(aka 'Death in the Garden" or "Evil Eden" or "Gina" or "La muerte en el jardÝn" or "The Diamond Hunters')
Product Description: Amid a revolution in a South American mining outpost, a band of ill-starred fugitives-a roguish adventurer (Georges Marchal), a local hooker (Simone Signoret), a priest (Michel Piccoli), an aging diamond miner (Charles Vanel) and his def-mute daughter-are forced to flee for their lives into the jungle. Starving, exhausted and stripped of their old identities, they wander desperately lured by one deceptive promise of salvation after another. Shot in brilliant Eastmancolor and featuring a star-studded cast, Death in the Garden is a pulsating adventure film, alive with Surrealist gestures, making it classic Luis Bu˝uel. In French and Spanish with English subtitles. Special Features Mastered in HD from a 35mm archive print. Audio commentary by film scholar Ernesto R. Acevedo-Munoz, author of 'Bu˝uel and Mexico' New video interviews with actor Michael Piccoli and film scholar Victor Fuentes Booklet featuring essays by Javier Espada, Juan-Luis Bu˝uel and Susan Hayward.
The garden of the title is a terrifying South American jungle, through which an international cast of refugees flees after a surprise banana-republic revolution. This 1956 French-Mexican production was obviously designed as escapist entertainment, but in the hands of director Luis Bunuel it becomes a little more than that. As things get curiouser and curiouser, it's interesting to see how close Bunuel's surrealist vision is to the expected extravagancies of genre filmmaking. No masterpiece, but a prime example of subversive cinema.
Theatrical Release: September 21st, 1956
DVD Review: Microcinema - Region 0 - NTSC
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|Distribution||Microcinema - Region 0 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 5.43 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||French or Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0) Commentary: English (Dolby Digital 2.0)|
commentary by film scholar Ernesto R. Acevedo-Munoz, author of 'Bu˝uel
and Mexico: The Crisis of National Cinema'
Firstly, I should state that my DVD copy is a screener and may very well not be the final commercially available product.
This is an interesting transfer in that despite ghosting artifacts (see last capture) it has moments of excellent clarity. It is advertised as "Mastered in HD from a 35mm archive print" and this would explain why the image quality can look so strong. My suspicion is that the transfer is from an unconverted PAL source as IMDb lists the film's running time as 104 minutes and this is almost exactly 4% faster (PAL speedup) - just shy of 100 minutes. Still, there is lots of good to focus on - the disc is dual-layered and adhering to Death in the Garden's original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. (NOTE: Peter tells us it should be 1.66:1) Aside from the above mentioned conversion artifacts - it looks very impressive. It may be a shade yellow/green and tend to look a bit frail but detail is unusually strong and the print used must have been exceptionally clean. I kept thinking that I was seeing edge-enhancement but it seems to be a shade of moiring on the visuals which have prominent black levels further bringing up the sharpness. So while imperfect it is very watchable producing a video quality far in advance of what I was anticipating after seeing earlier Mexican Bu˝uel's to DVD like El Bruto (1953), Susana (1951), and Gran Casino (1947).
The audio gives options for either French or Spanish - both in 2.0 channel. This may be an issue with some as they have their weaknesses in the form of out-of-sync'ed DUBs, but I tend to be more forgiving for this as I don't feel it's a transfer weakness but one inherent in the print used. I preferred the Spanish after some testing but others may disagree as the French tended to have more inflection - with subtleties of whispering or bold exclamations. There are optional English subtitles described as "New and improved".
Extras are where this release shines the brightest with a Criterion-level commentary by film scholar Ernesto R. Acevedo-Munoz, author of 'Bu˝uel and Mexico: The Crisis of National Cinema'. It's very informative and professional - a perfect choice to discuss details of a Mexican-made Bu˝uel film. We also get two new video interviews - the first is a 16X9 enhanced 26-minute conversation from July 2008 with actor Michael Piccoli conducted by Juan Luis Bu˝uel (son of the director). The second is 4:3, also from 2008 and runs 25-minutes with film scholar Victor Fuentes. It runs occasionally showing posters of Bu˝uel films or clips from Death in the Garden. Both are excellent viewing and are in Spanish with optional English subtitles. We also get a 16-page liner notes booklet featuring essays by Javier Espada, Juan-Luis Bu˝uel and Susan Hayward - but I have not had a chance to see it yet - but I do look forward to it as I am in a very Bu˝uelian mood.
Even if you ignore Charles Vanel - one can't help but think of The Wages of Fear. This was very enjoyable adventure if not as 'cutting' as one may expect from the director. At the writing of this review - you can pre-order for less than $17 - and despite the inferiorities with the transfer - we certainly recommend to fans of the director or cinema in general. The extras alone are worth it in my opinion.