H D - S E N S E I

A view on Hi-def DVDs by Gary W. Tooze


Introduction: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 5600 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:
Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)
Harmon Cardon DD/DTS receiver
Ascent (main) + Boston Acoustics (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze







Capricorn One [Blu-ray DVD]

(Peter Hyams, 1978)













Production: ITV DVD (UK) Blu-ray vs. LionsGate (Special Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC

NOTE: This Blu-ray, although originating in the UK (Region B), IS Region 0 and will play on any Blu-ray machine in the world.

Video resolution: 1080p vs. 720P
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (both)

English: Dolby Digital Mono (Blu-ray) vs. 5.1 or 2.0 (SD)

English SDH, none (Blu-ray)  vs. English, Spanish or none (SD)

Feature 20.025 GB (Blu-ray) vs. 7.6 (total SD disc)

Runtime: 2:03:08 (incorrectly listed on the Blu-ray case as 118 minutes) vs. 2:03:24 (SD)


• none vs. Commentary and featurette on the SD-DVD


Disc: single-layered Blu-ray vs. dual-layered SD
Release Date: October 29th, 2007 vs. October 14th, 2008
Standard Blu-Ray case

Synopsis: The government attempts to fake a mission to Mars, but when the astronauts learn that part of the scenario includes a 'tragic accident' on the way home, they attempt an escape. A forerunner of the non-stop action suspense movie with terrific aerial stunts and an all-star cast



....as a breathless public stands by for the first American flight to Mars, the astronauts are bundled away to a desert location where NASA intends to secretly simulate the whole thing for the TV networks of the world. For a while the film makes the most of the surrealism of this eerie conceit with some effective juxtapositions of illusion and reality as the spacemen play kiddy-cars in their clandestine studio. But pretty soon the project gets bogged down in innumerable difficulties...

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE.



The Film:

Peter Hyams' cynical, paranoid thriller looked particularly eerie in the wake of the Columbia disaster. Three astronauts (James Brolin, Sam Waterston, and O.J.) are set to embark on the first manned flight to Mars. At the last minute they're pulled aside and Hal Holbrook explains that the life-support systems were faulty, but that NASA can't afford to blow its credibility by cancelling the flight. So the astronauts are forced to go along with a faked Mars-walk.

Then the unforeseen happens when the unmanned Capricorn One explodes on re-entry. The astronauts realize that in the eyes of the world, they're dead, and NASA means to make that part true. So the men escape to the desert and split off into separate directions. Elliott Gould is the disreputable reporter who's on to the cover-up. The excellent cast also includes Brenda Vaccaro as Brolin's "widow," Karen Black as Gould's reporter acquaintance and would-be lover, James Karen as the vice-president, David Huddleston (the Big Lebowski himself) as a congressman, and Telly "Keep your goddamn head down" Savalas in a great funny bit as a cropduster pilot.

Excerpt from efilmcritic located HERE





The Video:

Origina comments about the Blu-ray: Aside from the film being a bit of a conspiracy hoot (another from, Russian impresario, Sir Lew Grade - like The Boys From Brazil) I was very interested to get my hands on this Blu-ray. For one reason, ITV DVD, in the UK, are the ones coming out with Black Narcissus in Blu-ray in June (as well as the aforementioned The Boys from Brazil). Not only did I want to see the quality - I find it momentarily comforting that it is region 0 and can be played worldwide on all Blu-ray machines. On to Capricorn One - it looks far better than I was anticipating. The aspect ratio seems to report that it is not from the 70mm print of the film (that would give us a 2.2:1 ratio) as this DVD is 2.35:1 - Panavision. Colors are bright, detail is fairly impressive and there is far less digital noise in monochromatic scenes (skies and blanket darkness) that I would have anticipated. There is no discernable damage and it certainly looks far better than its 30-year old age. I don't know that the screen grabs below do it full justice. Now, don't get expectations too stratospheric - but it does look light years ahead of the original SD version I own. I'm quite satisfied.


Comparison: The SD shows its inherent transfer weaknesses with less detail, color depth and my big pet peeve - the motley yellow/orange skin tones that the Blu-ray vastly improves appearing far truer. It's not much of a contest visually as the Blu-ray advances fairly dramatically in all areas. As far as progressive, anamorphic SD goes - for a film of this age the image is very good but it only takes up about 1/3 of the space of the Blu-ray which towers above it.


NOTE: the Blu-ray case states a 4:3 ratio which is obviously incorrect.

NOTE: At the time of this review the Amazon SD-DVD cover was incorrect. The correct one is above.        



Screen Captures


(LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs.  ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM)


(LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs.  ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM)


(LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs.  ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs.  ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs.  ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs.  ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs.  ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs.  ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs.  ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs.  ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs.  ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM)



(LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs.  ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM)



Audio: on the Blu-ray: No artificial bumps which seems somehow appropriate, but the listed mono audio can't possibly be correct. The film has some real explosively loud moments and there is some separation. Another review reported this as 4.0 and it may very well be accurate. Bottom line, no matter what it is, gives a full sound both clear and consistent enough to appreciate the film on a grand level. There are no DUBs offered. Goldsmith's score is fabulous - one of his best. There is a choice of subtitles in English (CC) in a narrow/bond font that is acceptably readable.

The SD offers choice of a 5.1 or 2.0 and it expectantly sounds better to my ear but not dramatically so. I was okay with the Blu-ray audio but this does show superiority - albeit as an artificial bump to 5.1. The mix is not the most boisterous we've ev4er heard but for a 30 years old film it's pretty okay.


Extras:There are no extra features at all on this Blu-ray. The SD commentary is super. Peter Hyams admits he hasn't seen the film since its theatrical debut (30 years ago) and relegates some good production information. He diverts a bit to talk about O.J. and how he cast his own wife's 'ass' in the film (uncreditied). He has a controlled manner and speaks very well. The SD also offers a featurette, "Flights of Fancy - The Politics and Paranoia of Capricorn One". It runs about 17 minutes and is also worth a spin if you are keen. A theatrical trailer is also included.     


(ITV DVD (UK) Region FREE Blu-ray LEFT vs. LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)



BOTTOM LINE: The film comes across as a production mish-mash but aside from the silly slow-mo ending I have always enjoyed it. I'm so glad to report the ITV Blu-ray is up to the transfer challenge visually (and aurally). Outside of a theatrical retrospective (which I'll assume this film will never get) this Blu-ray is the best way to see it. the SD has some merit as well with the supplements but, mathematically, it can't compete with the image quality.

It's fun and silly but a shade ahead of its time as the concept seems more plausible, but still unlikely, in today's cynical and manipulative political atmosphere. There is no real sense of performances but the entire film is carried by the conspiracy narrative - and that's okay. I suppose there is some nostalgia in this film for me being a much more naive boy when it first surfaced. Hey, it's not all bad and this Blu-ray was surprisingly impressive.      

Gary Tooze














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