also B locked if that matters. Stick to the 2 disc DVD set if you like subtitles. It has more than adequate picture and sound.
on 8 April 2004
Further to my previous review slamming the lousy transfer of this UK DVD, widescreen lovers may like to know that a full 2.35:1 edition of this movie can be obtained from www.amazon.fr under the title of "Chute de l'Empire Romain". The print quality is at least as good, and the cover artwork is taken from the original poster. I have also ordered 2.35:1 copies of "El Cid" and "55 Days in Peking", and will drop in notes on these when they arrive. Just goes to show it pays to shop around.
on 18 June 2002
This DVD release is a howling disappointment! The print quality is certainly fine, but don't be fooled by the 'widescreen presentation' promised on the box. Trading Standards should have something to say about this! There is no note of the aspect ratio to accompany the statement for the very good reason that the image is presented in the now standard TV widescreen format, instead of the films original format. Consequently there is still a great deal of the image missing. Additionally, there are a number of minor edits for violence, which are both unnecessary and irritating. Very disappointing, Universal!
on 10 November 2000
Very disappointing DVD version of this epic. It is the same as the far cheaper VHS release, complete with print scratches and indifferent colour. Missing is the "cinema presentation" which other epic DVD's seem able to do. No Overture, Intermission Music or Exit Music. The laser disc version had all of this, so this is obviously taken from the VHS print. The widescreen ratio is also incorrect to the cinema presentation.Avoid, until they release the full cinema release with 5.1 remastering (it is only in stereo). Very sloppy and cheap. And why a "Gladiator" trailer? Huh?
on 24 March 2016
This was the last of the Hollywood epics, and the last major film
of producer Samuel Bronston. Bronston, has to be the unluckiest
men in Hollywood History, for he made 3 epic films and they all
lost money, or at least were box office failures in the US, and this
film was a massive flop... Pity, because over the years this has
been acknowledge as a, classic, and it is...
This film is an end of an era film. End of Empire and end of the career
of Antony Mann, for although he made one more film after this, he soon
died in 1967. After this movie, there wasn't another Hollywood Roman epic
made until Gladiator. And like Gladiator, it deals with what is known as the
beginning of the end of the Roman Empire, as the reign of Marcus Aurelius
passes to Commodus. If you watch Gladiator, you'd think Commodus rule
lasted little more than a year, but in reality his reign was 14 years, and here's
the problem with films about ancient Rome, events happened years apart, and
this can not be represented well in just 3 hours. For better understanding of
Roman History, watch HBO/BBC's Rome, but even that misses out major on
events. This film does show the start of the fall of the empire quite well, and
is still a better movie than Gladiator. If you read up on Roman history, you will
see which is the better film...
on 7 August 2013
superb film with a great cast, some of the storyline was pretty accurate and the setting was realistic. This must be where they got the idea of Gladiator from. Worth watching and the price now is great value.