The Old Man and the Sea (1958) (NTSC)

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Released 6-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Notes-Behind The Scenes
Awards
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Hemingway-The Legend And The Sea
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1958
Running Time 86:38
RSDL / Flipper Dual Sided Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By John Sturges
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Spencer Tracy
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Dimitri Tiomkin


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Old Man fishes. That's all he does and that is all he has done for many years. But in his latter years, the sea has not been kind to the Old Man, and now it has been 84 days since he has had a catch. The locals think he has been struck with some curse of bad luck and many young fisherman laugh at his misfortune, while the older ones just look on with pity and knowing. This is what the sea can do. You cannot defeat fate and you can't help bad luck. Or can you?

    The Old Man has one ally in a young boy (played by Felipe Pazos). He used to fish with the Old Man once, but because of his bad luck, the boy has been told by his father to look for work in a more successful boat. Still, the young boy helps when he can and stays loyal to the Old Man as best he is able. One day the Old Man heads out to sea, as he always does in hope of a catch. This one day, he does get a catch, and a great one at that. The question is - can he keep the catch and can he make it home with it?

    This classic film was the recipient of several Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor: Spencer Tracy, Best Cinematography, Color (they separated the Academy Award for this category into Color and Black and White in 1958): James Wong Howe, and Best Music Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy  Picture (they separated the Academy Awards for this category into Scoring of a  Dramatic or Comedy Picture and Scoring of a Musical Picture in 1958): Dimitri Tiomkin, who went on to take the Academy Award.

    John Sturges takes on the difficult task in directing this film as it is, for the most part a one man play and is in stark contrast to his other pictures such as Gunfight at O.K. Corral (1957), The Magnificent Seven (1960), and The Great Escape (1963);  all of which were multi-character pieces. 95% of this film is basically Spencer Tracy on screen by himself with his thoughts serving as narration giving the viewer an insight into his life. Working with Ernest Hemingway's Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning story, John Sturges does a reasonable job in bringing to the screen what would normally be a difficult task. After all, how do you make a one man story come to life in a motion picture with little more that the sea,  a small boat and a big marlin as supporting characters? As would be expected, the film's charm comes from the film's star, screen legend Spencer Tracy. His performance is great, considering the limitations of the script. We sometimes see him on screen with his expressions reflecting all the words as the narrator describes what he is thinking. The two marry up quite well and completely integrate into one performance. A classic film that finally sees the light of day on DVD.

    One word of warning:  Do Not Read the Scene Index in the front of the DVD cover!  Doing so will reveal too much of the ending which if you haven't read the book, will spoil some of the film for you.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    We have here a fairly ordinary transfer to DVD with quite a few flaws, which is disappointing given the film's importance.

    The transfer is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The DVD back cover states that we have two versions of 1.85:1 on offer with one being a 4:3 transfer and one being an 16x9 enhanced transfer. This is a misprint. What we do have is a full frame version which is in 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. This is one of those Full Frame transfers that get film buffs and video purists in a great huff. While this film was shown theatrically in 1.85:1, this film was shot in 35 mm and then framed into 1.85:1. Thus, when viewing the full frame transfer, you see more image top and bottom while with the 1.85:1 transfer, you of course get more image at the sides. While the full frame transfer is an added novelty, the fact that we have the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 16x9 enhanced is the most important thing. Oh, and the DVD is NTSC formatted, so you will need to ensure that your equipment is capable of reproducing this DVD.

    Within the limitations of the transfer what we have here is reasonably sharp. As can be expected with a film of this age, we have an adequate level of shadow detail that doesn't present too many problems during some of the film's darker scenes. With many fields of blue sky during this feature, low level noise is thankfully kept at bay and is no real issue.

    This film's colour was produced in Warnercolor and is workable, though not totally natural in some scenes. Colours are fairly bright and vibrant and some of the scenes, especially the many skyline shots, look spectacular.

    MPEG artefacts are thankfully nowhere to be seen on this disc, but one transfer artefact which is on-screen much too often is edge enhancement. This artefact is overly pervasive, displaying itself any time we have a darker object against a lighter background such as a tree with the sky as background. This artefact is seen both in the natural shots within this film as well as in the several effects shots where some of the characters are in front of a projected background. It can be highly distracting at times and is almost omnipresent. Stand-out times for this artefact are 2:55, 5:40, 9:28, and 24:01, although this list could go much further. It shouldn't. Film artefacts also riddle this transfer with white specks and scratches on screen during most of the feature. Grain is also prevalent with this title. Perhaps this is the best print that was available for transfer to DVD, but once again the studios have decided that near enough is good enough and a substandard print was used to master this disc. If only the studios would make a more concerted effort to restore these prints and give us the best available transfer. Unfortunately, this treatment is reserved for only the most sought after and anticipated titles (and even then, it is not always the case).

    The subtitles on this DVD are in English and French. The English subtitles are quite accurate and are almost word for word, though not quite.

    This is a double sided single layered disc and as such has no layer change.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is adequate considering the age of the film and its content and while not remarkable, is up to the task as demanded by the movie.

    There are two audio tracks on this disc; English Dolby Digital 1.0 and French Dolby Digital 1.0

    The dialogue quality is never at issue with this disc and the spoken word is heard cleanly and clearly at all times.

    Audio sync is not a problem during this feature and is completely natural at all times.

    The music score for this film was composed and directed by Dimitri Tiomkin and took the Academy Award for Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, 1958. It is very much in the style of the period with sweeping strings and light melody. Not an overly remarkable score with memorable themes, but a nice soundtrack that accents the goings on on-screen.

    Given that this soundtrack is mono, there is no sound from the surround channels nor the subwoofer.

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

Extras

    We are offered a basic range of extras here with nothing of real standout value.

Menu

    The menu features the Old Man (Spencer Tracy) as he is depicted on the cover of the DVD. Our choices within the menu are:

    The Main Menu features music from the film's soundtrack that plays for 1:00 before looping for a second time. If no selection is made during the second loop, the disc defaults to Play Movie. The menu features music from the soundtrack in a  Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, despite the film's soundtrack being mono.

    Once you select the Special Features menu, we have the following on offer:

Cast and Crew

    This a very basic list of the main cast and crew with little more than what can be derived from the DVD cover. There is no audio.

Behind the Scenes

    This is a short text-based feature that, over several short pages, gives a brief background to the film and its making.

Awards

    Lists the various awards given to this title. It is a single page with no audio.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented here is the original theatrical trailer, which is basically a storybook with illustrations on show. A hand turns each page while a narrator describes the movie. Not overly remarkable and features no moving or still shots from the finished film. This feature is matted and when watched displays black bands at the sides of the image as well as the top and bottom if viewed on a 4:3 display. This trailer runs for 1:48 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack and is 16x9 enhanced.

Hemingway:  The Legend and the Sea

    This is a short documentary which features some footage of Earnest Hemingway on a boat catching marlin just like in the film. It is fairly short at 3:09 and is presented in full frame and not 16x9 enhanced. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

R4 vs R1

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

    This title has been offered in R1 and R4 as an identical disc. Because this title is identical in every way to the R1 disc, including its NTSC mastering, there is no preference to whatever transfer might be the best as they are the same.

Summary

    While the source of this film is almost considered unfilmable (they said that about Trainspotting as well), we do have here a classic film featuring a true star of cinema (Spencer Tracy), and an award-winning story that surpasses time.

    The video is adequate, though displaying far too much edge enhancement and film artefacts.

    The audio is adequate and within the confines of mono, serves the film well.

    A total remaster of this title is warranted as a clean and clear video transfer is not to be found here and the mono audio mix leaves the film sounding flat. At the bare minimum, a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix would have served this film well.

    The extras are thin on the ground and offer just the basics. Perhaps a more thorough documentary would have helped put more perspective on both the film and its conception. Still, an important film sees the light of day on DVD, if not in the best light. Recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A300-MU, using S-Video output
DisplayHitachi CP-L750W LCD Projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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