Jesus Christ Superstar (2000)

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Released 11-Apr-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Featurette-Making Of
Trailer-3
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 106:58
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Nick Morris
Gale Edwards
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Glen Carter
Jerome Pradon
Renee Castle
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Andrew Lloyd Webber


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German
Dutch
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    I suppose it is possible that some of you haven't heard of Jesus Christ Superstar. After all, some of you are under 30 years old. So why should you be interested in a 30 year old musical work? Let's see now:     Jesus Christ Superstar is arguably the best thing ever written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I can remember hearing more and more about it in the early 70s (hey, I'm old - I'm allowed to remember that far back!). The noise about it started slowly, but built up until everyone knew about it. It made a bigger impact than any of their later work (yes, it was bigger than Cats). I bought a copy of the original double album (on vinyl - this was before CDs), and wore it out playing it over and over - I know the words to all of the songs.

    I have a list of movies I want to buy when they come out on DVD - movies I have always wanted to own. The movie of Jesus Christ Superstar (made in 1973) was on that list. When this disc came up for review I was a bit reluctant to review it, because I feared I would be comparing it unfavourably with the movie; I haven't seen the movie recently, and therefore I'd be visualizing it through the rose-coloured glasses of memory. Moreover, the cover of this disc states boldly "a new stage production" - my reaction was "oh, yippee zip - someone has pointed a camera at the stage" - I dislike filmed stage productions. Why am I telling you all this? Because I don't want you to make the same mistakes - if you like Jesus Christ Superstar, then you should buy this disc. Now!

    The original productions of Jesus Christ Superstar were put on in the 1970s. That implied flairs, caftans, fringes, all the things that got the 70s the reputation of "the decade that fashion forgot". When they decided to stage a new production of Jesus Christ Superstar for the 25th anniversary, they decided to update the look. What they did is impressive. Costumes are contemporary, but somewhat timeless.

    When they decided to film this production they didn't simply point a camera at the stage. They redeveloped the production for film, and shot it at Pinewood Studios, on purpose-built sets. They ran three cameras at once, one of them on a remote-control crane, and another on a Steadicam harness. There's no escaping it being a performance - this is an opera, after all, with every word sung - but we get close-ups, different angles - it doesn't feel like a stage performance. And it doesn't feel like a video clip, either.

    The performance opens with the overture, during which we get the initial credits. In the background, the director shows us the setting of the production - we see hard stone walls, lots of graffiti in English and French, menacing guard-like figures in black breastplates and long leather trench-coats, disgruntled people sitting around. This struck me as the best possible use of the overture time - it gives us an excellent introduction. It segues into Heaven On Their Minds. As Jerome Predon (Judas) sang this song I know so well, I was impressed. He was not singing it in the same way as I remembered, but he was singing it well. I remember very clearly the impact of the original movie's version of this song - Judas was standing up high and singing - Jesus and the crowd around him were below, ignoring Judas. Here Judas was singing to Jesus, in amongst the disciples. It made more sense - Judas is trying to persuade Jesus that things are coming off the rails, and that Jesus should be more careful. And Jesus reacts to Judas, not in words, but in body language. This increases the impact. And this isn't the only place where this performance provides more context for the songs. As the director explains in the "Making Of", they were aiming for a whole performance, not a bunch of singles, strung together. They succeeded brilliantly.

    I strongly recommend that you allow enough time when you sit down to watch this, and make sure you have any refreshment you want before you start the disc. This performance is riveting, and there are no good moments to stop. You'll be swept up, and carried along with the music.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I make notes while I watch. Looking at my notes, I see I have scribbled "RAZOR-SHARP" early in the piece, and underlined it repeatedly. This is an impressive transfer.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. It will fill a widescreen TV set perfectly. It is discs like this that make me glad I have a widescreen display.

    The image is clear and sharp. There are moments of minor film grain, lessening the sharpness, but I believe these to be deliberate, a delicate veil over the image for effect. There is good shadow detail, even in the meeting room of the High Priest Caiaphas, which appears subterranean, and somewhat dimly lit. There is no low-level noise.

    Considering the theatrical lighting, with coloured lights and spots, the colours are very well rendered. The costumes and sets are generally fairly dull in colour, although Mary's dark red dress is an exception. This makes the visit to Herod, and the climactic Superstar number, stand out. The glossy red PVC outfits in Superstar are shown beautifully - not the slightest hint of oversaturation. Pilate's purple cloak and collar tabs show up well, too.

    There are no MPEG artefacts, nor is there any significant amount of aliasing. The film was pristine - not a fleck, hair, or scratch to be seen.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer change coming at 72:53. It comes after Herod has completed his introductory words, and is about to start his patter song. There's a slight pause, but it is not distracting. Because it comes at a moment of silence it does not interrupt the music. There is no perfect place for a layer change in this performance, but this one will do fine.

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

Audio

    This is a rock opera. Sound is the reason for its existence, so we have high expectations of sound quality... This disc lives up to those expectations.

    There are two audio tracks on this disc. We get a stereo mix, and a 5.1 mix. You may not be aware that the sound engineers must, on occasion, modify a 5.1 soundtrack so that it sounds good in stereo if the 5.1 track is the only mix on the disc. Fortunately this disc's 5.1 soundtrack has not been compromised, because there is a separate stereo track. The 5.1 soundtrack is recorded at 448 Kb/s, rather than 384Kb/s, for extra fidelity.

    The diction of the performers was particularly good. Every word of the soloists was clear and understandable. I was easily able to pick out where the occasional word or phrase differed from the recording I know so well. Generally, the alterations scanned a little better. For example, in Poor Jerusalem there is a line in the original that reads: "You'd see the truth, but you close your eyes"; here it is "You'd see the truth, but you live a lie". It is normal for musical numbers to change / evolve during long runs. Often a song is added or deleted. The original movie, and this performance, include Could We Start Again Please?, a number not on the original album. This performance of that number features marvellous harmonies between Peter and Mary (where's Paul?).

    I did not notice any audio sync problems, despite the fact that there must have been considerable miming going on - a lot of the choreography would have precluded live recording. More good work.

    The music is another impressive feature of this disc. Andrew Lloyd Webber's score is wonderful, and this arrangement is perfect. Some of the softer numbers are accompanied by acoustic guitar. Others begin with one or two instruments, then pick up orchestral accompaniment as the emotion rises. This is a more dramatic rendering of the score, but that is appropriate - the action taking place on-screen deserves it. The instruments range from acoustic guitar, through rock guitar and bass, to full orchestra.

    The surrounds were used, although often it was more of an orchestral envelopment, or a deep stereo, feeling. There aren't a lot of sound effects, so we don't get ambient noises in the rear sound field.

    The subwoofer is beautifully integrated into the soundtrack, providing deep bass extension for the music. Caiaphas, as played by Frederick B Owens, has a very deep voice - I was wondering if he was coming through the subwoofer.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static and silent, but it is 16x9 enhanced. It's simple but functional.

Featurette-Making Of

    This is excellent. It is presented in 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 video, with Dolby Digital stereo sound. It includes interviews with Tim Rice, Andrew Lloyd Webber, the director of the theatrical production, the director of the film version, the choreographer, and some of the cast. It includes a few shots from earlier productions, and shows quite clearly some of the differences between this version and the earlier ones.

Trailer

    There are three trailers on this disc: one for this disc, one for Cats, and one for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. All are presented in non-16x9 video, with Dolby Digital stereo sound. The first two are 1.78:1, but Joseph seems to be about 1.66:1.

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 version of this disc misses out on:     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:     The two versions are essentially the same other than the minor extras. I haven't seen the R1, but I was so impressed with the R4 that I can't believe the R1 is enough better to make up for being NTSC instead of PAL - I have to recommend the R4.

Summary

    If you like Jesus Christ Superstar, then get this disc. If you don't know it, then consider this if you like rock or pop music with meaningful lyrics.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are fine, although I'd have loved a commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, April 28, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics matte white screen with a gain of 1.0 (280cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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