PictureComing to High Definition Blu-ray presented with a 1080p rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1, there clearly was not a great deal that the studios could do to make this film look particularly good - either because of the way in which it was originally shot, or because the source was in such poor shape. Perhaps running this through a few dozen filters would have softened out what little detail there was, but I find it difficult to see how this movie could look worse. Again, I must say that I have no idea what was intended back when this was made, as I had not even been conceived, but this is unequivocally the worst looking Blu-ray I have ever come across over the hundreds that I have reviewed. Detail, as stated, is almost non-existent, akin to watching an old non-anamorphic SD-DVD on your big-screen TV, playing it on a DVD player that does not even upscale. Night sequences clearly suffer the worse, whilst the brighter lit scenes at least afford some semblance of general clarity, even if it is nothing like what you would expect from the format. Colours are strangely unbalanced, the skin tones suffering from a tendency to be overly pink, the red hues coming across more strongly than the others. Blacks are, for the most part, ok, but only during the daytime scenes, the night or poorly lit sequences lapsing back into a mire of noise and grain. The intentionally shot 'surveillance' footage is even worse - though you will be surprised that this is even possible. I am sure fans of the movie will revel in the fact that is has been picked up and popped on this next-gen format for them to add to their collection, and perhaps this is at least as good as previous releases, but it really does not stand up to any kind of standard whatsoever. If this was a recent release put on a disc to look like this there would be a recall, and it would get a 2/10, the mitigating factor of the age is the only thing that brings it up a few points.
SoundThings are a bit better on the aural front, with the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio track certainly offering up the best anybody is ever likely to have heard from this movie. Dialogue - the mainstay of this drama - gets presented fairly clearly and coherently, largely dominating the frontal array. My German's a little rusty, but it all seems pretty comprehensible, the subtitles only occasionally missing the subtleties of the phrases used. The effects are pretty basic, a few growling Porsche engines, some general traffic and crowd noise, and a single, fairly hollow, gunshot. Nothing really sparks up the surrounds or offers up any dynamic potential, and there is certainly no material to wake your sub from its coma. The score is odd, a screeching cacophony that occasionally rears its ugly head - presumably to reflect the frenzied feelings of the central protagonist - and it is the only other thing that comes out of those channels to take some semblance of control. Given the age, I am not surprised that we get this kind of limited track - it is certainly an acceptable representation when compared to the highly disappointing video.
ExtrasSince there was a Criterion version of the movie, there are clearly plenty of accompaniments for it to be found, and we get a fair few nice treats here. Memories is a whopping near-hour-long Documentary with contributions from many of the original cast and crew members, who talk and reminiscence about the eventful production. They talk about the book this movie was based upon, getting the project started, the first draft, the financing, the German film industry during the 70s, and consequently offer plenty of intriguing insight not only into the film itself but also into the history of the Country during that period. Although it is quite heavy-going - an hour of subtitled interview segments - it is worth ploughing through even if you absorb it in more manageable, interval-laden, doses.
The Delayed Antigone is an episode in the multi-part 70s film 'Germany in August', which had much of the same cast (Blum herself, as well as the lead reporter, can easily be recognised from the start) and crew. Fifteen minutes' long, and with an extremely low budget, it follows a committee who are watching a film cut of the tale of Oedipus. Quite dated, it is still quite a nice accompaniment to the main feature itself - if you like this era of filmmaking.
We also get a Photo Gallery and the Original Trailer to round off the disc.
VerdictI am not wholly surprised that The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum received the Criterion treatment on the other side of the pond, and it has been respectfully treated with its new region-free Blu-ray release in the UK, coming with expectedly poor video, decent enough audio and a bunch of decent extras. The film itself is fairly timeless due to its acute observation of oppressive authorities and unchecked press behaviour, but a well-handled re-imagining in a contemporary, modern environment would probably not go amiss, especially considering the relevance that the story has today. Fans will be happy to finally add it to their Blu-ray collection, newcomers who are interested in this kind of film should pick it up as it will unlikely not disappoint them, but those a little more sceptical about whether or not they will be able to see beyond its age and low budget might want to consider just a rental, and then see what they think about the potentially slightly more accessible remake that may come out next year.
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