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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Excalibur [Blu-ray]


(John Boorman, 1981)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Warner

Video: Warner Home Video



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

Runtime: 2:20:47.063

Disc Size: 27,265,296,518 bytes

Feature Size: 26,611,218,432 bytes

Video Bitrate: 17.96 Mbps

Chapters: 45

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 8th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3862 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3862 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio Czech 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio German 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Italian 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Portuguese 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB

Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB / Dolby Surround



English, Czech, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, none



• Commentary by John Boorman

• Theatrical Trailer (2:27)





Description: The legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table receives its most impressive screen treatment in Excalibur, from visionary director John Boorman (Deliverance, Hope and Glory). All the elements of Sir Thomas Malory’s classic Le Morte Darthur are here: Arthur (Nigel Terry) removing the sword Excalibur from the stone; the Round Table’s noble birth and tragic decline; the heroic attempts to recover the Holy Grail; and the shifting balance of power between wily wizard Merlin (Nicol Williamson) and evil sorceress Morgana (Helen Mirren). With Patrick Stewart, Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson in notable early screen roles.



The Film:

WJohn Boorman directed this gloriously savage interpretation of Arthurian legend loosely based on Thomas Malory's novel... Le Morte d'Arthur. By turns gleaming and filthy, tender and bloody, the film is a visually stunning epic which is never less than compelling. Nigel Terry is perfectly cast as Arthur, whose unwavering trust and faith are shown to be both quietly heroic and achingly na´ve. Interestingly, the quest for the Grail is the least effective part of the film, despite bold cinematography by Alex Thomson (who was nominated for an Oscar) and a fine performance by Paul Geoffrey as Perceval, whose greatest desire is attained in his dying sight. It is the scenes of Camelot in which Boorman is at his most effective, as Arthur is betrayed by the burning passions of Guenevere (Cherie Lunghi) and Lancelot (Nicholas Clay), whose boiling internal forces cannot be denied, whatever the cost. The wicked Mordred (Robert Addie) and Morgana (Helen Mirren) are commanding when onscreen, and Nicol Williamson's performance as the grandiosely self-sacrificing Merlin is outstanding. Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart also appear in this dense, passionate, and stirring triumph featuring a marvelous Trevor Jones score. The gruesome effects by Peter Hutchinson and Alan Whibley, however, and sights such as a knight having sex in full body armor make this a fairy tale strictly for adults.~ Robert Firsching, All Movie Guide


John Boorman's 1981 retelling of the Arthurian legend is a classic. With its sweeping panoramas of the English countryside, its epic battles of clashing men in full plate armor, and its mature storytelling, it is without a doubt the most faithful adaptaton of the legend ever told on film.

Excalibur is a gorgeous spectacle that attempts to capture the essence of the Arthurian mythos in its entirety. Most of the time, it succeeds. It begins with Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon, and ends with the final climactic battle between the King and his illegitimate son, Mordred. Merlin (Nicol Williamson) is the glue that binds the story together, as he is there to both witness and shape the beginning and the end..

Excerpt from Brian McKay at eCritic located HERE

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

Excalibur retains its thick, gritty appearance via Warner's new 1.78:1 Blu-ray.  While this is probably not the exact same transfer as Warner's HD-DVD (reviewed HERE) - as this is AVC as opposed to VC-1 but it is probably not far off the, now defunct, format's representation utilizing the same source. It is not a pristine appearance because that would not be accurate to the original. Much of the early 80's film stock lent itself to this less glossy, softer nor dynamically crisp video. This Blu-ray is probably looked quite similar to this theatrically over 30 years ago. Sure there is noise in the film's many dark sequences - but I never found it overwhelming. There is not any demonstrative depth but colors, on the other hand, look quite exuberant. There is some flaring - in the gleam of armor and the Excalibur sword but I have no reason to believe that this is any fault of the 1080P transfer. This visually consistent Blu-ray is the best I have seen the film look - and probably will remain the definitive digital home theater presentation we are likely to ever get.
















Audio :

Warner provide a healthy DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 3862 kbps. Separations aren't crisp or abundant but there is some notable depth here. This isn't like a modern track with deft effect sounds punching to the rear channels but I suspect it is reasonably accurate to the original source. Trevor Jones' score sounds very good with impressive bass and decent high-end. There are plenty of optional subtitle and DUB options and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.


Extras :

Nothing new here with the same Boorman commentary - which has some gaps and narration - but is generally good for fans of the film. After that is only a trailer. The films has a solid base of fans and Warner investing in more extras would have been prudent in my opinion.



There may be some disappointment that there aren't any new extras but I don't point fingers in regards to the a/v transfer. This is how Excalibur looks and sounds with only some minor variances - and it supports a solid home theater presentation of the film. Boorman's films is a huge fan-favorite and the Blu-ray will be considered essential for many cinephiles. 

Gary Tooze

March 3rd, 2011


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.

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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