‘The Man Who Would Be King’ is crowned on American Region free Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed in the widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This is a particularly handsome looking movie with the composition for the Panavision frame looking extremely pleasing to the eye. We are treated to a colourful image with verdant greens in the vegetation, vibrant reds in the two stars’ army tunics and healthy looking skin tones amid the Moroccan heat. The image itself is quite smooth with little or no visible grain, reminding me of a brand new Eastmancolor print – fresh from the Lab. Anyone who has worked with film will have savoured the wonderful aroma upon opening a new can straight from Rank or Technicolor – and the look of this film triggered those memories for me. It appears almost pristine, although I did notice one tiny white neg scratch but there’s no dirt, dust or tram lines to hint at an aged source print. This transfer has been the subject of a proper restoration and the result just makes you want to smile as the image lights up your screen. There may be a tiny bit too much contrast in some dark shots but it’s not intrusive or offensive. If only every High Def transfer was this good, we’d have nothing to complain about. It’s certainly the best I’ve seen it look to date.
Now, I’m generally one for leaving original sound mixes alone and ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ has a very nice DTS-HD MA 1.0 track which does its optical mono soundtrack no harm at all. It’s been cleaned up with no hiss, snap, crackle or pop to reveal the film’s 36 year old vintage. Dialogue is impressively clear, rifle shots have a crisp crack to them and even the opening sequence of market activity contains enough audio detail to allow us to hear what is going on. The cleanliness of the dialogue does allow us to spot places where the post synching has occurred more than ever before but it’s not bad at all. I can’t help feeling though, that Maurice Jarre’s score could really have been lent some oomph by a 5.1 surround remix as there are some big sounding pieces like the opening and closing title music where pride would have risen in the chest with a wee bit of help from the subwoofer.
'The Man Who Would Be King' comes to us in a very nice digibook which incorporates a 32pp printed booklet with articles on the film, the stars and the director. The package itself is rather light on bonus materials, but we do get the following:
Call it Magic: The Making of ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ (SD, 12 mins) - This is quite a nice PR promo from the time of the movie's release and has been transferred with dust and dirt intact from an aged print. It makes you realise just how good the restored feature picture quality looks. We have input from director Huston together with stars Caine and Connery in the wonderfully old fashioned style of overlapped sound editing of the 70’s. I seem to recall this piece from the Laserdisc, which had many more extras including an alternate ending which we don’t have on the Blu-ray. My money is on a Special Edition coming along soon.
Trailer (SD, 3 mins) - The theatrical trailer has been reformatted to an aspect ratio of about 1.75:1 but it gives us the chance to see how the movie was sold to the cinema going public in the 1970’s.
That great Boy’s Own ripping yarn ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ charges on to American Region free Blu-ray with a very good looking 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed in the widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. A colourful, filmic though grain free image pleases the eye here with this wonderful restoration that is a joy to behold. The DTS-HD MA 1.0 soundtrack gives us a very clean rendering of the original mono mix, although the scale of the movie would have been enrichened by a new surround track. A period ‘Making of’ doco and Theatrical trailer make up the somewhat thin extras, but it’s the movie that really matters. Michael Caine and Sean Connery are superb as the two Masonic adventurers who set out on a dangerous trek to become Kings of Kafiristan back in the days of the British Raj. Highly entertaining and one to be repeated often.
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