Lawrence of Arabia
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LAWRENCE OF ARABIA50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION Winner of 7 Academy Awards® including Best Picture of 1962, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA stands as one of the most timeless and essential motion picture masterpieces. The greatest achievement of its legendary, Oscar®-winning director, David Lean (1962, Lawrence of Arabia: 1957 the Bridge on the River Kwai), the film stars Peter O’Toole — in his career-making performance — as T.E. Lawrence, the audacious World War I British army officer who heroically united rival Arab desert tribes and led them to war against the mighty Turkish Empire. Newly restored and re-mastered at 4K resolution, the massive scope and epic action of the Director’s Cut of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA can now be experienced like never before in this landmark 50th Anniversary Edition.
Much has been made about the wealth of extras found on the four-disc 50th-anniversary collector's edition Blu-ray, but this two-disc edition also offers an exceptional array of supplemental features devoted to the making of Lawrence. However, buyers should note that most of the extras consist of the same material found on the 2008 collector's edition DVD, including the hour-plus "Making of Lawrence of Arabia," a nine-minute conversation with Steven Spielberg about the impact of the film on his career, and four short vintage documentary featurettes about the rigors of location shooting; one of the shorter items, Wind, Sand and Star: The Making of a Classic, from 1970, is featured in a slightly shorter presentation than on the 50th-anniversary collector's edition. A newsreel from the film's premiere and a gallery of promotional material from the picture's original release and subsequent reissues round out the set, while three minor extras from the collector's edition DVD--a handful of theatrical trailers, talent files, and the DVD-ROM feature "Archives of Arabia: Historic Photographs Take You Behind the Scenes"--have not been included. In their stead are two new HD features created exclusively for the Blu-ray release: "Secrets of Arabia: A Picture-in-Graphic Track" presents an array of textual information on the film and the historical events that inspired it, including excerpts from T.E. Lawrence's own writing, maps, and still photographs that can be viewed along with the film, while "Peter O'Toole Revisits Lawrence of Arabia" is a 20-plus-minute interview with the actor, who recalls his career-changing work on the film through typically charming and informative anecdotes. For buyers wishing to have the best Blu-ray presentation possible of Lawrence of Arabia, but are unwilling or unable to pay for the 50th-anniversary collector's edition, the restored version is a fine compilation of some of the best extras available from both past and present for this extraordinary film. --Paul Gaita
- Fully-restored feature
- Picture-in-Graphic "Secrets of Arabia" (Blu-ray Exclusive)
BD Disc 2:
- Peter O'Toole Revisits "Lawrence of Arabia" (Blu-ray Exclusive)
- The Making of Lawrence of Arabia documentary (Restored Version)
- 5 Featurettes
- NY Premiere (Newsreel)
- Advertising Campaigns (Restored Version)
- Theatrical Trailer
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The markdown to four stars is to note I had repeated problems with a special feature in the Blu-ray package, a text commentary track called "Secrets of Arabia: Picture-in-Graphics". There, when notations are desired, the full movie picture is shrunk to one side, allowing a border with text notes on the underlying history and on the production. When the notes are done, the film returns to its normal size. These notes are very good. The issue for me was that seven times (in the 23rd, 48th, 98th, 123rd, 155th, 169th, and 184th minutes), my Blu-ray player (Panasonic DMP-BDT320) was unable to complete the transition from full movie to Picture-in-Graphics and essentially kicked back out to the top menu. I returned my first Blu-ray to Amazon, but the replacement did the same thing. Since seven times is a small fraction of the total number of notes, the process mostly worked. If one wants only the notated parts, one can use the go-to-chapter-end button repeatedly to go from one Picture-in-Graphics note to the next, but one does lose the non-annotated parts of the movie. The blame for the seven crashes may belong to either the disc or to the player.
Get the Blu-ray edition anyway. It has everything ever offered before plus nine extra features totaling 114 minutes giving background on the making of the film.
Like many people who have seen the original 1962 release of Lawrence of Arabia (winner of 7 Academy Awards) in the theaters, I wanted to then re-watch it and other great epic films with important world history themes on DVDs - then the paramount technology (Note that Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg had helped restore a version of the original film for DVD release in 2000). After BluRays had come out, I found and purchased this 50th Anniversary newly-restored 4K version, which also included 3 other discs and other items in special packaging to mark this occasion, to whet my appetite to buy this package.
What does this special set contain?
I. 8 Things: A 4-disc set (3 film and 1 sound CD) & Other Things:
A. Sound Track CD, plus a few new songs
B. Disc 1: The newly-restored film an 8K scan/ immediate 4K film restoration, along with
“Secrets of Arabia: Picture in Graphs Track”
C. Disc 2: Backstories and extras (like Omar Sharif and Peter O’Toole finishing filming on different dates, but both racing though the desert and Atlas Mountains of Morocco, where some scenes were shot, and heading for some carousing, courtesy of Sharif in Casablanca! The two became pals for life after this entire experience! Another good one is King Hussein of Jordan, also a pilot, welcoming the planes bringing in the cast and crew to southern Jordan, where most of the desert battle scenes were filmed. This area in real life has been shot in many films, and for those of us who have visited/ lived in Jordan, it is a source of wonder and amazement.
D. Disc 3: Anniversary Gift Set Exclusive
E. A free, authentic sample of 70 mm film frames, whose packet lists its limited edition # on its front
G. An 88-page coffee table book with color photos
H. A special 50th Anniversary package, housing all of these items, making this truly a treasure trove of wonderfully-packaged items that owners are proud to show, by placing THIS entire package with items inside on a coffee table!
I. The Ultraviolet Download Code (mine was expired, but I would never watch this epic film on anything other than a large-screen HD TV)
II. The Exact Quantities of Minutes (Hours) on All Discs, excluding the CD:
A. Disc 1, BluRay film: Lawrence of Arabia - 227 minutes (3.78 hours)
B. Disc 1, “Secrets of Arabia: Picture in Graphs Track” – 130 minutes (2.16 hours)
C. Disc 2 Backstories and related information – 144 minutes (2.40 hours)
(TOTAL FILM TIME: 501 minutes (8.35 hours)
In a nutshell, what is this film about? Historically, it is about the early 20th century British Empire, with the help of their agent, T.E. Lawrence, loosely following history by uniting the disparate Bedou tribes of Saudi Arabia (Note Anthony Quinn’s stunning portrayal of Auda abu Tayi) to help end the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), ruled by the Turks which had mercilessly and brutally ruled the ME for 623 years (and caused the Armenian Genocide/ Holocaust from 1915-1917). Specifically related to this include the following: the scene on the British HQ balcony in Cairo. In it, the bleeding Lawrence (whose back was severely lashed in Dara’a, Syria by the Turkish Bey [played brilliantly by Jose Ferrer] who took sadistic pleasure in humiliating Lawrence while torturing and possibly sodomizing him) talked to his commander, General Allenby, played by Jack Hawkins, in which Lawrence agrees to go back in country (Syria) and head Allenby’s men to the meeting in Damascus, to supervise and divvy up the goods/ commodities of the ME. Note that Lawrence had problems with slipping back and forth between the British and Arab Bedou cultures in terms of behavior and dress. The scene in Damascus showed this cognitive dissonance, with his being dressed in desert regalia while behaving like a British Officer reading from the ledger the list of things to be divided and meted out by means of a pre-approved British plan for who would get what. The people in the room, throughout this time were in a state of chaos, gave him no respect, and more chaos broke out amongst the attendees. The end result is that the British then got most of Damascus.
This activity, in turn, led to the slicing up of the entire ME region, in chessboard fashion, to change the landscape/ boundaries of certain countries to serve the ruling empires at the time (the UK and France) and then to transfer them to the countries that would later rise to have power. The was done very slowly and almost imperceptively, at a snail’s pace, by means of the following international stepping stones of important documents: The McMahon-Hussein Correspondence (1915-1916); The Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916); Balfour Declaration (1917); The Treaty of Versailles (1919).
All of these pieces of paper seemed to sandwich WWI (The Great War to End All Wars), fought from July 28, 1914 – November 11, 1918, with later documents and plans ready to guide what would be mapped out afterwards.
In T.E. Lawrence’s 1922 autobiography, he states that “The Arab Revolt had been made under false pretenses.”….”Had I been honorable, I would have sent my men home.” At least he was being honest even if it was in retrospect.
All of these disparate parts combined together later to create a new entity in 1948, with the birth of Israel.
Lawrence wouldn’t have known about these long-terms plans, though, – very few people would have. His story was only a small cog in a larger system that would later emerge.
Current US high school world history educational curricula doesn’t really cover much of this part of world history then, but UK (and French) curricula would. US audiences, then, would have had much of this important historical background and dialog fly right over their heads, especially for younger students who may see this as an action film instead of one that is historical. In today’s global world, though, Americans, especially those who do much reading and travel, would eventually learn what this piece of history was and the results of this that were birthed around the mid-point of the 20th Century. They would specifically learn what really happened, especially to the Palestinians –even though the Balfour Declaration says that they would be respected and protected as a result of this maneuver.
During this time period, how could 1 country be given away in order to birth another? Who let it happen and why? Who rules that country today, and who is paying for it? Have these actions led to a better world for everyone involved today?
For viewing this film, there are 3 different sections of activities that could be created and used, to create critical dialog according to the age levels of the viewers: Pre-viewing; Viewing; and Post-Viewing. Educators and others could create these activities and share them online.
Would I recommend this 50th Anniversary Set? Yes! For the 8.35 hours of film alone, this set is a bargain. For the knowledge of our world history, this set provides immeasurable resources for learning and understanding about our current world today because ‘this current world’ is a result of the activities portrayed in this film. All of these pieces are a pre-‘Chessboard’ to events that continue to shape our world today, with the victors and the losers of Empire, as Zbigniew Brzezinski later showed in his book on the same topic, The Grand Chessboard (1997).
David Lean has influenced a host of directors from Spielberg, Scorsese, Lucas, Kubrik, and Leone. Lawrence of Arabia is one of the crown jewels of his legacy (A Passage to India, Doctor Zhivago, and Bridge Over the River Kwai completing the quartet IMHO) and one that should be watched if you consider yourself a cinema buff.
Overall this is a very good film that ranks among the best ever made that comes in great sound quality and video quality and the steelbook if you can get it undented after delivery will satisfy collectors.