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Henri 'Papillon' Charriere's account of life in the infamous and reputedly inescapable Devil's Island prison, brought to the screen with Steve McQueen as its eponymous hero. Refusing to surrender to the cruelty of the prison regime, Papillon protects the bespectacled Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman) from an abusive guard, makes a bid for freedom, and ends up spending a long spell in solitary confinement. When he is finally released back into the main prison, he again refuses to surrender and, along with Dega, makes another escape attempt.
Franklin J Schaffner's Papillon is quite possibly the definitive prison escape drama. Not as thrilling as The Great Escape, nor as emotionally cathartic as The Shawshank Redemption, its unflinching emphasis on the barbarism of "civilised" societies is nevertheless unparalleled. Significantly, the only characters to display any real kindness in this film are the social outcasts: the lepers and native Indians; everyone else has been corrupted and debased by the true villain, the penal system itself. Based on Henri Charrière' s heavily fictionalised "autobiography", the film's timeless themes of man's insatiable desire for freedom and the indomitability of the human spirit are thankfully not dependent for their impact on the source material's veracity. Dalton Trumbo's liberal-minded screenplay echoes the themes of his earlier script for Spartacus, and Schaffner's innate gift for epic cinema (this was made just two years after his great war biography Patton) is fully equal to the task of realising it on screen. The director's painterly eye for widescreen composition and his careful pacing impart a gravitas to proceedings even during the film's most squalid depictions of brutality, of which there are many emphasising the cheapness of human life among the convicts and their equally criminal prison guards in the penal colony of French Guiana. Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman form a remarkable screen pairing, with Hoffman outstanding as the pusillanimous Dega. McQueen magnificently overcomes his tough-guy persona in the extraordinary solitary confinement sequences as he is gradually reduced to a shambling, cockroach-eating wreck. Longtime collaborator Jerry Goldsmith, who had previously scored Schaffner's Planet of the Apes and Patton, attained yet another career high with his music.
On the DVD: The anamorphic widescreen print of the original Panavision 2. 35:1 ratio looks fine without being as stunning as some more modern prints; the Dolby 5.1 audio does however do great service to Jerry Goldsmith's score, which can also be selected separately from the Audio Setup menu as an isolated track (note that there's no music at all in the first 20 minutes of the film). The 12-minute "Magnificent Rebel" featurette was made at the time of the film's release , and includes some fascinating footage of Henri Charrière touring the prison se t, reminiscing about his experiences and pontificating ("Society does not want free men, society wants conditioned men"). --Mark Walker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I'd agree with the comment that you wouldn't watch it much more often than once every five years as it's a long film and quite heavy going; but when you do you'll be drawn into it without fail.
Cinematically it's also very impressive with brilliant use of locations and atmospheric sound, including effective use of silence when some films may have shied away and felt that they needed music.
This disc is a must have if you are a Steve Mcqueen or Dustin Hoffman fan.
The film itself is a classic and if you're reading this review i'm sure you're interested in the Blu Ray quality the 1080P transfer has plenty film grain some parts of the film look soft especially the opening credits but once the film gets started the picture is very good and miles better than the sd version. The Blu Ray is also a digibook which is great.
The special features on the disc are poor which is unfortunate but if you are a fan of this movie it is worth importing this disc.
Papillon arrives on blu-ray with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p 2.40:1 encode. For some unknown reasons, whether due to outright choices by Schaffner and DP Fred Koenekamp or due to what must have been extremely difficult location shooting challenges, the picture, at the first 10 – 15 minutes, was filled with heavy grain, slight noise, random blurriness, and lack of detail. The rest of the film, over two hours worth, was magnificent and truly spectacular. Detail was consistent, with soft shots nowhere to be found, and images were amazingly deep and beautiful. Compared with the previous DVD outing, colours are now incredibly lush and beautifully saturated. Some of the jungle scenes now reveal levels of shadow detail. The luscious location photography of Papillon really glistens now with increased sharpness and detail. (4/5)
Papillon arrives on blu-ray with DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio lossless track, which is passable and pure, but hardly enveloping. The soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score. Goldsmith's compositions, characterized by a late romantic symphonic and impressionistic style suffused with a metered, exotic timbre (using instruments from Caribbean folk music), are distributed mainly in the second half of the film. I personally love this soundtrack, especially the Title Theme. You will instantly recognize it as soon as you hear it. The soundtrack is finally available on CD from Universal Music S.A. France (2002), still readily available on Amazon.ca. In the film, however, dialogue is crisp and clear.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Arrived quite quicly. saw no glitches in playback quality & thoroughly enjoyed the content of the filmPublished 19 hours ago by Ian D Howell
great item I will be buying some more from these again. Thanks.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is one of the best films ever made! Brilliant. Product arrived with other product s and not over wrapped!Published 2 months ago by krissy54