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  1. #1
    Aging Smartass
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    Blu-Ray DVD of "How the West Was Won"

    Yesterday's New York Times had an article on the recently-released Blu-Ray DVD of "How the West Was Won," and all but stated that it is the disc to purchase to showcase Blu-Ray's capabilities.

    As those as old as I am (63) will likely remember, "How the...." was filmed in the so-called "three-strip" Cinerama process. It was the second dramatic film done in this process, and the last (all subsequent Cinerama presentations were films made with Ultra-Panavision 70 cameras and were "presented" in Cinerama).

    The original Cinerama process, with its three cameras and three projectors provided the viewer with a yet to be duplicated visceral experience in the movie theatre. The incredible clarity of the image, as well as the huge size of the deeply-curved screen (a 146 degree arc) gave the image a sense of three-dimensionality no other process has ever duplicated. IMAX is currently the biggest screen around, but it's absolutely flat, and doesn't provide the "corner of your eye" shots the three camera/projector Cinerama process did.

    Those familiar with "How the ....." by having seen it on TV may have wondered what those strange seams were on the picture. All of the three-strip Cinerama films (earlier ones were travelogues) suffered from this flaw as there were always two disctinct seams where the images joined, and while these seams were less noticeable in later Cinerama films (and "How the ....." was the last of them), they were still there nevertheless.

    According to The Times, the superwide image, when spread across a large flat screen TV, while hardly approximating the immensity of the Cinerama screen, still provides a decent replica of what such a film once looked like. They alsos recommend sitting close to the TV to watch this movie.

    I don't have a blu-ray player, but ordered the standard DVD of the recent re-release of this movie. My Toshiba HD-DVD player does a fairly decent job of upgrading such DVD's, and so, I should be able to get a fairly decent image on my flat screen TV.

    What remains to be seen though, is how much I like the movie itself. As I remember, I didn't care much for it when it first came out, finding it a bit too long winded and silly. but then, I was only 18, so we'll see how much my tastes have changed. The DVD should be arriving today, so I'll report back on my observations. As far as those of you with blu-ray players, I'd be interested in your take on this movie, and how it looks on your sets.

  2. #2
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    Hi Emaidel; I am just a year younger than you. I saw this film as a teen as well at the Herricks theater in Long Island, N.Y.(I still remember where I saw it). That was a flat screen theater with mono sound). I like this movie very much. However I noticed the seams when I saw it back then and on televison viewing as well. I believe those seams are going to be there on the BD disc as well. Certain scenes are going to look odd because of that particular process of the way it was filmed for that specific Cinerama theater of which the movie was shown. Better that they went to 70mm Ultra Panavision after this movie because of the obvious non-compatibility issue with all the other movie screens in all the other theaters. As such, ITS A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD looked and felt great in 70mm Ultra Panavision.

  3. #3
    Aging Smartass
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    The DVD I received was not the newer, much hyped version, but an older "upgraded" Turner DVD. While it did a fair job of joining the three images, with very noticeable seams down the screen, the two side images were smaller than the center, and the image didn't even go clear across my flat screen TV! In terms of the technicality of trying to update an old, 3-strip Cinerama film for a television screen, this was a very small achievement, aside from the fact that the image was a good deal clearer than any seen on an older VHS tape of the movie.

    And, I still think the movie stinks. It's sillier than silly, with ridiculous dialog, and a very slow and plodding story. Some use of the Cinerama camera was impressive (or may have looked impressive on the big screen) but the use of rear projection in a number of scenes looks awful.

    I did catch a glimpse of what the image looks like on the blu-ray disc, and it's absolutely remarkable as compared to any other version of this old movie. There's also a neat process called "smilebox" which does a pretty effective job if simulating the Cinerama experience on a TV screen. It really has to be seen to be believed.

    I too preferred the single-strip process to the 3-strip process (as long as the original was filmed in either Super or Ultra Panavision 70) as the image was still huge, had a sense of depth, and had none of the drawbacks of the 3-strip process (the two seams, the visible distortion as something went from one projector to another, and the always different colors of the three images. The best looking single strip Cinerama films, at least in my opinion, were The Greatest Story Ever Told, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

  4. #4
    nightflier
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    Damn, first the VHS, then the DVD, now I have to buy the BR.

    The movie, by the way, is still a classic as far as Westerns are concerned. Maybe not quite as good a others (Good, Bad & Ugly, Once upon a time, Hired Hand, etc.), but still a classic.

  5. #5
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    I did read a report on the blue ray disc relating to the smilebox and it is quite interesting what WB did with the print as well as trying to make the seams more seamless in the smilebox and the flat edition. I just cannot recall what site I read that report on though.

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