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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Letter Never Sent aka Neotpravlennoye pismo  [Blu-ray]


(Mikhail Kalatozov, 1960)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Mosfilm

Video: Criterion Collection - Spine #601



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

Runtime: 1:36:18.981

Disc Size: 28,552,138,356 bytes

Feature Size: 28,193,691,648 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.95 Mbps

Chapters: 23

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: March 20th, 2012



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio Russian 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit



English (SDH), none



• A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Dina Iordanova





Description: The great Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov, known for his virtuosic, emotionally gripping films, perhaps never made a more visually astonishing one than Letter Never Sent. This absorbing tale of exploration and survival concerns the four members of a geological expedition, who are stranded in the bleak and unforgiving Siberian wilderness while on a mission to find diamonds. Luxuriating in wide-angle beauty and featuring one daring shot after another (the brilliant cinematography is by Kalatozov’s frequent collaborator Sergei Urusevsky), Letter Never Sent is a fascinating piece of cinematic history and a universal adventure of the highest order.



The Film:

Quite a realistic adventure with political sentiments present, but taking a, subtle, back seat. Nice to see Tatyana Samojlova (The Cranes are Flying) and this is well put together genre-style journey. Certain scenes show suspense and intensity. It has a memorable climax and is an entertaining film experience.


Story of a small group of Soviet geologists prospecting for diamonds in Siberia. After many adventures the diamond seam is located and mapped, but a series of disasters threatens to prevent the explorers returning to Moscow with the precious find that will fund their nation's conquest of the cosmos.

Excerpt from the NFA Catalogue located HERE

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

Letter Never Sent on Blu-ray from Criterion appears to be from an occasionally inconsistent source. I don't believe it is compromised though and the image quality shows solid detail at times - but there are lengthy portions that are less-sharp than we have seen from the producer's transfer efforts in the past. The softness is probably inherent in the original production. Contrast is acceptable but not pristine infrequently appearing murky. This creeps into dual-layered territory and has a high bitrate. The thickness and lack of gloss give it an appreciated film-like presentation. Daylight scenes dominate but there are night sequences that are very dark - without exposing dramatic noise. This Blu-ray does the best of what it has and looks very competent in-motion. The presentation benefits from some unusual but captivating Siberian terrain visuals. They are unlike what I recall seeing ever before. Many will be impressed. I expect that Letter Never Sent video was not abundantly tight via its theatrical run (Premiered at Cannes!) but despite that the content is intriguing in its own right.
















Audio :

Criterion export authenticity with a linear PCM mono track, in original Russian, at 1152 kbps. I didn't note any prevalent sync issues and the sound is, predictably, flat but clear and consistent. There is some perceived depth and in the fire and flowing water sequences. The Nikolai Kryukov track has bold moments and supports the film well - via uncompressed. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

One of only a handful of Criterion packages with no digital supplements. There is a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Dina Iordanova.



There were some genuinely meaningful adventure-aspects to Letter Never Sent and it has qualities that stay with you post-viewing. It's worth seeing with some impressive cinematography (Sergei Urusevsky) but, while I found it strong, I wouldn't consider the film itself a masterpiece. However, I enjoyed my viewing. My confidence in Criterion does suspect that the Blu-ray does the best 1080P job possible with the source elements. It is priced at the lower tier and those keen on the plot and cinematic attributes should consider purchasing. World cinema fans might be the primary target audience. 

Gary Tooze

March 1st, 2012



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 5000 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
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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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