Von Ryan's Express Blu-ray Review

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The Great Train Escape

by Casimir Harlow Aug 12, 2018 at 7:34 AM

  • Movies review


    Von Ryan's Express Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £19.99

    Von Ryan's Express Review

    The 1965 film Von Ryan's Express remains a great action-adventure vehicle for Frank Sinatra, at the high point in his stardom, and a firm WWII classic.

    Sandwiched between his early run of critically acclaimed performances in the likes of From Here to Eternity and - in an early career high - The Manchurian Candidate, and his latter run of neo noir cop thrillers, Sinatra starred in the most successful movie of his career, Von Ryan's Express.

    Based on WWII POW David Westheimer's novel, the film deviates somewhat (not least in its ending), but still tells the same main story of Sinatra's Air Force pilot Colonel Ryan, who is shot down over Italy and lands himself in a harsh POW camp run by Thunderball's Bond Villain Adolfo Celi, helping plan an escape, which - unsurprisingly given the title - involves a train.

    In amidst the top World War II films of all time.

    Although undoubtedly - and understandably - frequently partnered with The Great Escape, not least due to its thematic core of WWII action-adventure escapes, Von Ryan's Express remains a thrilling little piece in its own right, keenly directed by Mark Robson and driven by a great little central performance from Sinatra, who is on fabulous form leading the escape.

    Perhaps a little optimistically considered as a possible Oscar contender for Sinatra, it's nonetheless a great little yarn, faring admirably in amidst the top World War II films of all time, and delivering a couple of hours of blistering classic entertainment.

    Von Ryan's Express Blu-ray Picture

    Von Ryan
    This new UK HMV Exclusive Blu-ray debut is unfortunately just a recycled old Fox disc identical to the US release from 6 years back, and whilst this standard operating procedure for these HMV exclusives has yielded some solid results, Von Ryan's Express has less than impressive results and is clearly begging for a decent remaster.

    Over half a Century old, the movie is still perfectly watchable in its current guise, afforded a flawed but sporadically decent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen.

    In desperate need of a remaster.

    There is plenty of detail to be had here, with an image that certainly hasn't been washed through by excessive DNR implementation or any other unruly digital sharpening techniques, but, by the same token, is thick with at times impenetrable grain. At 53, it's understandable that the film would have a suitably filmic texture, and that's something that can certainly be appreciated in some of the better remasters out there, but Von Ryan's is a step too far, allowing the hazy to obscure the detail beneath.

    On the plus side the colour scheme is decent enough, retaining strong tones considering the vintage, and manageable black levels which are still fluctuating but about what you would expect. It's not a conventionally bad video presentation, just a dated one with corresponding flaws, which is in desperate need of a remaster.

    Von Ryan's Express Blu-ray Sound

    Von Ryan
    A solid effort.

    The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a semi-effective remix, taking the original mono source elements and fashioning them into a more immersive track which attempts to draw you into the more action driven elements and afford some manner of discrete separation.

    It's not wholly effective, however, appearing occasionally unbalanced, with dialogue the only element clearly prioritised and some elements artificially enhanced. The score remains well delivered, and overall it's a solid effort, but hardly an outstanding demo example of an effectively remixed classic.

    Von Ryan's Express Blu-ray Extras

    Von Ryan
    A solid selection of extra features.

    A solid selection of extra features make their way across the pond to this UK port of the US release, headlined by an Isolated Score track, and also including a quartet of Featurettes, two of which also focus on the music. A couple of Trailers round out the disc.

    Von Ryan's Express Blu-ray Verdict

    Von Ryan
    The WWII classic still deserves a little more time and love.

    The HMV-exclusive UK Blu-ray debut of Von Ryan's Express is something of a disappointing port of the old 2012 US release from Fox, afforded little time and respect and certainly no efforts made in the remastering department. Video and audio are serviceable, and there are a few extras, but even if it's not quite The Great Escape calibre, this WWII classic still deserves a little more time and love.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99

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