Papillon Blu-ray Review
The Great Escapes
Papillon Film Review
With an unnecessary remake just around the corner, it's time to revisit the classic Steve McQueen / Dustin Hoffman original.Though affording the legendary King of Cool, Steve McQueen, one of his best roles, Papillon was also one of his least recognised features, despite being helmed by Patton and Planet of the Apes director Franklin J. Schaffner, and despite co-starring none other than Dustin Hoffman.
Based on the true story of French convict Henri Charrière - nicknamed Papillon, the French for 'Butterfly' - the film follows McQueen's eponymous safecracker, who is framed for a murder he didn't commit and ends up sentenced to life in prison in French Guiana. Befriending Hoffman's celebrated forger Louis Dega, the two form an alliance as they are forced to endure increasingly torturous prison conditions. Papillon becomes determined to escape somehow, somewhere, no matter how many years it may take.
Papillon is a superb survival film which celebrates the endurance of the human spirit.
An unlikely and at times painful watch, Papillon is a superb survival film which celebrates the endurance of the human spirit, affording McQueen a rare role of some depth, standing out even opposite method man Hoffman, and embracing an atypical part in film career populated by films which could almost universally be measured by how cool his characters were in them.
Shot in Spain and Jamaica, and informed by personal accounts of experiences at the penal colony, Papillon is an underrated classic (with only Jerry Goldsmith's memorable score receiving Oscar attention) which was immediately overshadowed by the following year's Steve McQueen / Paul Newman mega-blockbuster The Towering Inferno.
Papillon Blu-ray Picture
Sony brings the classic 1973 film Papillon to UK Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen, which isn't immediately easy to distinguish from Warner's US Blu-ray release from a few years back. Thankfully that earlier encoding was an already very good effort, leaving this a strong and at times even impressive offering that certainly promotes the movie in the best shape it has ever been in.
The best shape it has ever been in.
Detail is generally very good indeed, lapping up skin textures and rich background details, with some of the shots - like the early sequences on the deck of the ship in the rain - delivered with a moderately fluctuating grain level, but latter scenes - in the colony itself - boasting some tremendous visuals that celebrate the impressive cinematography and wonderfully opulent locations. The colour scheme follows suit, getting more and more vibrant from location to location - even as the colour is drained from the faces of the increasingly emancipated characters - with some lush green tones on offer, and beautiful blue skies, and with a more stable grain layer now only offering welcome filmic texture to the piece.
Papillon Blu-ray SoundThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also a strong offering, affording the film excellent, surprisingly broad sound coverage which may not necessarily please cinephiles who would have preferred to enjoy it in its original mono, but which certainly provides for a more atmospheric experience.
Goldsmith's score is Oscar-worthy, giving the film an added resonance and rounding out a strong track.
It's still a 45 year old movie, so you can't expect dazzling demo delivery, but dialogue remains well-prioritised and effects are nicely observed, albeit reflective of the period. Goldsmith's score is indeed Oscar-worthy, giving the film an added resonance and rounding out a strong track. As with the video, it's almost certainly the exact same audio track that adorned the US release.
Papillon Blu-ray ExtrasThere's a short but great little Featurette with the cast and crew on set, and a Trailer.
Papillon Blu-ray Verdict
Papillon is an underrated classic.
Making its UK Blu-ray debut with what looks suspiciously like the exact same disc that Warner released in the US seven years ago, Sony's release at least provides the same great video and audio as well as a couple of nice extras. For those who didn't import the Region Free US disc some time back, it comes recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £9.99
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