Lost Horizon (1937)

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Released 12-Jul-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Charles Champlin (Critic) & Robert Gitt (Restoration Expert)
Theatrical Trailer
Alternate Ending-With Commentary
Featurette-Before And After Comparison, With Commentary
Featurette-Making Of-Photo Documentary,With Narration By Historian Kendall Miller
Featurette-Opening Title Comparison, With Commentary
Deleted Scenes-3, With Commentary
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1937
Running Time 127:48
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (81:51) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Frank Capra
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Ronald Colman
Jane Wyatt
Edward Everett Horton
John Howard
Thomas Mitchell
Margo
Isabel Jewell
H.B. Warner
Sam Jaffe
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Dimitri Tiomkin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    It is 1935 and there is a revolution in China. Soldier and diplomat Robert Conway (Ronald Colman) is sent to the outpost of Baskul to arrange the evacuation of 90 white people before they get massacred. His task achieved, he and a motley collection of people escape on board a plane to Shanghai. Apart from his brother George (John Howard), there's palaeontologist Lovett (Edward Everett Horton), fugitive Barnard (Thomas Mitchell) and the ill Gloria (Isabel Jewell), who was given six months to live a year beforehand. After a night's sleep they realise they are travelling in the wrong direction, and that their pilot is someone of Asian appearance. After refuelling in the middle of the desert the plane heads into the Himalayas, beyond the point where civilisation ends.

    The plane crashes in the snow and the pilot is killed. When all seems hopeless, a party of rescuers arrives and they are taken to the nearby lamasery. To everyone's surprise, the lamasery, which looks like a Surfers Paradise motel circa 1974, is in a sheltered valley which houses a population of several thousand. The climate is warm and the people seem contented.

    The venerable lama Chang (H. B. Warner) tells them that they may have to wait a long time for porters to lead them back to civilization. In the meantime, they are to make themselves at home in Shangri-La. This small paradise has an abundance of natural resources, no crime and no stress, and the inhabitants live long and contented lives. In their own ways, each of the castaways becomes comfortable in the small paradise. All except George, who longs to return home. But Robert has found what he has been seeking all his life: freedom from care and conflict. There's also Sondra (Jane Wyatt) to pique his interest. George meanwhile becomes involved with Maria (Margo), a Russian foundling who is the only other person who wants to leave.

    The story comes from the book by James Hilton, one of the most popular novelists of the time, and of whose books many have been filmed (Random Harvest, Knight Without Armour, Goodbye Mr Chips! and more). It takes a romantic notion that must have seemed like a good idea during the turmoil of the 1930s, that an uncomplicated life with no external stress is the ideal one for mankind. Sounds idyllic but I think in practice it would not work. However, this film manages to convince otherwise. That's in no small part due to the excellent performance by Ronald Colman, who was an ideal choice as the world-weary diplomat. He manages to convey his feeling very subtly, and the scene where (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) he leaves Shangri-La is quite moving.

    Colman is ably supported by a fine cast. Horton portrays his stock fussbudget character, and Mitchell is a good foil. They supply the light relief in the film. Jewell has somewhat less to do but is still fine. H. B. Warner is an ideal Chang, calm and unperturbed. Sam Jaffe is a standout as the aged High Lama, helped by splendid lighting and photography by Joseph Walker. Only John Howard (no relation) disappoints, in a role for which he was a last minute replacement. They originally wanted David Niven, who would have been much better I think.

    This is perhaps Frank Capra's best film, along with Mr Smith Goes to Washington. It captures a mood and feel that was unique to the era, and unable to be replicated in the dismal 1973 musical remake. During the years the film was truncated, first for re-release during World War II where the opening titles were altered to implicate the Japanese, and then for television. In the 1960s it was discovered that the original negative had deteriorated beyond repair, and in 1973 a project was launched to restore the film to its full 132-minute original running time. Some missing parts were located in a 16mm television print in Canada, and the full soundtrack was found in England. However, some seven minutes of footage is still lost. In this restoration, the full audio is used and the missing parts are replaced with stills. The largest gap is a comic sequence involving Horton and Mitchell in the village near the lamasery.

    Unless a pristine original print turns up, which is very unlikely, this is as close to the original vision as we are likely to get. While not in its ideal state, the film is a classic and this still shows through with what we have. This is a fine DVD edition and is well worth the relatively small cost.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It was originally shot in 1.37:1.

    The transfer is quite variable in quality, all of which can be sheeted home to the state of the print material. The transfer is sharp and clear, but detail levels vary. The 35mm material looks a lot better than the 16mm blow-ups, which are very soft.

    There is a reasonable range of grey tones and whites and blacks in the 35mm shots, but the tones are less defined in the 16mm material, and contrast levels in the latter are poor.

    Again, it is the blown-up material that suffers from artefacting, mainly in the form of posterisation. Film artefacts can be seen throughout, but are mostly white flecks. Some of the blow-ups have scratches.

    The disc has multiple subtitle options. The English subtitles are in smallish white font and are faithful to the dialogue. There are also subtitles for the audio commentary but not in English.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change placed at 81:51 during a black screen between scenes

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are audio tracks in multiple languages. All are Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue is crystal clear throughout. There is no appreciable hiss or distortion. The restoration of the film has resulted in what is an excellent audio track, considering this is a 1937 film.

    The film has an fine music score by Dmitri Tiomkin, with the recording conducted by Max Steiner. It comes across quite well despite the aged recording.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary-Charles Champlin (Critic) & Robert Gitt (Restoration Expert)

    Bob Gitt worked on the restoration of the film for 25 years, and has a wealth of information about the film and the work that was involved in getting it back into an approximation to the original. The commentary gets a bit repetitive towards the end, and there are a few dead spots, but it is worth listening to. Champlin is a former critic, who to be honest does not contribute much of value to the commentary.

Theatrical Trailer (0:51)

    A teaser trailer which has no scenes from the film.

Alternate Ending-With Commentary (2:40)

    The original ending, forced on Capra by Columbia boss Harry Cohn. It was removed a few weeks after the film was released and replaced with what Capra and writer Robert Riskin originally wanted. We see both endings here for comparison.

Featurette-Before And After Comparison, With Commentary (0:55)

    This featurette is voiced by Bob Gitt, and shows footage before and after restoration.

Featurette-Making Of-Photo Documentary, With Narration By Historian Kendall Miller (30:26)

    Miller has researched the making of the film and, using a lot of production photographs, stills taken by crew members and the recollections of surviving participants, has created this absorbing featurette which is as close to a "making of" documentary that we are likely to get.

Featurette-Opening Title Comparison, With Commentary (1:20)

    When the film was re-released during World War II, the name of the film was changed to Lost Horizon of Shangri-La and the opening titles updated to reflect the conflict with the Japanese. It is shown here with the original credits for comparison, with commentary by Bob Gitt.

Deleted Scenes With Commentary (8:32)

    Three scenes which did not make it past the 5 hour rough cut of the movie. None have the original audio. The first shows a procession through the lamasery, taken from a surviving nitrate negative. The picture quality is stunning and shows how superb the film might have looked had the negative of the final release survived. The other two scenes are dialogue ones, which are shown twice. The first time Gitt gives the context of the clips, and then we see the scenes again with Gitt reading the dialogue from the shooting script.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 release appears to be identical to the US Region 1 release of several years ago.

Summary

    An exceptional film, well restored and finely presented on this disc.

    The video quality is excellent, all things taken into account.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    A very good extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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