Prince Valiant Blu-ray Review
The best way to describe the picture quality on 'Prince Valiant' is variable.
We're presented with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer with Lucien Ballard's photography framed in the 2.55:1 scope aspect ratio.
The opening title sequence features noticeable grain, print weave and lack of sharpness. Coming out of the titles the scene is set with some landscape shots featuring a 'Voice Over' by Michael Rennie ('The Day the Earth Stood Still'). Now the grain on these shots and every location shot filmed by the Second Unit in the UK is pronounced. It looks like they used 320 ASA film stock compared to the finer grained studio material. It's not pretty. Add to this the fact that every time there is a dissolve, the optical stock used to create the mix has gone off at a different rate to the original and we get loss of sharpness as well as colour variation. The print used for the transfer also suffers from sparklies, dirt and marks. I have to say that it improves noticeably after the first 10 minutes. The transfer was supplied to Eureka by 20th Century Fox but it doesn't really look like they spent much time cleaning it up or restoring it. It doesn't look as if DNR has been applied either. It's a faithful reproduction of the existing print held by Fox and this is probably the best version available as it has never been released to the home video market in the UK before. All the same, it's kind of disappointing to see it on a High Def format. For the most part though, the Technicolor cinematography seems somewhat muted and lacking in contrast in places. It's just not the sort of quality we're used to on Blu-ray.
The audio comes in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that is pretty lively in the music score sections. Fanfares are big and brassy but with no real use of the LFE. Dialogue is clear and directional i.e. when a character is on the extreme left of frame their dialogue comes from the left speaker etc, creating a wide front sound stage. I wasn't aware of any rear surround action.
The original soundtrack was a Western Electric 4 track stereo mix, so what we have is a faithful representation complete with a slight hiss throughout. It's not distracting at normal listening levels but if you wind up the wick a bit then you'll be aware of it. Apparently Eureka tried to sort this out but the result was metallic sounding so they left it alone. In general, it sounds pretty good for a 55 year old movie.
The only extra on the disc is an unrestored trailer for 'Prince Valiant' which comes from the era when trailers were trailers. The grandeur of Cinemascope is sold to us proudly. I love this kind of trailer.
'Prince Valiant' strides manfully on to Region free Blu-ray with a rather variable looking 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the widescreen 2.55:1 aspect ratio.
The first 10 minutes of the movie suffers from noticeable grain, colour and contrast variation as well as print marks, but thereafter it settles down to a more acceptable image but with more muted colours than one would expect from a Technicolor print.
The audio comes in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 flavour that faithfully reproduces the original Westrex 4 track stereo, including a slight hiss. Franz Waxman's rousing score is a highpoint.
The extras are limited to a trailer for the movie, but it's a great 1950's trailer that really sells the film and Cinemascope to the audience.
As a movie, it's a really fun period romp in the court of King Arthur with a great cast including Robert Wagner, James Mason, Janet Leigh and Victor McGlaglan. Fans of Saturday matinee pictures will love it.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.99
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