Lost Horizon (Blu-ray) (1937)

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Released 7-Sep-2016

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer-(0:50) In-production promo trailer, 1.33:1
Featurette-Making Of-(10:41) Before and after comparison, 1.33:1
Alternate Ending-(02:37) Two endings - one for Cohn, one for Capra, 1.33:1
Biographies-Crew-(109:05) Frank Capra's American Dream
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1937
Running Time 133:12 (Case: 132)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Frank Capra
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Ronald Colman
Jane Wyatt
John Howard
Margo
Thomas Mitchell
Edward Everett Horton
Isabel Jewell
H.B. Warner
Sam Jaffe
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $34.95 Music Dimitri Tiomkin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Very few "classic" movies have been favoured with a Blu-ray release, even in the US. Even fewer are given an Australian high-def release. It is particularly good news, then, to find that Madman Entertainment are favouring us with a Blu-ray release of a film that won two Oscars  way back in 1937. The film is Lost Horizon, from one of American cinema's greatest directors, Frank Capra. This release of his much loved masterpiece is made doubly valuable as we are also given, as an "added feature", the excellent feature length documentary Frank Capra's American Deam, a fascinating and informative examination of the director and his films.

    The novels of British novelist James Hilton have been the origin of a number of memorable movies, such as Goodbye Mr. Chips, Random Harvest, Knight Without Armour and Rage in Heaven. It was Hilton's 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, that director Frank Capra picked up at a Union Station newstand. The career of the director, still in his mid 30's, was in high gear. The critical, and perhaps more importantly commercial, success of   his  movies had made him a favourite of Columbia boss Harry Cohn. For a number of years a series of very successful  homespun, some would say "corny", middle-class stories from Capra helped fill the coffers at Columbia. Lady for a Day (1933) brought him to the top rank of directors, and the following year It Happened One Night cemented his reputation by becoming the first film to win all five top Oscars, which included one for the director. Two years later Capra was to win again for  Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, with another still to come in 1938 for You Can't Take It With You. The faith of the studio head in his wonder boy led to Lost Horizon ultimately costing two million dollars, half the studio's annual budget. The money spent is visible on the screen. with visually stunning, huge art deco sets, elaborate design, authentic Tibetan musical instruments and a genuine cold storage set which was to replicate snowbound scenes.

    The screenplay was provided by Robert Riskin (It Happened One Night), keeping the focus on the philosophical ideals of the original work. The plot saw British diplomat and historian Robert Conway (Ronald Colman), together with four others, in the dark of night fleeing from a Chinese rebellion. These opening scenes brilliantly demonstrate Capra's masterful handling of crowds. The frenzy of these scenes, excitingly lit and photographed, are in stark contrast to the peaceful serenity that is to come at the end of their flight. Accompanying Conway in the escape plane are his weak brother, George (John Howard), Gloria, a "lady of the night" with tuberculosis (Isabel Jewell), Lovett, a fossil specialist (Edward Everett Horton), and Barnard, a swindler fleeing the police (Thomas Mitchell). The plane crashes, the pilot killed and in strange snow stormed Himalayan mountains our little group, after being rescued by Chang (H.B.Warner) and his men, is taken to the mountain community of Shangri-La. There they find  a people in idyllic isolation, living a life dedicated to kindness, in a land where health, peace, and longevity reign. Lives are miraculously extended far beyond the normal human lifespan and the restless George becomes enamoured of the lovely Maria (Margo), while Conway finds comfort with Sondra (Jane Wyatt) ,the daughter of Chang. Conway eventually has an audience with the mysterious and ancient High Lama (Sam Jaffe), and learns that the crash and the arrival at Shangri-La were no accident. Conway has been chosen to be the High Lama's successor, when his extraordinarily lengthy life does ultimately come to a close. With the exception of George, one by one each member of Conway's group succumbs to the lure of Shangri-La. George, however,  seeks to make an escape with his youthful looking Maria, this escape leading to one of the more famous scenes in the film.

    Hilton's novel is a haunting work that stays with you long after the final page. Indeed, I have known one person whose entire life was influenced by Lost Horizon and its message. In bringing this much loved work to the screen Capra is assisted by a wealth of talent, both in front of and behind the camera. The score from Dimitri Tiomkin (High Noon) adds emotion and depth, and is definitely award worthy. Unfortunately competition was strong that year, and the 1937 Oscars saw Lost Horizon winning only two statuettes, Stephen Goosson for Art Direction and Gene  Havlick and Gene Milford  for Film Editing. The only major nomination was for Best Film, the winner, however, being The Life of Emile Zola. The absence of acting nominations may  have been justified. Colman seems a little stilted in his stiff-upper-lip delivery, but the natural charm of Jane Wyatt has not dated. In retrospect, though, the major oversight was that of Sam Jaffe (Gunga Din). His  scenes are truly unforgettable. With brilliant lighting and stunning photography from Joseph Walker, responsible for dozens of films including Born Yesterday and The Jolson Story, Jaffe creates an iconic image  that only grows in stature as the years pass.

    Lost Horizon is a true classic. This release gives us the film almost in its entirety, with a complete soundtrack and only a few minutes utilising stills replacing lost footage. The print is clean without any visible physical damage. The soundtrack is the best I have ever heard it. Plus you get the feature length documentary on Frank Capra, but more on that below. If you are a serious film fan, this one has to be on your shelf.

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Transfer Quality

Video

The image is totally steady, with no trace of shutter shudder. The contrast is very pleasing, with solid blacks and little flare in the whites. This is obviously an advantage in the snow-bound scenes. The grey scale is extremely attractive, allowing the beauty of the black and white photography to shine. There are no physical signs of dirt, debris or damage - no artifacts to detract from the image. My only disappointment is that the image is not sharper. Most of the over two hours of film is more than satisfactory, some of it gorgeous, but there are some shots that are obviously from inferior source material. All in all, though, it is wonderful to have the film restored - or at least improved - and virtually complete, with a complete soundtrack and just six minutes of missing footage replaced by stills.

There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
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Audio

    There is one audio track, English Dolby Digital Mono encoded at 48K.
    Lost Horizon has for me always been marred by an extremely noisy and hissy soundtrack. That distraction is gone and the enjoyment level is raised enormously. Dialogue is all sharp and clear, while the effects scenes, rebellion and plane crash, all sound satisfyingly dramatic. There are no sync problems, no crackle, no pops, and with minimal hiss in one section - and I do mean minimal. The score sounds full and rich, written by Dimitri Tiomkin (High Noon / Giant) and with musical direction by Max Steiner (Gone With The Wind).
    The very pleasing quality of the image and audio allow the viewer to become totally involved in this rich and rewarding experience.

Audio Ratings Summary
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Extras

    The extras are superb, considering the inclusion of the feature length documentary on the director. Missing, and included on the old DVD release, are the audio commentary by Charles Champlin, noted cttic, and Robert Gitt, restoration expert, and the photo documentary on the making of the film. But - and it's a very big "but"- on this Blu-ray release we do get the marvellous Frank Capra documentary.

Menu

    The menu screen features the posed lobby card "still" used on the slick. There is no audio. Options are :

        * Play
        * Extras : Theatrical Trailer
                        Restoration : Before and After Comparison
                        Alternative Ending
                        Frank Capra's American Dream

Theatrical Trailer (0:50) :
What we have here is actually a promo for the "in production" movie, with text only and music, presented at 1.33:1.

Featurette : Resoration : Before and After Comparison (10:41) :
This is informative and interesting, beginning with changes made in the main title for re-issue, and to the changes in the prologue text  in accord with wartime propaganda. We see the  miraculous "fixing" of a physical tear in the film,  as well as the improvements coming from the stabilisation of blown-up 16 mm footage. Extremely interesting are the original remaining stock shots of film not used in the final film, coming from the original negative. There are also two scenes not used in the film, which do not have sound but for which the shooting script survives. Restoration expert Robert Gitt  uses the script  to supply the missing dialogue. This again is 1.33:1.

Featurette : Alternative Ending (2:37) :
Despite the fact that Harry Cohn  gave so much support to Capra, the studio head forced his director to alter the end of the film. This Cohn approved ending was seen for only the first ten days of the initial run in Hollywood. Capra then replaced it with the end he wanted, the ending which has been in place for the ensuing years. Here we can compare the two endings.

Added Feature : Frank Capra : American Dream (109:05) :
This "added feature" more correctly makes this release a "double feature", as this documentrary was actually given a US cinema release when it was produced in 1997. Scripted and directed by Kenneth Bowser, and with an excellent host/narrator in Ron Howard, the documentary tells the story of Frank Capra's life and introduces, or re-introduces, us to his films. It is smart and insightful, like the man himself, and will leave you hungry to explore Capra's movies. With on-screen contributions from dozens, including Robert Altman, Richard Dreyfuss, Peter Falk, Michael Keaton, Angela Lansbury, Garry Marshall, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Fay Wray and Jane Wyatt, we are guided through the man's life and his films. There is a wealth of material from the films themselves, chosen with great care to illustrate a particular point in the narrative. From the wonderful Columbia films we see many of Capra's players, including James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur and Barbara Stanwyck. Then there are his WW2 documentaries,  followed by It's A Wonderful Life, Arsenic and Old Lace and then into his later period. This is a must-see masterclass on an American cinema genius and a joy for any cinema buff. The documentary is presented 1.33:1, the original ratio of all the black and white classics that brought Frank Capra undying acclaim.

 

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    To date the local Madman  release is the only Blu-ray release of Lost Horizon.
    Whatever you do, by mistake do not end up with the 1973 musical version, without doubt the worst movie musical of all time.

Summary

    From 1937 comes this genuine classic, a movie that may stay with you for the rest of your life. Virtually complete, and looking and sounding better than it has for decades, this Blu-ray release pairs the film with the definitive documentary study of the director, Frank Capra,  and his films, particularly his black and white classics from the 30's and 40's. Watch Lost Horizon and the documentary and you almost certainly will be searching out the other works from this great american director. Totally recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Friday, October 21, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDOPPO BDP-103AU, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 60UF850T 4K. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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virtually complete - Anonymous