"Mutiny on the Bounty" HD DVD review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 2 Old 10-31-07, 01:00 PM Thread Starter
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Richard W. Haines
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"Mutiny on the Bounty" HD DVD review

I had already purchased and screened the special edition standard DVD of this movie prior
to purchasing the new HD DVD. In general the HD DVD is sharper and finer grain which in
the case of this film, makes a big difference.

Even within the 16:9 ratio, "Mutiny in the Bounty" has thick black borders on top and bottom
to encompass the incredible 2.76 x 1 aspect ratio. That's the same ratio as three panel
Cinerama. Although the movie has outstanding cinenematography, so much
of the video image contains black borders, the added resolution is necessary.

So you're probably wondering, why on earth did they use this ratio? You have to go back in
time to 1952 where all of the studios were trying to simulate, if not replicate, the runaway
success of "This is Cinerama'. It's one of the most successful independent movies ever made.

You also have to credit the zany Michael Todd for bringing it to theaters. Back in
World War II, Fred Waller and others created a bizarre gunnary trainer for pilots by simulating
actual combat with multiple cameras and screens synchronized together. A mock cock pit
was placed in front of a huge multi-screen/multi-projector rig to give the illusion they were
in a real situation. Reportedly, this simulation helped the pilots and saved American
lives in the field. After the war, Waller and partners pitched a modified three camera/three projector version to Hollywood. They had filmed a choir rehearsal with the three camera rig and the Atom Blaster Roller Coaster for industry personnel on Long Island and projected it onto a deeply curved
screen. Producers saw it and said 'so what' except for Todd who screened it and suggested putting
the roller coaster first to 'wow' audiences away from their television sets. They liked his approach
so Todd and his son went back and reshot the roller coaster in Eastmancolor along with other
European locations as a 'test' film. Other American footage was shot and this 'test/demo' movie
ended up being released in theaters under the name "This is Cinerama" and broke boxoffice records
everywhere. I saw a revival in Dayton, Ohio, in the nineties and must say it was a great piece
of showmanship and entertainment but not a great process. I saw the dividing panels between
the three image which I found very annoying once you got beyond the enormous
scope of the image.

In any event, Todd sold off his stock in the Cinerama company to create the Todd-AO 70mm process
which had the wide image 'out of one hole'. Sort of. Todd-AO (later just 70mm) was a very sharp widescreen process but not as wide as Cinerama. Todd-A0/Panavision 70/Super Panavision 70 had
an aspect ratio of 2.21 x 1. Certainly greater than standard 1.33 and television's
comparable 3 x 4 ratio but not Cinerama's 2.76 x 1. So how do you replicate that ratio without using
three cameras (and the panel joins)? MGM created "MGM Camera 65" in 1957. All they did was to put an anamorphic ("Cinemascope") lens on a 65mm camera to
generate an un-squeezed 70mm image that was the same ratio as Cinerama (2.76 x 1) but without
the panel joins. The first movie shot in this format was "Raintree County" followed by
"Ben Hur". The remake of "Mutiny on the Bounty" also utilized it under the new name of "Ultra-Panavision 70".

As I said previously, with such a thin image, the HD DVD allows more fine grain and detail than the
standard anamorphically enhanced DVD. In the HD
DVD, you can see the details of the background title design that the credits are superimposed onto.
You also see more detail in the Tahitian plants and vegitation.

What about the movie? Well it's a mixed bag. You have to get used to Brando's bizarre interpertation
of Fletcher Christian as a fop. He has a convincing accent (Brando was a great mimic) but did not play the role as a heroic character.
The rest of the cast is topnotch with Trevor Howard my favorite Bligh. None of this has much.
to do with the historical characters. All of the problems were on the trip home
and the voyage to Tahiti had no incidents. Bligh was not the tyrant as portrayed
in this movie nor was Christian a good officer. Unfortunately, the historical
characters are not the stuff of great drama so they exagerated and altered
history to be more exciting. This is an above average 'version' of the story and the scenery and Technicolor is spectacular. Certainly this disc is one that justifies to switch to HD. You feel like you're on location with the razor sharp imagery even though it was a very thin on my 10 foot screen.

I also like the nostalgic 'Roadshow' presentation with overture and entre-acte. This movie has
one of those great "take her out to sea" sequences common in this type of picture. Similar to the
one in "Titanic". A real epic feel to it, something that is missing from most of contemporary cinema
even if the running time is long. As in the standard DVD, the original prologue and epilogue is included
but not in the main feature. Personally, I would've restored them officially since they help explain
why Hayden is narrating the tale (even though the real life gardener left with Bligh)
and ties the narrative together.

As for Brando's peformance...well he's weird...but Brando is usually weird. Was he a great actor? I'm not sure. He had more flops
than hits. He's interesting to watch in his prime but grotesque in his decline (post "Apocalypse Now"). A strange movie star with a real screen presence even if
his method acting seems a bit mannered and over the top now. (The only thing
campier is watching James Dean do a Brando impression in "Giant"). As a director, I never would have wanted to work with
him. By all accounts, he was difficult if not impossible to direct. As a person.. well his history speaks
for itself. He had a torrid affair with his leading lady in "One Eyed Jacks" who commited suicide.
He had a torrid affiar with his leading lady in "Night of the Following Day" who attempted suicide
but survived. He had a torrid affair with his leading lady in "Last Tango in Paris" who had a nervous
breakdown. His son killed his daughter's boyfriend and she later comitted suicide. He obviously
messed with people's heads and was not a nice person to put it politely. He refused to take direction in "Mutiny" to the point of putting ear plugs in so he couldn't hear the director. He also refused to be directed by Frank Oz in one of his last films and would only be directed by co-star De Niro. Brando stopped
taking his craft seriously in the eighties and became so obese, he's barely recognizable from
his earlier performances. I happen to like him in this film although he does throw the narrative off
balance strutting around while making wisecracks to the Captain
and crew. Still...he's fascinating to watch with all that posing and brooding. Howard, Harris and the supporting players are excellent without reservation and much more
realistic in their portrayals. And those Technicolor sunsets in HD DVD are breathtaking.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 10-31-07 at 09:11 PM.
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post #2 of 2 Old 12-27-07, 03:43 AM Thread Starter
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Richard W. Haines
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Posts: 792
Re: "Mutiny on the Bounty" HD DVD review

I thought I'd mention that when I first played this disc, it was on the new Toshiba HDX2 which
generated a spectacular picture but had problems with the synch drifting in and out. I recently
installed the firmware update and it corrected the synch problem for every disc except for this
one. The second half of the movie, after the intermission, still has rubbery synch. I checked
the standard DVD of the film and it played fine so I don't know if this particular disc is flawed
or all HD DVD copies of the movie have a synch problem with the second part of the film.
It's not unwatchable like this but a bit distracting even when you compensate for the fact
that much of the film was post-dubbed anyway because of the noisy location conditions
and Brando's typical mumbling of his lines during principal photography.
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