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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Papillon [Blu-ray]


(Franklin J. Schaffner, 1973)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Allied Artists Pictures

Video: Warner Home Video



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

Runtime: 2:30:47.079

Disc Size: 29,422,303,433 bytes

Feature Size: 28,696,614,912 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.96 Mbps

Chapters: 39

Case: Digibook Blu-ray case

Release date: May 24th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 4007 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4007 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English (SDH), French, Spanish, none



• The Magnificent Rebel (12:19 - 4801)
• Theatrical Trailer (3:52 - 480i)

34-page Digibook with essay and photos





Description: They called him Papillon, meaning butterfly. If only he had wings to go with the name. Unable to fly, Henri Charriere virtually willed himself free. He persisted until he did the impossible: escape Devil’s Island. Based on Charriere’s bestseller and shot in Spain and Jamaica, Franlin J. Schaffner’s film of Papillon united two stars at key career junctures. After a decade of fine work in The Great Escape, The Sand Pebbles and Bullitt, Steve McQueen found in Charriere another ideal tough-guy role. Coming off The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy and Little Big Man, Dustin Hoffman again distinguished himself as Dega, Charriere’s scruffy friend.



The Film:

Hoffman became angry and uncooperative for a period of time after he discovered that although he and McQueen would receive equal billing, he was actually making $750,000 less than his co-star. Although they didn't really speak to each other between takes or after principal photography was completed, they behaved professionally on the set for the most part.

McQueen and Hoffman did have some difficulties, despite their determination to behave professionally toward each other. When Hoffman began one speech at breakneck speed, McQueen stopped him and said, "Less, man, less. Toss that shit out, you don't need it. Keep it simple." Another time, Hoffman invited a few close friends to watch a day's filming. McQueen had them thrown off the set. Nevertheless, Hoffman called their relationship "friendly rivalry" and later said his co-star "was a wonderful guy. Off screen, he was the nicest, classiest man. On the set itself he became very intense." Another time, however, he referred to McQueen as "that son of a bitch."

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

"Papillon," Franklin J. Schaffner's film version of the late Henri Charrière's book about his adventures in various penal colonies in French Guiana, is a big, brave, stouthearted, sometimes romantic, sometimes silly melodrama with the kind of visual sweep you don't often find in movies anymore.

Mr. Schaffner, the director of "Patton" and "Nicholas and Alexandra," looks to be the last of the big-time spenders. When he decides to show us a cargo ship steaming into a Caribbean port, that's what we see, in one magnificent long shot that includes the ship, the quay, the river, the jungles on the other side of the river and the sea in the distance.

"Papillon," which opened yesterday at Loews State I, the Cine and the Tower East Theaters, is full of such long shots, some of great beauty and all of obvious expense.

Excerpt from Vincent Canby of the NY Times located HERE

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

Papillon on Blu-ray from Warner tends to improve its appearance as the films rolls along. It becomes extremely impressive in the tropical paradise that Henri Charriere finds himself about 3/4s in.  This is dual-layered with a modest bitrate. It has more of the 'scope' magnitude effect with some strong cinematography by DoP Fred Koenekamp. Colors seem true without boosted vibrancy and contrast exhibits healthy, rich black levels. I wouldn't say detail was a defining feature of the film or transfer but it gave me a solid presentation where I was frequently wow'ed by the breadth of the visuals. Grain is not abundant - and noise is minimal - artefacts are not readily apparent. This Blu-ray has a genuine 'filmic' feel and probably looked similar to a theatrical viewing almost 40 years ago. I noted no significant flaws and have doubts it could look much better in this 1080P format.

















Audio :

Solid lossless track using a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 at a buoyant 4007 kbps. There is some aggression but most is subdued and suspenseful. It's a Jerry Goldsmith score supporting the film extremely well via the uncompressed transfer. There wasn't a lot of depth notable but there are some keen separations not present on my last DVD viewing. There are subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.


Extras :

Aside from the impressive 34-page Digibook packaging - filled with photos and essays - there is nothing new beyond the last SD release - meaning a 12-minute The Magnificent Rebel featurette focusing on author Charriere with behind the scenes sequences. The writer was there for the filming of Papillon but sadly died of lung cancer before it premiered. There is also a long theatrical trailer - like the first piece only in 480i. A reported 'troubled' shoot so maybe few wish to recall it via interviews etc. .



Once again Blu-ray does it to me - and escalates my appreciation of a film seen, recently, on DVD. A prison picture with elements of a period piece which includes a historical education factor. Papillion is carried by McQueen and Hoffmann is his usual 'excellent' in support. Camaraderie, attempted escapes, adventure, lepers, poison darts and more - the Blu-ray gave me a super presentation and I was impressed with the cinematography and tropical locales (Jamaica, I think). Aside from the handsome Digibook - no new extras but the price is right for a great night in the home theater. Recommended! 

Gary Tooze

May 19th, 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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