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Customer Review

166 of 175 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars RESTORED BLU-RAY "WEST" IS BREATHTAKING, July 7, 2008
This review is from: How the West Was Won (Blu-ray Book Packaging) (Blu-ray)
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.
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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 24, 2008 1:08:34 AM PDT
LP45CDwoman says:
The aspect ratios for both editions are the same, 2:35 to 1. Fear not. DVD and Blu-Ray will carry the same framing.

Posted on Aug 15, 2008 7:40:17 AM PDT
BubbaCoop says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Sep 7, 2008 8:27:26 AM PDT
Filmteknik says:
If you saw this film as a kid at the Cinerama Dome you did not see it in the true Cinerama 3 projector process because even though the Dome was designed for it, the three projector system was never installed there until around 2002. The Dome opened with It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World in the 70mm version of Cinerama. The 70mm single strip composite versions of 3 strip films like The is Cinerama and HTWWW were very badly done, cropping away considerable portions of the image.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 9, 2008 6:01:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 9, 2008 6:10:34 PM PDT
To LP45CDwoman:

The aspect ratio on the restored and Blu-ray is actually wider -- at 2:89 to 1.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 9, 2008 6:04:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 9, 2008 6:09:40 PM PDT
In response to FILMTEKNIK:

Business Wire says the film has not been shown publicly in the three strip/projector process since 1965 in Los Angeles at the Cinerama Dome (which was built for such an exhibition). I saw this film several times in the three strip, three projector exhibition there. The latter 70mm projections using the Cinerama trademark and name were much inferior and were disappointing in the Dome.

Posted on Jun 13, 2009 4:19:42 AM PDT
Good Stuff says:
In your generally spot on review of the new Blu Ray edition of HTWWW, I fear your enthusiasm let you to make a small error. HTWWW played it's initial premier Los Angeles run, in the original three-strip Cinerama, at the Warner Hollywood Cinerama Theater, where I saw it several times. During its' run, the Cinerama Dome Theater opened with "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", albeit in the simplified and cinematically less impressive Ultra-Panavision/Cinerama single strip format. An understandable error about something so very long ago.
Therefore, for several years, this meant Hollywood was perhaps the only city to sport two Cinerama theaters at the same time.

The Dome was saved from the wrecking ball a few years ago by an irate Hollywood. It was declared an historical landmark, which prevented it from being torn down to make run for a shopping mall. The theater has now been completely renovated. Ironically, the renovation included the installation, after all this time, of the three-projector system called for in the original design, making it and the Seattle Cinerama the only two theaters in the U.S. equipped to show Cinerama. I understand "How The West Was Won" the last film shot in 3-strip, was shown recently at the Dome in an excellent new print.

Everything old is new again.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 21, 2009 1:03:27 PM PDT
Good Stuff says:
Well then, Business Wire was wrong, wasn't it?

Posted on Jul 23, 2009 7:42:54 AM PDT
Pax Son says:
Robin, I am a French customer and I am surprised to read in your review that the negative of "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" has suffered water damage and won't benefit soon of a full restoration. I don't know where you got this information. I saw it as a teenager at the Cinerama theatre in Paris before it closed down in the early 70's and it was presented in 2000 on Canal Plus (a French TV Channel). The copy was in English which French subtitles and I can assure you that it was absolutely spotless. It is all the more upsetting that it was never commercialized as a DVD either in the US, the UK or France. I made a VHS recording at the time and keep it as a treasure. Best regards,

Posted on Oct 13, 2011 6:45:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 13, 2011 6:46:16 PM PDT
Jerome Bush says:
Hi, Robin. This comment will probably say "doesn't add to the discussion," but I saw this as a youngster on a wraparound screen in Houston, TX. I was probably around 11 or 12, so I'm looking at 1962 or 1963. I remember seeing horses start from one side of the film and going to the other side. At the intermission, my friend (the same age) and I were sandwiched in among a bunch of elegantly-dressed men and women, and we actually paid $1 for lemonade (at a time when Cokes were a nickle and candy bars no more than a dime).

I actually got a terrible headache from the either the feature film or a film short (that showed off the technology) afterward. I'm about to watch the BD and wanted to make this comment. Great movie, but too much information for me to assimilate at one time, I guess.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2011 8:03:46 PM PDT
Jerome, some of still have vivid memories of seeing this awesome film in a Cinerama theater. The Blu-ray full widescreen is beautifully restored to mostly remove the divide lines between the three strips of film. And the "smilebox" version recreates the wrap-around effect. Very cool on a large hi-def screen.
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Review Details



Robin Simmons

Location: Palm Springs area, CA United States

Top Reviewer Ranking: 4,275