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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


Pandora and the Flying Dutchman [Blu-ray]


(Albert Lewin, 1951)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Video: Kino Video



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:03:34.073 

Disc Size: 39,407,546,850 bytes

Feature Size: 31,361,243,136 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.95 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: August 3rd, 2010



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit






Vintage (1947) documentary El Torero de Cordoba (17:26 in HD!)
Alternate opening titles (2:26 - unrestored in HD!)

Restoration Comparison (5:49 in HD!)
Stills Gallery (Film and Production)
• Trailers (U.S., U.S. abridged, UK restoration re-release 2010 in HD!)





Description: Restored under the auspices of Martin Scorsese, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman stars Ava Gardner as the siren of a small Spanish town, the type of woman men kill and die for. She s never fallen for anyone until the arrival of the mysterious James Mason, the actual Flying Dutchman condemned to sail the seas until he finds a woman who would die for him. Featuring stunning color cinematography by Jack Cardiff (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes).


Pandora and The Flying Dutchman is writer, producer and director Albert Lewin s lushly romantic Technicolor visualisation of the often-told legend of the sea. A glamorous Ava Gardner is Pandora, who falls hard for the charismatic James Mason as Hendrik, a 17th-century seaman eternally condemned to sail the oceans. Unavailable theatrically for many years and never available on Home Entertainment, the film has now been beautifully restored.

Ava Gardner stars as Pandora Reynolds, a predatory creature who destroys the lives of all men who've been unfortunate enough to fall in love with her. Enter Hendrick van der Zee (James Mason), a mystical figure who proves to be Pandora's match. It turns out that van der Zee is the legendary 17th Flying Dutchman, whose spirit is doomed to wander the earth until he is able to find a woman willing to love him with all her heart -- and thereby sacrifice her own life.



The Film:

Reading various reviews of Lee Server’s recent biography of Ava Gardner, I was shocked to find the movie that defined her apotheosis--surpassing even George Cukor’s neglected 1956 Bhowani Junction in its erotic splendor-- dismissed without a second thought. (It’s her first film in color, and lusciously shot by Jack Cardiff--the cinematographer on The Red Shoes, Under Capricorn, and The Barefoot Contessa,, a film clearly indebted to this one.) This dismissal could never have happened in France, where this masterpiece is available on DVD and rightly revered as a summit for producer-turned-auteur Albert Lewin (a kind of Val Lewton on the six singular features he made, but with the benefit of big budgets) and James Mason as well as Gardner. (To commemorate what it meant to him as an adolescent, Jean Eustache featured a lengthy clip from it in Mes Petits Amoureuses.)

In Susan Felleman’s lovely auteurist study of Lewin,
Botticelli in Hollywood, she charts in detail the film’s Surrealist sources, ranging from Man Ray (a friend of Lewin’s) to Giorgio de Chirico, and I think it could even be argued that this movie is the supreme encounter between Surrealism and Hollywood. (By contrast, the dream sequence designed by Dali in Hitchcock’s Spellbound is fairly drab and pedestrian.) So maybe part of the discrepancy between continental and American responses to this film is simply a matter of having a cultural context for the film’s delirious and deliberate romantic excesses. The story is centered on two mythical archetypes--Pandora (Gardner), an American chanteuse in a small colony of expatriates in Esperanza, a village on Spain’s Costa Brava circa 1930, who lures men to their doom, and the Flying Dutchman (Mason), a mysterious and taciturn sea captain who arrives one day. Condemned many centuries ago for the murder of his innocent bride and for blasphemy, he’s obliged to sail alone in his ship for all eternity unless he finds a woman willing to die for him. (This film is almost precisely contemporary with Orson Welles’ Othello, and there’s an uncanny echo of a shot in which Othello approaches Desdemona in her bed, when we see Mason in a flashback approaching his own bride).

From Jonathan Rosenbaum's article for DVDBeaver located HERE


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

The majority of the restoration of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman looks absolutely stunning on Blu-ray with only a few aberrations. Colors, which burst forth, and detail both appear to benefit the most from the 1080P transfer and the extensively improved 35mm Technicolor restoration (presented by The Film Foundation, George Eastman House & Douris UK Ltd.) Colors give the visuals some relational depth and the contrast advances the sharpness to a much higher level than I was a anticipating. Certain sequences with Ava Gardner look just mesmerizing. The grain is very even and consistent giving the image quality a perfect textured foil. This Blu-ray has some reference moments considering the film's age and it often rivals the Technicolor look of Black Narcissus or The Red Shoes. There are a few weaknesses - which I won't blame on the transfer. Colors unnaturally shift in a few scenes and there is some damage remaining that was probably not able to be removed. Unfortunately, I didn't catch any in the screen captures but the infrequent speckles and underlying scratches seem frame specific and are generally unnoticeable. This Blu-ray looks VERY strong in my opinion and it was such a pleasant surprise - especially beside the previously released DVD. I expect most fans will be highly impressed with the video presentation.


David tells us in email: "The whole image to me looks "wrong" in the new transfer. Jonathan Rosenbaum ahs also commented questioning the lightiness of the image compared to his memories of it in 35mm. Overall I get the impression this is a restoration which seems to have been done on the cheap, or with far from ideal elements (I.e. no three strip negs or even YCM seps) from which to rebuild a new internegative. Things like the ugly green of sea shots and the weird shade of nursery pea green on the walls of the villa which are contrasted with various reds and lilacs simply don't like like the sorts of things Cardiff would shoot, unless he were going for a sense of menace in the sequences, but the primary color values in this transfer feel "dirty" to me and the entire image throughout seems to have an undercoat of bleaching.

I have to say I believe the Park Circus (which IS fixed Region B) is identical to the Kino. " (Thanks David!)


1) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Editions Montparnasse - Region 2 (France) - PAL MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 1 (interlaced) - NTSC BOTTOM


(R2 DVD captures courtesy of our sister site ChiaroScuro's and the review HERE by our friend Markus! and thanks to Pepsi for the NTSC DVD caps!)



1) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Editions Montparnasse - Region 2 (France) - PAL MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 1 (interlaced) - NTSC BOTTOM

















Audio :

Kino have left the audio a 2.0 channel offering in a linear PCM track at 2304 kbps. All the music sounds wonderful in the stereo rendering especially Ava crooning to the lone piano which is also used for the animated menus (waves are moving in the background). The sound is very clean and smooth without fatal dropouts. It doesn't sound particularly flat, as you might expect, and the lossless depth is probably the reason. There are, strangely, no optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.



Extras :

With Kino we get a vintage (1947) documentary El Torero de Cordoba running shy of 20-minutes in HD (as are all video extras). It recounts the career of Manuel Rodriguez Manolete, the celebrated Spanish Bullfighter who was the inspiration for the ill-fates character Montalvo. The black and white print is in weak condition and there are HUGE English subtitles. It seems as though the link to the film is kind of nebulous but it was kind of interesting to see if for nothing more than its age. You can see the Alternate opening titles running 2:26. These are un-restored - prints for the UK market varied slightly from those for the American release. As opposed to a prologue about The Flying Dutchman, there is a quote by Omar Khayyam. The restoration comparison features 6 minutes from the new master and the previously released one (from an original Technicolor print) - the differences are as extravagant as our 2 captures compared below (BD vs. DVD). Included are two stills galleries (Film and Production) and three trailers (U.S., U.S. abridged, and UK restoration re-release for 2010.)



Listed by Jonathan in our 'Fantasy' film article HERE - this sure is bizarre. You can easily get swept up in the style and Ava but coherency is not at a premium. I really enjoyed my viewing - it is the type of curious film you can get hooked on once you stop trying to figure everything out. The Blu-ray looks and sounds stupendous and I am so very happy to have Pandora and the Flying Dutchman in this format in my collection. I will definitely be showcasing it to, envious, friends. Strongly recommended!  

Gary Tooze

July 23rd, 2010




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








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