1. Join Now

    AVForums.com uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

King of Kings (1961 version)

Discussion in 'Movie Forum' started by elcid, Nov 25, 2004.

  1. elcid


    Products Owned:
    Products Wanted:
    King of Kings: Another Great Film Epic of the Past…

    “The scale is huge (7,000 extras in the Sermon of the Mount alone). The mood is reverent. The music is another milestone in the career of composer Miklos Rozsa. The performances of a splendid cast—with charismatic Jeffrey Hunter at the center—are real and moving. From the producers of the epic spectaculars El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire and the director of Rebel without a Cause and 55 Days at Peking comes a vivid retelling of the world’s greatest story, the saga of the Nazarene who would be King of Kings.” ...so the DVD’s liner notes states…

    Released in 1961, King of Kings practically came out striking the heels of the superb, magnificent, and highly successful (won eleven Oscars!) wide screen epic: Ben-Hur. However, unlike Ben-Hur whose plot line merely suggests Christ’s humanity, King of Kings places more emphasis on the latter by giving Jesus (played by Jeffrey Hunter) a real face, flesh and bones, while his divinity and all that entails is somewhat played down.

    Actually, the general mood of the plot line is more of an odd mixture of religious fervor, thirst for freedom, as well as the raging complex politics playing throughout Judea at the time. To ascertain this simply note how the ruling Romans, centrally depicted in the character of the new Governor to Judea, Pontius Pilate, relates to and deals with their puppet king Herod Anthiphas, son of Herod “The Great,” the Hebrew ruling elite, the Pharisees, a “rubble rousing” John the Baptist (played by Robert Ryan), a most discontented and highly disappointed rebellious population whose most salient example is best personified by Bar-abbas (played by Harry Guardino), a popular Jewish leader of sorts, Pontius Pilate’s aid ‘d camp, a man who secretly admires the monotheistic religion practiced by them, Mary, His Mother, and ultimately the very person of Jesus Christ himself.

    Film Technology…

    King of Kings first saw road show presentations in 70mm Super Technirama, but was actually shot in Technirama 35mm, an 8-perf horizontal camera negative format system that yielded extremely sharp images (something akin to the VistaVision photographic process), also using special Delrama optics that added a 1.5x anamorphic squeeze factor that yielded a theatrical 2:35:1 aspect ratio.
    But in order to obtain 70mm road show release prints the 8-perf 35mm image had to be vertically placed within Todd-AO 70mm film stock (Eastman Kodak). Six-track magnetic sound was added to the Todd-AO 70mm frame to complete the road show package. Projected aspect ratio: 2:21:1 (spherical 70mm format; anamorphic 70mm aspect ratio was 2:76:1 but was mostly projected with a ratio of 2:55:1 or thereabouts).
    It shouldn’t surprise no one that King of Kings looked absolutely phenomenal in 70mm because visually sampling the ultra-sharp, super bright, and deeply colorful images displayed on very large screen cinema venues truly describes what it means to be film epics: an experience not soon forgotten!

    For CinemaScope-compatible showings, 35mm anamorphic reduction release prints that received a 1:33:1 squeeze factor and 90 degree rotation placement (vertical) within the 35mm frame had to be created.
    Road show IB Tech 35mm prints were endowed with 4-track mag sound, while general release prints utilized either 4-track mag or monophonic optical tracks. Projected aspect ratio: 2:35:1 (anamorphic scope).

    Examples of films exhibited in Super Technirama 70mm include superb epics such as El Cid, Spartacus, and 55 Days at Peking, and to a lesser degree–but still great movies in their own right--Sleeping Beauty (Disney), Barabbas, Zulu, Circus World, The Magnificent Showman, and Solomon and Sheba.

    Examples of films shot in the 8-perf 35mm Technirama process include other great movies as well…namely: The Big Country, The Vikings, Sayonara, et al…

    The DVD transfer (Region 1)…

    The purveyor of the extremely high quality imaging contained within this DVD transfer is the high-definition master produced by Warner Brothers from which it originates, although am not sure what film element source or sources (i.e., 35mm or 70mm IP low contrast print, etc.), if any, were used to derive the video master from…but I am getting ahead of my self…

    King of Kings 35mm scope theatrical release prints were processed with an updated version of the imbibition dye transfer Technicolor printing method, one that was believed to yield a more natural look than did three-strip Technicolor, and one that was considered to be more competitive with Eastman Kodak's organic dye color process, although the tri-prism, three-strip IB Technicolor system still remains the cornerstone of superb moving pictures color photography.
    Anyway, the results of such usage are readily observable and it is something that this DVD transfer allows us to visually sample with great ease; colorimetry is absolutely beautiful!

    Colors run the gamut and range from astonishing pure looking whites to some of the deepest and densest velvety blacks you are ever going to see on video!
    This also stands true for colors such as red, gray, orange, brown, Penrod gold, yellow, blue, purple, violet, aquamarine, all sorts of greens, ivory, tan, teal, silver, gold, etc., and a vast number of color shadings in between.
    Flesh tones appear extremely natural looking and are exquisitely rendered too (for example, check Salome’s skin tone to get an exact idea of what I am talking about!).

    Since Technicolor Labs couldn't produce 70mm prints done with the dye transfer Technicolor process because it had no facilities to handle the large film format, Kodak film stock, with its attendant Eastman organic dye color process, had to be utilized for the creation of theatrical release prints.
    However, who ever done the color timing (s) indeed did a superlative job since the prints had (yep...had since most of those 70mm prints have long faded or “turned color,” which is a real pity) all the looks that are exclusively attributable to the imbibition dye transfer process. This is also easily verifiable on the DVD transfer as well…

    In terms of overall resolution this video version of King of Kings is as good as it gets when it comes to standard video resolution--it is of true reference quality! The laserdisc version never looked this good, that’s for sure. Only a High Definition version will surpass this DVD’s superb picture quality (of course, real film would be even better, but...).
    Detail is astonishing in quality spite being a standard resolution video as one is almost fooled into thinking one is viewing High Definition images rather than the more mundane standard resolution video fare. I gathered as much by viewing this DVD via DVI digital and component video analog signal paths provided by both of our main and secondary home theater systems.
    To visually determine just how great the resolution is closely inspect, if you would, the scene of the arid desert ground upon which Christ trod during his forty days of isolation and see what I mean; one can almost count individual grains of sand as imaging is rendered with a great deal of super-clear detail. It is outstanding in its TRANSPARENCY!
    Also check other details from such objects like the stone blocks that made up the walls of the Roman headquarters and other buildings of similar construction in the city of Jerusalem and elsewhere; is like looking out an open window unencumbered by soiled glass. It is the same throughout the movie with all but the minutest images contained within. It is a benchmark achievement in video mastering and transferring as far as I am concerned.

    Contrast dynamic range is as good as it gets with the rather limited mpeg-2 digital processing since the range between brightness and absolute darkness is quite wide, which goes a long way in aiding the reproduction of shadow detailing.
    The net combination of all these factors result in producing an image that is quite tri-dimensional and extremely film-like in quality, those being the most significant and important qualifying assets for the acquisition of the highly coveted term of “reference quality.”

    Is picture quality a paragon of perfection? Well, let me just say this: aside not been able to detect undue amounts of ugly artifacts (mosquito noise, serrated edges, flicker, interline twitter due to aliasing, and other such similar pesky digital domain-originating flaws), at least with our carefully calibrated primary and secondary home theater systems, imaging would be absolutely perfect if it wasn’t for our old nemesis, edge enhancement (EE), whose presence is of enough magnitude to keep reminding us we are still viewing VIDEO rather than the real thing...namely: film. But at least isn’t as intrusive and irritating as I have seen in several other cases.

    The quality of the film source element (s) from hence the HD video master proceed is excellent too, yet there are a few instances where film flicker or judder can be readily seen (at the beginning and also in couple of other bright scenes), although the degree is not enough to distract the viewer from enjoying the movie. Other film artifacts, like finger prints, dirt, emulsion flaws, etc., are thankfully absent as well.

    The sound...

    Miklos Rozsa’s magnificent musical score was originally recorded in Stereophonic sound, but was re-mixed in order to derive sound elements for the 6 magnetic tracks in the case of 70mm theatrical release prints (5-channels up front behind the screen, plus one rear special effects channel), and 4-track magnetic Stereo or mono optical tracks in the case of 35mm theatrical release prints.

    Dialog was recorded with Stereo lateral tracking, something that can be heard to a great extent, but it isn’t as good as it should because it appears to have been compromised by locating it almost hard center (the worst example of this sonic malady I’ve ever hard was with the 1990s remake of Rob Roy, where voices originating from extreme left or right were actually located smack in the middle of the screen! Is not quite as bad when played in a home theater, but was absolutely asinine at the cinema!).

    Unfortunately, dynamic range isn’t much to brag about either, although there are some bright moments were low bass sound sources underpinning certain scenes make their presence known by doing it with a good degree of testicular authority. Don’t look for the sort of dynamic type of sound found in modern movies such Black Hawk Down, U-571, Das Boot, or even Brave Heart otherwise you’ll become disappointed.
    Sonics aren’t of absolute “reference” quality yet serves Rozsa’s musical score well enough as it sounds clear and quite transparent, without obnoxious distortion components that could really mess things up.

    ”The Life Of Christ, Intelligently Told And Beautifully Filmed. Full Of Deeply Moving Moments.”......”An Intelligent, Imaginative Movie Devoid Of Conventional Hollywood Pieties.” ...respectively commented Leonard Maltin (in Movie And Video Guide) and Geoff Andrew (in Time Out Film Guide) regarding King of Kings. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

    King of Kings is a film that should be an intrinsic part of any serious movie collection. Is highly recommended for the entire family.

    The End...

    DVD reviewing equipment...

    Display devices:

    Dukane Pro-9015 D-ILA (calibrated by Richard Martin) and 12 foot wide scope-ratioed screen (1.3 gain) plus 40" Sony XBR-800 high-definition "ready" TV set...

    DVD playback gear:

    Mobitsu 880 (set to upconvert 720p with the 9015 D-ILA display and 1080i with the Sony CRT-based display) standalone player outputting a DVI digital signal path (into the Sony TV set; the D-ILA display was connected RGB analog via a DVI-to-RGB adaptor since it lacks DVI or HDMI video digital interfaces)...

    Sound system:

    Pioneer XVS-49 TX multi-channel receiver powering Onix/Rocket RS 750 Signature Edition left and right main, RSC 200 center channel, and pair of Rogers LS3-5A surround sound speakers; plus twin SVS B4-Plus subbass systems which were powered by a Samson Servo 2000 pro-amplifier (the audio receiver and CRT-based TV set are par of the secondary home theater system; other components belong to the primary home theater set up)...


Share This Page