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A first-class DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
, October 16, 2011
This review is from: Lost Horizon (1973) (DVD)
Much has been said about the film already, so I will limit my thoughts to the DVD itself, which is a real treat.
SPECIAL FEATURES (as written on the packaging):
Original Song Demos by Burt Bacharach (with photo gallery)
Ross Hunter Short - a 36-minute film
Original Trailers and TV Spots
Ross Hunter on the way to Shangri-La - 10-minute featurette
Alternate Scene - "I Come To You."
The language is listed as English, Dolby Digital. No mention of a new 5.1 mix anywhere, so this was likely a mistake in the press release, sadly. The audio is actually 2.0 Mono, 48 khz, 192 kbps. Video is 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. Running time is listed as "approx." 149 minutes. Region 1.
Starting with the audio, even if it's not a new 5.1 mix, as an advance Sony press release (and subsequently many websites) indicated, it's a wonderfully robust mono soundtrack, fully restored. Crystal-clear high frequencies and rich full bass sounds. As for the video, the movie looks fantastic. It's 2.40:1 Anamorphic widescreen. Colors are saturated, skin tones are natural, and detail is incredible. I noticed things I'd never seen before in the set decoration, the costume fabrics, etc. The vibrant green for the interior of the airplane hull, the crimson of the monks' robes, the eye-popping hues of the flowers during "The World Is a Circle." Detail holds up really well in the shadows, too, during the darker scenes. Noise is kept to a minimum, but I see no obvious use of noise-reduction. This is just an incredibly good remastering job. Short of having the disc in HD, I don't think it could look any better. I'm thrilled that all of the cut footage has quite obviously been restored from the original negative as well, so there's no "jump" in quality between the wide release footage and the restored scenes, as there was with the Pioneer laser disc release in the '90s. It all looks and sounds equally great here.
A quick rundown of the extras:
The TV spots aren't restored, but look and sound fine. The Teaser and Theatrical Trailer are fully restored. I loved the full theatrical trailer, which is in widescreen and narrated on-screen by Ross Hunter! There is a "wavering hum" present in the audio of the full trailer, but it isn't too distracting.
The Bacharach demos: I noticed different lyrics on "Question Me An Answer," references to Greta Garbo and Don Ameche, etc. The video is an animated presentation of static photos sliding by the screen on a moving "film strip" background. Some GREAT behind-the-scenes shots, literally hundreds altogether that, after a while, repeat throughout the demos. There are QUITE a few song demos, too, almost the entire score, and all seem to be complete versions of the songs with Burt singing (and croaking a bit) and playing piano beautifully. The sound quality of these mono demos is excellent.
The 10-minute Ross Hunter short film is in widescreen as well. It's in very good shape, although it's not color-corrected, so it has a faded, vintage look (which I like). Ross shares some great behind-the-scenes info about making the film, too. On the packaging and in the advance press release, this is listed as a 36-minute Promo film, but because the clips from the actual movie have been excised, it really clocks in around ten minutes in length. I didn't miss seeing an extra 26 minutes of the movie again, especially right after watching it. I was more interested in what Mr. Hunter had to say about making the movie. So the leaner running time wasn't an issue with me ... although they should probably correct it on the packaging.
The 10-minute "Ross Hunter on the Way To Shangri-La" vintage featurette is excellent, with great behind-the-scenes footage and narrative. I'm so glad they included this on the DVD! It's a 4x3 presentation, not restored, but in fine shape regardless.
Lastly, the "alternate version" of "I Come To You" is taken from the Pioneer laser disc, with different staging than seen during the film on the DVD. It's not restored visually (if you remember the laser disc look), but the song is in stereo, since the producer of the laser disc did his own stereo mix of the film.
And one last note that has caused some minor confusion among the hardcore fans of the film: With the inclusion of previously cut scenes, the publicity release and packaging mention a never-before-seen reprise of "Living Together, Growing Together." After the Fertility Dance (which has not been seen in a home video release until this DVD and is quite exciting and wonderful), there is a very short reprise of the song "Living Together, Growing Together," which ends the "ceremonial" scene. However, there was also a (second) reprise of this song later in the film, sung by Sally Kellerman and George Kennedy while they are working on the new irrigation system. That reprise is still sadly missing. But the packaging notes are correct in saying a reprise of the song is included "for the first time" on this DVD.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has done themselves proud with this release. It comes as somewhat of a surprise to me, since almost all of the MOD (manufactured on demand) DVDs from Sony, Warner Archives, and MGM have been "bare bones" discs. Most haven't even been restored. With "Lost Horizon," they have treated it as a first-cleass "Special Edition" project, and fans of this film shouldn't hesitate for one second about buying it.
UPDATE: (November 14, 2011) The issue with the audio has been fixed! I received a replacement disc from Amazon today and tested it on my home theatre sound system. It's a fully-designed 5.1 audio mix. What a world of difference! It's now equally as impressive as the restored image. This is not just a stereo mix of the music fed to the back speakers. Sound effects, crowd noises, ambient sounds, etc., all fully designed in the discrete 5.1 channels. I'm so happy Sony fixed the problem and Amazon was quick to replace my disc. I would say, based on my experience that the problem is now solved, and I wouldn't hesitate to either order a copy or have your mono disc (if you received one) replaced. It was definitely worth the trouble!
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