Escape to Athena: Special Edition (Blu-ray) (1979)

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Released 8-Dec-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 119:17 (Case: 114)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By George P. Cosmatos
Studio
Distributor
Sir Lew Grade
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Roger Moore
Telly Savalas
David Niven
Stefanie Powers
Claudia Cardinale
Richard Roundtree
Sonny Bono
Elliott Gould
Anthony Valentine
Siegfried Rauch
Michael Sheard
Richard Wren
Philip Locke
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $19.95 Music Lalo Schifrin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (640Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Major Otto Hecht (Roger Moore) was an Austrian art dealer before the second world war and towards its end has found his way to the lucrative position of running a prison camp on the small Greek island Athena that is focussed on unearthing archaeological treasures. A ragtag bunch of prisoners do his digging for goodies, when they aren't trying to dig their way out. Among them are an older British archaeologist named Professor Blake (David Niven), an Italian chef (who evidently defected earlier in the war) named Bruno Rotelli (Sonny Bono), a tough GI man Nat Judson (Shaft Richard Roundtree), and newcomer USO entertainers Charlie (Elliot Gould) and Dottie Del Mar (Stephanie Powers).

    The prisoners hatch a plan with the local Greek resistance, led by Zeno (Telly Savalas) operating out of Madam Eleana's (Claudia Cardinale) brothel, to break the resistance into the camp (being broken out had evidently been done too many times!) and use the camp as a base to disarm the local SS and capture a nearby submarine refuelling station. In all honesty, the plot is nothing more than an excuse for a load of WWII gags and a string of impressive action sequences, but it's enough to work with.

    Escape to Athena is a shameless ensemble action-comedy from the late 1970s. Every star on screen struts through their silly, cliched role with no obvious motivation beyond the paycheque that this working holiday on the Greek isles afforded. Still, the stereotypes are well cast, each of the actors has enough of a natural screen presence to keep things fun, and, most importantly, there is some pretty solid action on offer.

    Some of the explosions are truly spectacular. Most notably, the destruction of a submarine refuelling plant, in the middle of a picturesque turquoise ocean cove, that has the daylights blown out of it, leaving a stylish ring of fire stretching across the bay. No doubt it was devastating to the surrounding environment, but the damage has long been done and there is no denying how cool it looks. Furthermore, the cinematography, particularly in the big action sequences and some of the picturesque helicopter shots, does all this glorious pre-CGI madness justice.

    Prior to this rather pretty Blu-ray winging its way to our mailbox, I had not so much a heard of this forgotten blockbuster and picked it up based on the solid cast and potentially entertaining premise. It was a wise move on my part, as Escape to Athena offers a lot of disposable fun from days long gone.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080p. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL). More information can be found here.

    The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p.

    The film looks very good for its age, certainly far better than you would expect for a film of its age and calibre, but is far from flawless. The colour palette accurately reflects the colour tones of late 1970s film stock. There is a mild crush noticeable in the blacks, though not enough to spoil the look of the film. Only a handful of fine white flecks of dust are noticeable in the image throughout the film. The image is generally quite sharp, though occasionally the edge of the spherical field of focus is quite noticeable (though this is an artefact of the original photography rather than the transfer), and features surprisingly little grain. The only really frustrating artefact in the transfer is that a few of the big sweeping camera pans look a little jagged (weren't 24Hz transfers meant to eliminate this issue?), particularly one at which looks like aliasing has been introduced in the process of digitizing an image shot in soft focus.

    The film features English subtitles, which appear to be accurate and well timed based on the portion I sampled.

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

Audio

    The film features a single mono-sounding 2.0 Dolby Digital English audio track, which would be accurate to the original source given the age of the film.

    Though it is hardly a terribly impressive audio track, it is clear and well levelled. The dialogue is generally quite easy to understand and well placed in the mix, save for one or two quieter parts.

    The film features a hammy orchestral score that fits the film well, and true to the flashy style of the era.

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

Extras

Cast and Crew Interviews

    Overlong and campy, though occasionally fun. These interviews were recorded on location during the production of the film (by the look of it on 16mm) and are presented here in standard definition. Much like the acting in the film itself, the undertone suggests that most of these folks were primarily there for the paid vacation. Featured are: Elliot Gould, Roger Moore, Sonny Bono (with a young Chastity Bono), George P. Cosmatos, Jack Wiener, David Niven Jr, Claudia Cardinale, Stefanie Powers, Telly Savalas and Anthony Valentine.

Trailer

    An awkward, overlong trailer for the film. Ho Hum.

R4 vs R1

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

    Escape to Athena has been released in identical versions in Australia and the United Kingdom. The special features are identical to those on the DVD. It does not appear to have been released at all in the US on Blu-ray or DVD.

Summary

    A fun, though utterly disposable, action comedy from a day gone by. Escape to Athena shows its age on every front, which is as much to its benefit as its detriment.

    The film looks very good for its age and features its original 2.0 audio presented in a clean mix. The extras are decent, though lack variety.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Monday, January 18, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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