178 of 184 people found the following review helpful
A massive, sprawling epic shot in the three camera Cinerama Process popular during the early 60's, "How the West Was Won" spans from 1830 to 1880 covering the history of the westward expansion. Directed by three directors (John Ford, Henry Hathaway and George Marshall with a fourth Richard Thorpe providing uncredited linking pieces)"How the West Was Won" was produced during the twilight of the western as the most popular type genre.
Warner has done a painstaking job of restoring this classic film and although it isn't perfect, it's an exceptional job that deserves kudos. The film has never looked this good with colors that pop and accurate fleshtones. More important the seams that one could see for the separate cameras aren't quite as glaring as before. The image quality is exceptionally crisp with terrific detail. Audio sounds extremely good with a nice 5.1 mix.
The film is spread over two discs with the original Overture and Alfred Newman's marvelous score included as part of the package. We get a terrific feature length commentary track from "West" stuntman Loren James who provides plenty of background details about the physical shooting of the film, filmmaker David Strohmaier, film scholar Rudy Behlmer, Cierama's John Sittig and music historian Jon Burlingame. My only complaint is that Burlingame will make a comment about listening to Newman's marvelous score and then whomever edited his comments continues to play them right over the music cue we should be listening to without interruption.
The only other complaint that I have is that while the dirt and grit has been removed making the film look marvelous, there's one sequence that has always bugged me--there is a bit of dirt right in the middle of the frame of the opening fly over sequence that I wish they could have figured out how to remove. Other than that, it's pretty smooth looking throughout the presentation despite an occasiona bit of image unsteadiness as characters move across the screen and span of the three cameras lenses.
We also get a terrific hour and a half documentary on the Cinerama process on the third disc.
There are three different versions of the film in re-release: the first is a three disc DVD edition with just the film; the second is the three disc set postcards, a reproduction of the original press book, souvenir book and photos as part of the package;there is no equivalent for this SCE in the Blu-ray edition although it does have a booklet as part of that package.
The image and sound quality in this restored edition improves on the original single disc edition of the film with a terrific commentary track and documentary to round out the set. With a stunning casts (James Stewart, Gregory Peck, Carolyn Jones, Debbie Reynolds, Carol Baker, Lee J. Cobb, George Peppard, John Wayne, Lee Van Cleef, Karl Malden, Agnes Moorehead and others)this was truly one of the last epic, lyrical westerns to be produced in Hollywood. Highly recommended.
147 of 154 people found the following review helpful
If you've never seen the original Cinerama big screen release, or only know the previous video versions of HTWWW, you are in for a big treat. The fully restored classic American film, the top box office hit of 1962, is stunning.
And the Blu-ray hi-def transfer is truly breathtaking. I literally gasped when I saw it. And so have special preview audiences of the hi-def DVD.
Warner -- which owns the pre 1986 MGM library -- has spent a ton of dough getting this right. Six years, hundreds of people, thousands of hours and millions of dollars have been invested in creating and applying new technology that has virtually erased the "join lines" that marred the earlier -- rather hideous -- video transfers. Not only that, but every frame has been restored. That's the equivalent of restoring three 35 MM films -- the original was exposed using three alligned cameras. The final aspect ratio is 2.89:1 (that's nearly three times as wide as it is high). And it is a wondrous sight to behold.
Seeing this new version is like experiencing the film for the first time. The familiar story -- based on a series in Life magazine -- follows three generations of a typical pioneer Ohio Valley family from 1839 to 1889. A myriad of stars shine in this great American adventure -- John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb and Carrol Baker are among the many recognizable faces.
Three accomplished directors (including John Ford) helmed this rousing epic that does not degrade the Native American experience even as it allows for the conflicts the westward movement created.
The absolutely stunning Blu-ray version inlcudes a "smilebox" transfer that mimics the original Cinerama experience of a giant curved screen. On a large video display -- especially if projected on a big pull down screen -- this version is jaw-dropping.
The extras include Rudy Strohmaier's much acclaimed documentary "Cinerama Adventure." And there's a wonderful commentary by filmmaker Strohmaier, John Sittig (director of Cinerama, Inc.), film historian Rudy Behlmer, music historian Jon Burlingame and stuntman Loren James. But why no Debbie Reynolds?
The only other narrative three camera Cinerama film is "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" and the stored negative has suffered water damage so there are no plans for a full restoration at this time.
As a kid I saw this film at the Warner Cinerama Theater (not the Cinerama Dome) in Hollywood. The impact of the big sound and images swept me away and I remember the experience vividly. The rousing music, the involving heartland American story still works. And thanks to cutting edge technology, it's better than ever.
This is one for the digital library.
102 of 111 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2000
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This is the first (and only) CINERAMA film I ever saw, without doubt the most thrilling aspect of the movie is the grand scale of the Cinerama process and the multi- channel soundtrack. The transfer to DVD is an insult. In this era of digital technology it is easily possible to correct the color balance errors evident in the "seams" of this otherwise remarkable motion picture. I agree with other reviewers, lose the Turner promo. The color balance, saturation, and picture
resolution are very average, and fall well below of what the DVD process is capable. One redeeming feature is the soundtrack. Finally, after viewing the VHS tape, and Laserdisc of this movie, the DVD release incorporates the correct rear channel information of the original release. Finally, and most regrettably, this DVD release has been cropped. Don't we buy widescreen movies to see how they were originally shot? HELLO HOLLYWOOD!
112 of 126 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2008
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I keep running into negative reviews for a DVD film or set that hasn't been released yet. I am not sure why Amazon feels in necessay to move reviews over to a DVD that has yet to be released but it's a bit like shooting yourself in the foot. Everyone waiting for a decent release of this film - without the lines on film - should be aware they need to wait for reviews of the set AFTER it has been released and ignore the negative reviews of previous versions.
Everyone knows this film, it is the reviews of the DVD and not the film that is important to most of us. Wake up, Jeff. This is very frustrating. Quit posting reviews of DVDs that have yet to be released.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2000
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
How The West Was Won is a true classic from the glory days of MGM. Everything about this film is done on a grand scale. The cast includes some of the biggest names ever to appear in a motion picture. Including: Gregory Peck, James Stewart, John Wayne, Debbie Reynolds, Spencer Tracy and Richard Widmark. The widescreen cinerama process appears dated and inconsistant by today's standards and it should be noted that the new DVD edition is not in anamorphic widescreen. The DVD edition appears to be a new transfer from the same previous 35mm print but contains notable improvements which include brighter more accurate colors and a clarity and definition that the picture has never had before on home video. The aspect ratio is also closer to the cinerama widescreen ratio, but there is still a noticeable cropping of the sides. The film also has the characteristic visable cinerama seams. The new DVD edition is the best the film has looked outside a cinerama theatre and is probably the best edition we will ever get. The restoration effort on "My Fair Lady" cost 1.2 Million dollars over a two year period. It probably would not be economically sound to treat HTWWW to the same restoration effort as it does not have as much consumer support. If you want HTWWW I suggest that you buy this edition, otherwise you may be in for a long wait.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2009
When high-quality, low-speed Kodachrome slide film became available many years ago, that product was a justification for photographers to invest in the best 35-mm. cameras available, such as Leica. Kodachrome film shot with a Leica camera became a reference.
The TV western classic of the late 1950's and 1960's, "Bonanza", with its wonderful color photography, provided many an American family with justification to invest in the emerging technology of color television. "Bonanza" was the reference TV show that displayed what color televisions of the time could do.
"How the West was Won", a contemporary along with "Bonanza", went to great lengths to show how beautiful the American West was, using the three-camera process of Cinerama to demonstrate to the public this cutting-edge method of cinematography. Today, Cinerama still remains the best process ever invented to film a Hollywood epic, surpassing even that of IMAX. It is too bad that it was a cumbersome and expensive process to work with, and did not meet with the full approval of the three directors involved with the filming of HTWWW. But what visual magnificence is evident in this film! Thank goodness that Time-Warner went back to the original Eastman negative and developed technology to eliminate or minimize the disconcerting film joins of the three Cinerama projectors in transferring this classic to DVD and Blu-Ray. The results of their efforts are evident, and based on the other Blu-Ray movies I have and have seen, HTWWW can justifiably be considered as a Blu-Ray reference!
Other reviewers critical of the "Smilebox" process transferring HTWWW onto a second disc that mimics the Cinerama curved screen should give it a second view. The reason I say this is because I've noticed that object movement on the right and left panels of the 3-camera film joins is less distorted in the Smilebox transfer than on the normal screen transfer. Give the same scenes another look in both versions (such as the river raft sequence) and compare.
Regardless of your age and film content preferences, if you are just starting into Blu-Ray, make this film one of your "must-purchase" items! You will not be disappointed, and will definitely see how the Blu-Ray HTWWW shows off the capabilities of your high-definition TV or computer monitor.
40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2006
[I wrote this DVD review of "How the West Was Won" a while ago, but I have added this paragraph to account for a third DVD, released 22 May 2007, as part of a set called "The John Wayne Collection." This third DVD by Warner is the same as MGM's 1998 release. There has been no DVD re-mastering effort. All three DVDs have precisely the same content, and so all the information within my following review about the 2000 Warner release can be applied to "The John Wayne Collection" DVD of Warner in 2007. Of special importance is how it wrongly states the disc is an anamorphic DVD. It is not anamorphic.]
There are two [three] DVDs of "How the West Was Won" (1962) available in the U.S.
MGM Video's earlier disc (released on 28 July 1998) and Warner Video's second disc (released 12 Sept. 2000) [and Warner's third disc of 22 May 2007] have EXACTLY THE SAME DISC CONTENT! Even the menus are the same! They both contain the film's theatrical trailer and contain the same "Making Of" documentary with a run time of 15:30. The only difference is the earlier MGM release also includes an 8-page booklet with large essays filling all but the cover pages, including a section about the "800 pounds" of Cinerama camera equipment used for this spectacle; that plus a plastic DVD box. The later Warner release uses the cardboard case, but even its cover art does not match the disc menu screens as does the earlier MGM release.
This movie with its Cinerama glory deserves a place on the shelf of video collectors involved with American cinema culture. If one wants to buy this movie on DVD, opt for the earlier edition with the booklet. I noticed the DVDs (having the same exact imagery) have four negatives: the extremely wide screen image is only letterboxed and not anamorphic DVD, the theatrical 7-track audio has been degraded to 4-channel matrix-encoded Dolby audio, the DVD picture image suffers from film scratches and dirt, and Ted Turner's logo appears BETWEEN the prologue overture and the beginning of the film. Nevertheless, the great music is worth the price, alone. I was never a fan of the movie, but it was one of the single most ambitious film projects ever and cost a fortune! This film is a crucial landmark of a cultural evolution in American cinema and any collector serious about American film culture needs this DVD. Of course, the great John Ford directed one segment, but also the famous Henry Hathaway and George Marshall directed their segments of this film.
An interesting part of the documentary focuses on the ideas and investments behind the three-camera Cinerama format and three-screen Super Cinerama theater used for this film. Despite the success, only two fictional films used the three-, angled-screen Cinerama format: this movie and "the Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" (1962), the George Pal stop-motion extravaganza. Cinerama was next re-formulated into a single camera process for a curved screen using a 65mm image on Ultra Panavision 70 film, and these newer camera processes weighed a lot less than the original Cinerama cameras. The first film made in the latter process was a comedy, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963) and, according to that DVD, the carpet had been laid in the first of the new single curved-screen Super Cinerama theaters only three days before this comedy's release. The re-formulated Cinerama/Ultra Panavision 70 cameras were so light, Director John Frankenheimer had them mounted onto Formula Three racecars (dressed as Formula One cars) for his 1966 film, "Grand Prix."
The most critically acclaimed and remembered film made for Cinerama three-screen OR curved-screen theaters was "2001: a Space Odyssey" (1968). Read Roger Ebert's website reviews of this movie. Both, Ebert's original review from 1968 and the review from its re-release of 1997 appear on his website.
Movies made before 1952 were predominantly black and white. Because studios blamed theater ticket sale diminishment on television, film studios either invented new technologies or reinvented existing ones such as Cinerama, which at least appears very similar to Abel Gance's use of three camera images during the battle scenes of his 1927 silent epic, "Napoleon." Some of the fads blossoming during the `50s and `60s and remaining today are the use of Cinemascope anamorphic lenses, wide-screen panoramic films, color photography, epic plots, large-budget movies, multi-track stereophonic audio, and other artistic special effects. Some of the fads not quite permanent were stop motion animation like the works of Ray Harryhausen, loud musicals, "3-D" movies, and Cinerama.
However, some ideological remnants of the Super Cinerama remain with another distant format: IMAX. Both processes use curved screens about 110-feet wide although an IMAX screen is dome-shaped because it is twice as high, they both use at least 6 discrete tracks of audio, and they both use theaters specifically designed for exhibitions using their processes.
One of Cinerama and IMAX's fundamental differences is that IMAX's fictional movies are usually transferred from pre-existing wide-screen movies into the IMAX format whereas, unlike IMAX, the fictional movies in Cinerama were made FOR their Super Cinerama theaters. For instance, the IMAX production of "Apollo 13" cropped the original Super 35 film images having a length-to-width ratio of 2.39:1 down into a ratio of 1.66:1 enlarged, according to Ebert's website. Although "How the West Was Won" was mostly shot in its system of three images, some of it was actually shot in Ultra Panavision 70, the second Cinerama format, and optically converted into three-image Cinerama, according to Widescreen Review's website. This means that, even when Cinerama originally meant three screens, it still utilized Ultra Panavision 70 photography for part of "How the West Was Won," the first of the two fictional films using three-screen Super Cinerama Theaters.
The studio had researched volumes for "How the West Was Won" and the Cinerama process, which was one of the many efforts to re-invent the cinema during the 1950s and '60s. In 1963, when "How the West Was Won" released into Cinerama theaters, it was a huge hit and played for nearly two years.
Today, no three-screen Super Cinerama theater remains, and almost all (if not yet all) single-, curved-screen Super Cinerama theaters have vanished. For the sake of American culture, the government should do something to protect at least one of these theaters. America needs some history of culture to protect and a Super Cinerama theater seems worth saving since the cinema provides the largest venue of American entertainment today. The Super Cinerama theater is a landmark of American culture.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2008
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Forget all the discussion about poor picture quality. That may legitimately apply to earlier versions of this film. But this remastered edition, just screened on the encore western Channel, is superb. Glorious color, great sound and the joining of the three camera angles all but totally erased. Job well done on a movie that warranted the effort. Buy with confidence but be advised there is a severe letterbox effect because of how wide the CINERAMA picture extends.
Subsequently bought the DVD and it's identical to the presentation reference above.
update 8/12 - recently watched the "smile" version of the film, which comes as a second disk in this package, it's formatted to give the wrap around sensation on a flat screen, and it added interest and enjoyment to the film. Highly recommend this version of the film, along with the more normal presentation. Might be a gimmick, but it's an interesting one.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
If you've avoided purchasing 'Cinerama'-formatted widescreen DVDs in the past (because of the irritating lines indicating each camera, and often blurry images), you're in for a treat; "How the West Was Won (Ultimate Collector's Edition)" has all but removed the lines, and restored the depth of detail, richness of color, and superb stereophonic sound lacking in every previous edition. Add to this one of the most entertaining, informative Audio Commentary tracks I've ever listened to, and you have a DVD that is truly worth owning!
Taking a moment to reflect on the Commentary...I am disappointed that no 'Making of...' video has been made, as "How the West Was Won", with it's stellar cast, legendary directors, and massive production, certainly deserves one. But the Audio Commentary makes a sincere effort to make up for it, offering information on the locations, how the extraordinary shots were created, and backstories about casting and the production. A surprising bit of HTWWW trivia: Did you know that Bing Crosby was originally slated to narrate the film, with Spencer Tracy to portray Ulysses S. Grant? (The reason Tracy switched to narrating isn't explained in the Commentary, but I am familiar with what happened; Tracy collapsed at his home, prior to filming, and had to be rushed by ambulance to the UCLA Hospital; under doctor's orders to rest, he was unable to perform in a role, but still wanted to participate in some manner, so Crosby, graciously, gave up the narration to him). A health issue created another change, as well; Dimitri Tiomkin, the contracted composer of the musical score, broke his leg, and had to be replaced by Alfred Newman, who did a magnificent job. Another surprising fact: Hope Lange was originally cast to play George Peppard's wife, with a long subplot revealing she was Henry Fonda's daughter, first seen working as a showgirl at the railroad camp, where she was courted by both Peppard and Richard Widmark. Despite some scenes being filmed, it was decided the subplot took too much time from the main storyline, so her scenes were cut, and reshot to remove any reference to her, with Carolyn Jones cast in a far shorter version of her role, for the final sequence of the film.
Much more is included in the Commentary, which really encourages a viewer to watch the film at least twice!
The third DVD in the collection (the first two discs are of the film, itself), is devoted to a long history of the Cinerama process, from it's roots during the silent era, it's value during WWII as a training tool, the spectacular, and once, tragic, Cinerama travelogues, through the decision to scrap the 'three-camera' process in favor of a less difficult 70mm 'single-camera' process (HTWWW would be the last film using the original format), and it's ultimate demise, in favor of less costly formats. As someone whose first Cinerama experience was the 'single-camera' "2001: A Space Odyssey", the documentary makes me wish I'd experienced the superior 'three-camera' films, with full stereophonic sound, on a giant curved screen!
Lots of reproductions of original release promotional materials are included in the package, as well, which are fun to browse through, while you're watching the film.
Entertaining, educational, fun..."How the West Was Won (Ultimate Collector's Edition)" is all this, and MUCH more!
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2008
For those pointing out the reviews of older DVD versions of HWWW being here and much inappropriate, this is ,in my long Amazon experience, normal. Every time I look up a film and read the reviews (if more than one version has been put out) it is pretty much always easy to see the reviews are for all the versions - not just the one specifically listed. Good reviewers might want to be sure to note releasing company and release date in their review to help avoid this problem.
Would, though help if Amazon would simply attach only the reviews of a specific release page to that page and not move them to any other release page - but maybe it's more than their computers/program operators can handle.