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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "The Bicycle Thief" or "Bicycle Thieves")

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/desica.htm
Italy 1948

Hailed around the world as one of the greatest movies ever made, Vittorio De Sica's Academy Award-winning Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) defined an era in cinema. In postwar, poverty-stricken Rome, a man, hoping to support his desperate family with a new job, loses his bicycle, his main means of transportation for work. With his wide-eyed young son in tow, he sets off to track down the thief. Simple in construction and dazzlingly rich in human insight, Bicycle Thieves embodied all the greatest strengths of the neorealist film movement in Italy: emotional clarity, social righteousness, and brutal honesty.

***

Vittorio De Sica's remarkable 1947 drama of desperation and survival in Italy's devastating post-war depression earned a special Oscar for its affecting power. Shot in the streets and alleys of Rome, De Sica uses the real-life environment of contemporary life to frame his moving drama of a desperate father whose new job delivering cinema posters is threatened when a street thief steals his bicycle. Too poor to buy another, he and his son take to the streets in an impossible search for his bike. Cast with nonactors and filled with the real street life of Rome, this landmark film helped define the Italian neorealist approach with its mix of real life details, poetic imagery, and warm sentimentality. De Sica uses the wandering pair to witness the lives of everyday folks, but ultimately he paints a quiet, poignant portrait of father and son, played by nonprofessionals Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola, whose understated performances carry the heart of the film. De Sica and scenarist Cesare Zavattini also collaborated on Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan, and Umberto D, all classics in the neorealist vein, but none of which approach the simple poetry and quiet power achieved in The Bicycle Thief.

Posters

Theatrical Release: November 4th, 1948 - Italy

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Comparison:

Arrow Academy (UK) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs. Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Arrow Film - Region 0 - PAL vs. Image - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Film Sans Frontieres - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Pavel Borodin for the Films Sans Frontieres DVD Screen Caps!

1) Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP LEFT

2) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC TOP MIDDLE  

3) Arrow Films - Region 0 - PAL TOP RIGHT

4) Image - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM LEFT

5) Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM RIGHT

 

DVD Box Covers

Distribution

Arrow Films
Region 'B' -
Blu-ray

Criterion Collection - Spine # 374

Region 1  - NTSC

Arrow Film Distribution

Region 0  - PAL

Image Entertainment

Region 0  - NTSC

Films Sans Frontieres
Region 0 - NTSC

Distribution

Arrow Films
Region 'B' -
Blu-ray

Criterion Collection - Spine # 374

Region 1  - NTSC

Arrow Film Distribution

Region 0  - PAL

Image Entertainment

Region 0  - NTSC

Films Sans Frontieres
Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:28:35.977 1:29:06 1:26:36 (4% PAL speedup) 1:28:54 1:24:42

Video

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 43,883,253,200 bytes

Feature: 22,312,814,592 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 27.06 Mbps

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 9.11 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.88 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.37:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.30 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.37:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.29
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Arrow Blu-ray

 

Bitrate:

Criterion

 

Bitrate:

Arrow

 

Bitrate:

Image

 

Bitrate:

Films Sans Frontieres

Audio

LPCM Audio Italian 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

Commentary: LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0), DUB: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)

Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0)

Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0), DUB: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)

Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 1.0)

Subtitles

English, and none English, and none

English, and none

English (non removable when Italian audio is chosen)

English, Spanish, French and none

Features

Release Information:
Studio: Arrow Films

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 43,883,253,200 bytes

Feature: 22,312,814,592 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 27.06 Mbps

 

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by Robert Gordon, Italian cinema expert and author of Bicycle Thieves (BFI Film Classics)
• ‘Cesare Zavattini’ a feature length documentary by director Carlo Lizzani on the great screenwriter, novelist, critic, long time De Sica collaborator and founder of Italian neorealism (55:42)
• ‘Timeless Cinema’, a documentary portrait of director, actor and screenwriter Vittorio De Sica (56:54)
• Original Trailer (5:05)
• Booklet including brand new writing on the film and a reprint of Cesare Zavattini’s ‘Some Ideas on the Cinema’, illustrated with original pictures

 

Blu-ray Release Date: April 18th, 2011
Blu-ray Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

 

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1

 

Edition Details:
• Working with De Sica, a collection of new interviews with screenwriter Suso Cecchi D'Amico, actor Enzo Staiola (Bruno), and film scholar Callisto Cosulich (22:40)
• Life as It Is, a new program on the history of Italian neorealism in cinema, with scholar Mark Shiel (39:52)
• Documentary on screenwriter and longtime Vittorio De Sica collaborator Cesare Zavattini, directed by Carlo Lizzani (55:36)

• 65-page book with multiple essays.

 

DVD Release Date: February 13th, 2007
3 -tiered Digipack inside cardboard box (see images below)

Chapters 20

Release Information:
Studio: Arrow Films

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.37:1

 

Edition Details:
• Timeless Cinema - a Documentary on Vittorio de Sica (54:32)

Poster, Artwork and Lobby Stills

• Theatrical trailer

 

DVD Release Date: February 20th, 2006
Transparent Keep Case

Chapters ?

Release Information:
Studio: Image Entertainment

 

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.37:1

 

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailer (3:56)

• Biographies/Filmographies of De Sica and this film

 

DVD Release Date: July 22, 1998
Snapper Case

Chapters 14

Release Information:
Studio: Films Sans Frontieres

Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.37:1

Edition Details:

• Filmography, Film notes


DVD Release Date: ?
Keep Case

Chapters 10

 

Criterion Package

 

 

Comments:
NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray (April 2011): Okay Arrow (along with Les Diaboliques Arrow Academy's First Releases!) brings one of the world's greatest cinema classics to Blu-ray in a Dual-Format package which includes a DVD of the film. This appears as thought it may be a different print - even from the Arrow DVD. I couldn't seem to match the same damage marks. Also the subtitle translation are different from the 2006 Arrow DVD. The image shows some DNR-like softness in a few scenes and may be brighter than some are anticipating (removing some detail or, at times, actually adding some) but there are plenty of scenes that look very impressive. I'd have appreciated more grain but there is surprising depth at times and some separation of contrasts. This may be the cleanest version I have seen of the Bicycle Thieves - as even the Criterion had some notable scratches. The 1080P image is either slightly horizontally stretched or the Criterion is vertically stretched (thinner faces). We seem to get an equal number of strong opinions either way once the topic is brought up. I lean to the Criterion being a shade squeezed as the other DVDs - as well as the Blu-ray - support the general proportions. Comparatively the Criterion may have some black level boosting looking at side-by-side captures. Bottom line is that I had the best presentation of the film that I have ever had and the screen captures below should speak for themselves. There are plus and minuses to each digital transfer but the higher resolution can definitely trump its weaknesses, imo. There is more than enough to extol here without bringing out the magnifying glass.

Audio is in a liner PCM track (also on the included DVD) and still has it's share of tinny-ness. It is the film I would most like to see a whole new audio restoration but have no idea of the effort or cost involved. Arrow have kept the Italian mono and the well-known music is still impacting - even with its flaws. I have heard the film sounding improved and the lossless can make a crispness that can occasionally translate to an effective edge. As mentioned there are optional English subtitles with a slightly different translation but expressing the same general meaning. The disc is region 'B'-locked Blu-ray.

Bicycle Thieves finally gets a much deserved audio commentary - and who better than by Robert Gordon; Italian cinema expert and author of Bicycle Thieves (BFI Film Classics). There is an array of impressive information at every turn and he was a pleasure to listen to. Included is the same documentary as found on the Criterion - described below as '...hour-long documentary simply called Cesare Zavattini about the screenwriter and longtime Vittorio De Sica collaborator. It is directed by Carlo Lizzani and has input from many sources. Scenarist Cesare Zavattini also collaborated on Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan, and Umberto D, each highly regarded classics in the neorealist vein. The featurettes make a keen base for learning about De Sica's legendary film expressions and the man himself.' As found on the Arrow DVD we get the Timeless Cinema documentary on De Sica plus a lengthy original trailer. Included is a comprehensive liner notes booklet featuring a brand new essay on the film by writer and film historian Michael Brooke as well as screenwriter Cesare Zavattini’s essay 'Some Ideas on the Cinema', illustrated with original stills and Lobby Cards. The artwork presentation packaging including three original posters and a newly commissioned artwork cover. 

Not only one of the most important neorealist films in the history of cinema but quoting Gordon's wonderful book; '...a necessary point of reference for any cinematic engagement with the labyrinthine experience of the modern city, the travails of poverty in the contemporary world, the complex bond between fathers and sons, and the capacity of the camera to capture something like the essence of all of these.' I see Bicycle Thieves as a wonderful starting point to introduce people to the value of non-mainstream cinema. I've show it to dozens of friends - most quietly stunned by its conclusion. Region 'B'-locked audiences shouldn't hesitate to pick this up. Arrow Academy deserves some kudos for the extensive extras - surely worth the price of admission alone.

***

ADDITION: Criterion - February -07: NOTE: Criterion have chosen to use the UK title, Bicycle Thieves, rather than the US one - The Bicycle Thief. The UK translation is considered by many vitally more accurate and germane to the narrative intent. Personally, I think it was an imperative.

Before we launch into our accolades, sadly the Criterion transfer is again pictureboxed (see our description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). With an earlier spine #, Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist, not being pictureboxed many fans had high expectations that the highly important film Bicycle Thieves would avoid this practice. Unfortunately in many cases cineophile's hopes have been dashed.  

On the positive the Criterion image is stronger than we have ever seen De Sica's masterpiece on digital before - sharper, better contrast - far less damage marks (or far lesser in intensity). It has an atmospheric bitrate of 9.11 mb/s. Perhaps not as dramatic a DVD improvement as, say, 'Late Spring' over previous releases - it still deserves strong recognition and a great vote of thanks for Criterion's efforts.

The often problematic audio (Italian mono) even sounds superior to my tin ear. The Criterion package states 'The soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from the 35mm optical soundtrack, and audio restoration tools were used to reduce clicks, pops, hiss, and crackle.' An English DUB soundtrack is optionally included (like the Image Entertainment DVD) but this reviewer did not test it.

Extras are not as extensive as one might have hoped - no commentary and the first disc houses only the feature film. On Disc 2 there are three featurettes (almost 2 hours in total) - each offered with optional English subtitles. Working with De Sica lasts about 22 minutes and is a collection of interviews with screenwriter Suso Cecchi D'Amico, actor Enzo Staiola (Bruno), and film scholar Callisto Cosulich. I found it enjoyable and interesting. Life as It Is runs about 40 minutes giving good background on the history of Italian neorealism hosted by scholar Mark Shiel. Finally there is an hour-long documentary simply called Cesare Zavattini about the screenwriter and longtime Vittorio De Sica collaborator. It is directed by Carlo Lizzani and has input from many sources. Scenarist Cesare Zavattini also collaborated on Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan, and Umberto D, each highly regarded classics in the neorealist vein. The featurettes make a keen base for learning about De Sica's legendary film expressions and the man himself. Included in the package is an 80-page book featuring 2 theory essays by Andre Bazin and Cesare Zavattini and a more extensive section entitled Remembrances with writings by De Sica, Sergio Leone and others. It has many black and white photos on pastel colored pages.

This could successfully be argued as the greatest film of all time... possibly without much, or any, opposition. It is a journey - both poetic and allegorical - one for those who view it can rarely forget. This film is it - the one you want all family members to view as you encourage them away from the latest Hollywood blockbuster fodder of the week. Criterion have procured their restoration magic and it is easily a must-own DVD package that will vault to our Essentials listing. Highly recommended!

***

ADDITION: Arrow Films - February - 06': Yes, I wasn't expecting a vast improvement - but there definitely is some. Thankfully it appears to be both progressive and from the correct standard. The Arrow films has the best contrast and grey tone of the three releases. I would say it is on a par for the detail (tie-ing with the Image Entertainment) but it doesn't have the major contrast boosting of the Film sans Frontieres or the minor contrast boosting of the Image Entertainment. For the most part it is pretty good. Where it scores another point over the Image disc are the English subtitles are optional on the Arrow release as opposed to mandatory. Damage marks are relatively consistent in all three but are more prone to visibility when there is boosting (as in the Image and Film sans Frontieres). Extras are another area that the Arrow Films DVD eclipses both other editions. The included, almost hour long, documentary may not be prime supplement material but it was worth watching - more for de Sica than The Bicycle Thief in general. There are some negatives with the Arrow release - it appears to have the same minor cropping as the Films sans Frontieres - on all 4 sides.... and there were some absentee spots in dialogue translation in the subtitles. Nothing devastating but still unpleasant to detect. If you can live with those weaknesses then the Arrow Films is the release for you - I'm happy, but not ecstatic with it. Can Criterion come to this films rescue?  Please? Arrow has done a superior job but the film warrants more.

***

The films sans Frontieres version has quite a few problems. It is cropped on all 4 sides (and zoomed in) and has significant contrast boosting. I can't figure out where the missing 4 minutes are on their DVD too. It looks like about 4% meaning PAL-NTSC, and I saw evidence of 'ghosting' . If any film out there deserves restoration, well, this is it. It MUST happen soon... so try to be patient. But in the interim pick up the Image Entertainment version.

- Gary W. Tooze

Note: The Arrow Films DVD does have a different title than the other compared releases:

The Blu-ray has the 'standard title (top)


 Menus

 

Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

.

Criterion - Disc 1

 

Criterion - Disc 2

 

Arrow Films - Region 0 - PAL

 



(Image - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)

 

 


 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC TOP MIDDLE  

3) Arrow Films - Region 0 - PAL - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC TOP MIDDLE  

3) Arrow Films - Region 0 - PAL - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC SECOND

3) Arrow Films - Region 0 - PAL THIRD

4) Image - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC SECOND

3) Arrow Films - Region 0 - PAL THIRD

4) Image - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC SECOND

3) Arrow Films - Region 0 - PAL THIRD

4) Image - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC SECOND

3) Arrow Films - Region 0 - PAL THIRD

4) Image - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 


1) Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC SECOND

3) Arrow Films - Region 0 - PAL THIRD

4) Image - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 More Arrow Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray


Recommended Books on Italian Cinema (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

DVD Box Covers

Distribution

Arrow Films
Region 'B' -
Blu-ray

Criterion Collection - Spine # 374

Region 1  - NTSC

Arrow Film Distribution

Region 0  - PAL


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Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray




 

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Gary Tooze

Many Thanks...