Lawrence Of Arabia 4K Ultra HD

Featured In Issue 250, June/July 2020

WSR Score5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
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David Lean
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Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1
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The new, digitally restored and remastered 4K Ultra HD edition of "Lawrence Of Arabia" starts out with a black screen while the Roadshow Overture portion of the film plays. If it bothers you, just imagine being in the audience when the film first was released. The theatre is filling up with people, they're settling into their seats, adjusting their handbags and jackets, and anticipating an exciting few hours lost in the sand-swept deserts of the Middle East. Better? As the film runs long, it is presented on two discs for optimal bitrate with an intermission. In the theatre there was also an intermission; and on the disc there is a black screen and music there, too...and at the Finale as we gather our belongings and quietly exit for the lobby. The film is a magnificent cinematic masterpiece from Director David Lean. Peter O'Toole stars as T.E. Lawrence, the legendary Englishman who united the Arab tribes against the Turks during World War I, 1917-1918 Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards® and won seven: Best Picture (beating out "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Mutiny On The Bounty," "The Music Man," and "The Longest Day"—what a year!), Director, Cinematography (Color), Art Direction (Color), Score (Substantially Original), Film Editing, and Sound. (Gary Reber)

In addition to "Lawrence Of Arabia, the Volume 1 collection features "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington," "Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb," "Gandhi," "A League Of Their Own" and "Jerry Maguire." Each film is fully restored in 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range (HDR). The six films in the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection are only available on 4K Ultra HD disc within this special collector's set with a limited-edition run of fewer than 8,000 units in the U.S. Included with the collection is a gorgeous hardbound 80-page book, featuring in-depth sections about the making of each film within the set via an all-new essay written by acclaimed film historian Julie Kirgo. In addition, the set also includes an exclusive disc featuring excerpts from Columbia Pictures' televised 50th anniversary special, which originally aired in 1975 and has never been officially available. These excerpts feature rare on-camera insights from such luminaries as Frank Capra, Phil Silvers and Orson Wells. This exclusive disc also includes the vintage behind-the-scene documentary "Mr. Attenborough and Mr. Gandhi," which was filmed on the set of "Gandhi" and features interviews with cast and crew. (Gary Reber)

Special features include a Bonus View "Secrets Of Arabia" picture-in-graphics track; an interview/featurette "Peter O'Toole Revisits Lawrence Of Arabia" (HD 21:07); "The Making Of Lawrence of Arabia" documentary (HD 61:29); "In Love With The Desert" documentary; deleted Balcony Scene with introduction by Anne V. Coates; a conversation with Steven Spielberg (HD 08:49); the following featurettes: "The Lure Of The Desert: Martin Scorsese On Lawrence Of Arabia," "Maan, Jordan: The Camels Are Cast" (SD 02:00), "In Search Of Lawrence" (SD 05:00), "Romance Of Arabia" (SD 04:37), and "Wind, Sand And Star: The Making Of A Classic" (1970) (SD 04:32); "King Hussein Visits Lawrence Of Arabia Set" (HD ) and "Lawrence At 50: A Classic Restored"; three archival interviews on "Lawrence Of Arabia": Steven Spielberg, William Friedkin and Sydney Pollack; the New York Premiere (SD 01:08); an advertising campaign featurette (SD 04:51); vintage trailers and TV spots and a Movies Anywhere digital code.

The 2.19:1 2160p HEVC/H.265 Ultra HD HDR10 picture, reviewed on a Sony Bravia Z9D 4K Ultra HD HDR display, was photographed in Super Panavision 70 on 70 mm and 35 mm Eastman film stock using the Mitchell BFC 65 mm and Mitchell FC 65 Model camera systems and sourced from a 4K master Digital Intermediate format. The film was remastered in 2020 from the original negative elements. The result is a beautiful filmic masterpiece presentation. While light grain remains, sharpness and clarity are impressive, especially for such a dated film. The imagery shows no signs of wear nor unwanted artifacts or digital processing. Resolution reveals find detail throughout, such as fine grains of desert sand and sweeping desert vistas. Clothing intricacies are revealing. Facial features reveal complex complexions, lines and textures. Closeups are stunning in their naturalness and tonality. Color fidelity is wonderful, exhibiting a wide color gamut of nuanced hues. Colors are vibrant and strongly saturated, while rich and warm in tone. Instances of earthen terrains are numerous, especially sandy vistas. As well, fleshtones are healthy in appearance throughout. HDR contrast is spectacular with incredible variances in light. Deep blacks in clothing and revealing shadow delineation are impressive, such as in the segment with the English General Allenby's living quarters and the cave in which Lawrence and Sharif Ali camp for a night. White robes and highlights dazzle. Colorful contrast between blue skies and desert sand are amazing. WOW! segments on Disc 1 are from 17:43 to 20:47, 38:58 to 40:36, 01:26:46 to 01:29:36, 1:35:34 to 01:39:33, 01:41:40 to 01:43:07, 01:48:26 to 01:49:10 and 01:56:36 to 01:59:18. Disc 2 segments are from 11:53 to 14:12, 01:06 19 to 01:06:54 and 01:08:13 to 01:11:08.

Any indication of artifacts is absent, with the film showing no signs of wear. This is the best that the film has ever looked on a home video format. The imagery is beautiful and timeless, and remarkably filmic. (Gary Reber)

The original multichannel magnetic soundtrack was very well restored for the previous Blu-ray release, with background hiss and archival-related artifacts remarkably low or entirely absent. This restoration carries over to this Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1-channel soundtrack. The primary multi-dimensional element is certainly Maurice Jarre's legendary and magnificent orchestral score, which has a sweeping, enveloping presence that totally surrounds you with prominent surround envelopment. While Jarre's music is certainly the major sound element that shapes the holosonic® experience, the only limitation with the music is the dated recording and fidelity, as well as compression. Still, Jarre's haunting score has never sounded better. In the absence of the music, the audio is usually of a quiescent nature, generally originating from the screen channels with subtle surround extension, but also comes alive in scenes with the vintage stereophonic rendering of battle sequences. Voices are presented with remarkable clarity, though, the dated recording limits their natural tonality, as would be expected. The soundtrack repurposing includes the incorporation of low-frequency enhancement and the .1 LFE channel, typically with the music, but also with some effects, such as train moving along tracks. The sound of a train is spectacular with screeching stops and steam blasts, as well as an explosion of a train with extremely intense, powerful deep bass that penetrates. In other scenes, horses and camels stampede through the soundfield with intensity, and aircraft flying overhead dropping bombs. Ambient effects are well crafted, including subtle environmental effects and segments of potent gusty wind. Further, Foley sound effects are precise and gunfire and machine gunfire is powerful.

The Immersive Sound element is comprised of the extension of the orchestral score to the height layer and various atmospherics and sound effects, such as Lawrence's motorcycle sounds and crash, environmental din, subtle dialogue, distant gunfire, clap and voice echo, prop airplane engines panned front to back, and bomb explosions and machine gunfire, howling wind, women howling on mountainsides, yelling riders on horses and camels, a powerful sandstorm and wind, a train explosion and machine gunfire, flares, reverberant voices in a cave, a pounding gun handle on a desk and other effects. This is a very satisfying height layer treatment.

This is certainly a sonic restoration and remastering effort that is worthy of commendation and brings back to the audience much of the glory of the original 70 mm magnetic stereo sound, and a perfect complement to this classic film. (Gary Reber)