Search DVDBeaver

S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r


H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


The Elephant Man [Blu-ray]


(David Lynch, 1980)


Optimum Blu-ray Edition:

Studio Canal Blu-ray Edition:


Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Paramount Pictures

Video: Kinowelt



Region: A + B (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:03:40.041

Disc Size: 47,445,247,463 bytes

Feature Size: 33,895,176,192 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.99 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 18th, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 24 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1838 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1838 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core:
5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

DTS-HD Master Audio French 1646 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1646 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core:
2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio German 1729 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1729 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core:
2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio Italian 1641 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1641 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core:
2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio Spanish 1638 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1638 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core:
2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)



English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, none



Interview with David Lynch (24:49 in SD)
Interview with John Hurt (20:14 in SD)
• John Derrick - The Real Elephant Man (19:53 in SD)
A Conversation with David Lynch (19:50 in SD)
The Air is On Fire (14:50 in SD)





Description: David Lynch brings his own dreamlike style to the heartbreaking yet somehow uplifting story of John Merrick (John Hurt), a hideously deformed individual dubbed the Elephant Man during his years in a circus freak show in Victorian England. After suffering for years at the hands of his circus "master," the eloquent, soft spoken Merrick is "rescued" by compassionate surgeon Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins), who allows him to live at the hospital where he works. Merrick becomes a social celebrity when he meets a popular stage performer (Anne Bancroft), but he must continue to fight for his dignity with those who still choose to view him as a freak. Meanwhile, Treves begins to question whether his supposed act of humanity has been just as exploitative as Merrick's former caretaker's.

Lynch's follow-up to his 1978 cult classic ERASERHEAD is a striking blend of art and entertainment, which earned the film eight Academy Award nominations in 1980. Freddie Francis's breathtaking black-and-white cinematography combines with John Morris's score to re-create Victorian England with a deeply haunting beauty. It is the compassionate performances of Hurt and Hopkins that lift THE ELEPHANT MAN to a more emotional level, however, bringing an inspired sadness to Lynch's striking vision.



The Film:

More accessible than Lynch's enigmatically disturbing Eraserhead, The Elephant Man has much the same limpidly moving humanism as Truffaut's L'Enfant Sauvage in describing how the unfortunate John Merrick, brutalised by a childhood in which he was hideously abused as an inhuman freak, was gradually coaxed into revealing a soul of such delicacy and refinement that he became a lion of Victorian society. But that is only half the story the film tells. The darker side, underpinned by an evocation of the steamy, smoky hell that still underlies a London facelifted by the Industrial Revolution, is crystallised by the wonderful sequence in which Merrick is persuaded by a celebrated actress to read Romeo to her Juliet. A tender, touching scene ('Oh, Mr Merrick, you're not an elephant man at all. No, you're Romeo'), it nevertheless begs the question of what passions, inevitably doomed to frustration, have been roused in this presumably normally-sexed Elephant Man. Appearances are all, and like the proverbial Victorian piano, he can make the social grade only if his ruder appendages are hidden from sensitive eyes; hence what is effectively, at his time of greatest happiness, his suicide. A marvellous movie, shot in stunning black-and-white by Freddie Francis.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE



Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Again, I have both the Optimum and the Kinowelt editions and I can't find much difference so far aside from packaging and liner notes language. They have the same subtitle and audio options - and the same video transfer size. Both are coded for regions A + B - as we presume the more recently released French Studio Canal editions are.  Each stem from the 'Studio Canal Collection' and are now sold via Blu-ray with the legal rights - released by Kinowelt in Germany, Optimum in the UK, and Studio Canal in France. The discs initially allow you to choose from a list of countries.


The Elephant Man appears very strong if, on closer inspection, seeming a shade soft at times. Contrast is the notable feature with inky blacks and bright whites and visible fine grain is appreciated. Grayscale and shadow detail are often superb. I kept thinking black levels had been boosted but there was no concrete evidence of edge-enhancement and moiring never fully surfaced to obviousness. Overall, I can't see anyone offering excessive complaints - it's so much better than the DVDs that the visuals can often make you gasp (from their brilliance - not from Hurt's Merrick).  It's a chocked-full dual-layered disc with the feature filling almost 34 Gig and the video bitrate supports respectability. There are some surprising infrequent speckles and a scratch or two, with more artistic close-ups showing deep grain, but aside from that niggling the presentation is a positive one for sure.


















Audio :

We have a DTS-HD Master 5.1 English track and 4 different foreign language DUBs in 2.0 channel - all around 1500 kbps. Bass response is quite notable at times and separation very subtle to practically non-existent for most of the film. When it does come into play - it kind of sticks out like an elephant's penis. I'm not complaining - although we still strain to hear Merrick's first dialogues - as I assume we are supposed to. Samuel Barber's "Adagio For Strings" (used more heavily in Oliver Stone's Platoon) is crisp and sublime in that beautiful scene. There are plenty of subtitle options and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region A + B disc playable on Blu-ray machines in those two vast areas of the globe.



Extras :

Quite a lot - all in SD. Almost 100 minutes worth 5 piece including two highly interesting interviews with a frank David Lynch, another with John Hurt where he discusses his portrayal of Merrick, the extensive make-up and working with some of the great-name actors in the film. John Derrick - The Real Elephant Man has Jonathan Evans, Archivist and Curator of the Royal London Hospital Museum giving a decent overview of the history of Merrick with some keen vintage photos. I enjoyed this a lot and wished it was more in-depth (longer). The Air is On Fire is 15-minutes including Michel Chion, Professor at La Fémis and Paris III (Sorbonne Nouvelle). He meets Lynch while viewing an exhibition of his paintings at the Cartier Foundation circa 2007. A pretty decent bunch of supplements in lieu of a commentary.



I was suitably impressed. Aside from Hurt's defining role we have great performances from Hopkins, Sir John Gielgud, and notables Wendy Hiller, Anne Bancroft as well as others. This is a highly interesting film in 1080P - worthy of repeat viewings. The Blu-ray is not quite perfect but it is still mesmerizing at times via the complexity of its black and white visual splendor. We certainly recommend. Yes. 

Gary Tooze

November 12th, 2009



Optimum Blu-ray Edition:

Studio Canal Blu-ray Edition:


About the Reviewer: 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 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 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:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze








Hit Counter












DONATIONS Keep DVDBeaver alive:

Mail cheques, money orders, cash to:    or CLICK PayPal logo to donate!

Gary Tooze

Thank You!