Sorry about the absence of posts and the shortage of new material. I have been a bit snowed under by work. I have a small stack of things to report on, and will get round to it very shortly…
The recent DVD from Anchor Bay was sharp enough but lacked a proper filmlike grayscale. That image, having very little in the way of midgray tones, appeared overly bright. All has been put right in Optimum’s new Blu-ray, which hardly seems struck form [sic] the same source – and, indeed, may not have been. Sharpness, resolution, and that most important aspect of black & white film, contrast control, are now nothing short of jaw dropping. Dimensionality is palpable, aided by a near absence of edge enhancement, which was somewhat evident on the DVD. There are many scenes against a bright, threatening sky where both foreground characters and sky that now appear in correct proportion and tonal balance. Interior shots have a reach out and touch it quality rare these days; clothing textures are equally realistic.
The audio is LCPM (2.3 Mbps – 48kHz/24-bit), which offers a much appreciated crispness, clarity, nuance and weight to the proceedings. Take for example the first outdoor model test very early on. It takes place at an airstrip, out of the way. On the Blu-ray we can clearly make out background sounds of other airplanes taxiing about as well as other machinery and people out of the frame; also, the sound of walking on wood planks is correctly manifest, where on the DVD we assume the wood only because we can see the people walking on them. Of greatest importance is that the uncompressed audio track permits an emotional inflection of voices utterly absent on the DVD. How else are we able to make sense out of and empathize with Michael Redgrave’s hesitant enthusiasm as he tries to sell his idea for the destruction of the dams, or Richard Todd’s boyish matter of fact delivery of the mission to his men? On the DVD if you close your eyes and just listen to the dialogue, there is very little in their speaking that supports the drama. Next to these improvements, the extra slam we hear from explosives on the Blu-ray is just icing on the cake.
Martin… started his war service flying Avro Lancaster bombers with the Royal Air Force 61 Squadron, where he was awarded his first Distinguished Flying Cross for completing 30 missions. The average life span for a bomber crew was just six missions.Based on his great flying skills he and his crew were invited to join the famous 617 Dambusters Squadron. Martin won his second DFC destroying the Kembs Barrage dam on the Rhine River with 617 Squadron. On that raid Martin’s crew watched in horror as the Lancaster in front exploded in a fireball after being hit by anti-aircraft fire. Pressing on, Martin’s bomb aimer Donald Day dropped a 9980kg Grand Slam or earthquake bomb before Martin nursed his crippled Lancaster back to England.Weeks later, Martin’s crew headed for Tromso in Norway to bomb the German battleship Tirpitz. Martin was also involved in the D-Day landings, bombing German beachhead gun installations.
Sgt Rooke joined the crew of Flying Officer ‘Mac’ Hamilton in 1943 at 1654 Conversion Unit, Wigsley in Nottinghamshire. His logbook records postings to 617 Squadron – the Dambusters; involvement in Operation Taxable, a ploy to confuse German radar on the eve of the D-day invasion by dropping metal foil in the area; and the deployment of Barnes Wallis’ Tallboy ‘earthquake’ bombs.Leonard came under enemy fire many times and behaved with steadfast courage. On one occasion, he tended a badly injured crew member as his damaged aircraft limped back across the Channel to make an emergency landing in Kent.Thanks to his calm presence of mind, although the injuries were very serious, the crew member’s legs were saved.
Peter Jackson is to receive the same accolade as that given to other great film directors such as Sir David Lean and Sir Alfred Hitchcock, with a knighthood. (Another report here.) Regular readers of this blog will know that amongst his future projects are a remake of The Dam Busters, the 1955 classic war film, which may start filming in late 2010 with a possible release in 2011. I’ve covered this story at length, and look forward to bringing you further news in the year to come.
In the meantime, a Happy New Year to all blog readers!