Moby Dick (1956)

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Released 12-Aug-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1956
Running Time 110:28
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:11) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Huston

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Gregory Peck
Richard Basehart
Frederick Ledebur
Case ?
RPI $31.95 Music Philip Sainton

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles German 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

     Moby Dick (1956) is one of the better known film adaptations of the famous novel of the same name by Herman Melville. There have been at least two movie versions of Moby Dick, and a 1998 made-for-television version starring Patrick Stewart. This version, which was produced and directed by John Huston, is not necessarily the best, but it is perhaps the best remembered. I recall watching this movie as a child, when it would appear on television as a Sunday matinee. I recall vividly the creepiness of Captain Ahab skulking about in the shadows, and the raw adventure of the open sea.

    Alas, as is so often the case, I remember the movie far more fondly than it deserves. Holding this movie up to the searching light of a review exposes it as being poorly paced and rather weak. The themes of fate, vengeance and obsession are dealt with rather tamely in this 1950s version. Indeed, while the themes of the plot might be timeless, the way it they are presented are very dated.

    The story is set in the early 19th century, at a time when whaling was a honourable profession. The plot of the movie basically covers the plot of the novel, but as one would expect it has been grossly simplified, and most of the sub-plots and subtitles removed. Ishmael (Richard Basehart) is the narrator of the story. He arrives in the town of New Bedford, Massachusetts with dreams of becoming a whaler. There he makes friends with a harpooner named Queequeg (Frederick Ledebur). Together they sign up as crew on the whaling vessel, the Pequod, which has a mysterious Captain Ahab (Gregory Peck). Captain Ahab is an intimidating and evil figure. The great white whale, Moby Dick, has crushed Ahab's body and soul "until they bled into each other" on their previous encounter. Ahab, now badly scarred and left with a peg leg, is bitter and enraged. Wrapped up in one of those classic 'man versus nature' themes, Ahab is willing to risk everything, including his ship and his crew, to satisfy his lust for vengeance. Out at sea, the great white whale has been sighted by another ship, and the Pequod sets sail to intercept Moby Dick.

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Transfer Quality


    How can I put this politely? This is a really old movie, in very poor condition. The transfer is limited by the gross shortcomings of the source material.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, pan and scan. This transfer really suffers from the pan and scan treatment. For example, on a number of occasions, one of the main characters in a scene will have half their face cut off while they're speaking, such as at 17:41 and 37:49. In the last example, Captain Ahab is giving a speech with half his face removed by the pan and scan process.

    The sharpness of the image is poor throughout - for example, consider the blurry scenes at 23:18 and 43:29. The shadow detail is also poor, such as at 49:28, a scene which reveals zero shadow detail.

    The colours of the image appear generally washed-out and very drab. Some of the images are even murky -- time has been most unkind.

    MPEG artefacts and film-to-video artefacts were not a problem, although there was some very slight telecine wobble on occasion.

    This transfer suffers from the WORST film artefacts I have ever seen -- large black or white marks, hairs, scratches, -- they're all here,  often all at once in varying combinations. A plethora of film artefacts appear consistently throughout the movie and they are very distracting.

    There are five sets of subtitles, but none of them are in English.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 60:11. It is very smooth and as it is between scenes, it is not disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Originally released theatrically in mono, the DVD's audio retains the movie's original mono flatness.

    There are five Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono) audio tracks, including one in English.

    The dialogue quality is acceptable for the age of the movie, but the audio sync has problems throughout.

    The musical score is credited to Philip Sainton, and it is your traditional 1950s melodramatic orchestral score.

    Obviously there is no surround presence and activity, nor any great subwoofer action.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is only one extra.


    A very simple menu, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is static and silent.

Original Theatrical Trailer (3:04)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono) audio.

R4 vs R1

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

    Moby Dick was released on DVD in Region 1 in June 2001. Their version seems pretty much the same, except that it has less language and subtitle options.


    Moby Dick is a classic novel with timeless themes. This 1956 movie version of that novel is dated, and it has been very poorly presented on this DVD.

    The video quality is dreadful.

    The audio quality is acceptable for a 1950s mono track.

    The extras are slim.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Friday, August 16, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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