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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

China Gate [Blu-ray]

 

(http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/fuller.htm, 1957)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Paramount

Video: Olive Films

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:35:44.738

Disc Size: 20,487,784,716 bytes

Feature Size: 20,361,719,808 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.01 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 26th, 2013

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 948 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 948 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

None

 

Extras:

• None

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Samuel Fuller (The Big Red One) wrote, produced and directed this raw-boned action-packed war film - Near the end of the French phase of the Vietnam War, a group of mercenaries are recruited to travel through enemy territory to the Chinese border, to blow up an arms depot. A Eurasian smuggler, Lucky Legs (Angie Dickinson), agrees to use her connections to help them, in return they agree to take her illegitimate son to America. The racist father of the boy, Sergeant Brock (Gene Barry), is also part of the multinational group. Lucky Legs must use the love of a Eurasian guerilla leader, Major Cham (Lee Van Cleef), to get access to the base. The other members of the patrol are also haunted by past memories - Goldie (Nat "King" Cole) is a veteran of Korea and World war II who hates war and wants to see peace at all costs; Corporal Pigalle (George Givot) is an ex-French gendarme who doesn't like taking orders; Captain Gaumont (Paul Dubov) is the mercenary leader; Charlie (James Hong) is an Vietnamese-American private; and Private Andreades (Gerald Milton), is a hard-nosed Greek expatriate. Beautifully shot in black-and-white by legendary cinematographer Joseph F. Biroc (It's a Wonderful Life). Original score by Victor Young (Johnny Guitar) and Max Steiner (Casablanca) with a title song written by Victor Young and Harold Adamson and performed by Nat "King" Cole.

 

 

The Film:

THE GREEN BERETS was not the first film to tell of the Vietnamese fight against communism. CHINA GATE was made ten years earlier, at a time when the French still controlled all of Vietnam. Chinese instigators are portrayed as the enemy, rather than the Vietnamese people themselves. The story concerns an American soldier of fortune, Barry, who joins up with his estranged wife, Dickinson, a Eurasian political activist, to lead a party of guerrillas on an expedition to destroy a Chinese Communist ammunition dump. The guerrillas are composed of a group of French Foreign Legionnaires. In addition to singing the title song, Cole renders a good performance as a war-weary American soldier in the legion. The trip is tough and tense, mostly because of the love-hate relationship between Barry and Dickinson. Their relationship is just beginning to mend when Dickinson is killed during the successful sabotage raid. The politics of the film were representative of the beliefs then held by this country towards the Vietnam problem, which wouldn't become a real problem for the US for a few more years. The talented composer Young died during the production. His score was finished by his friend Steiner.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

Writer-director Samuel Fuller applies his kino-fist to this raw-boned war drama -- one of the first American films to deal with Vietnam. The film concerns the battle between the Vietnamese and the Chinese, through the efforts of a small band of soldiers to locate and destroy a hidden communist arms depot. Gene Barry stars as Sgt. Johnny Brock, the cynical leader of the patrol, who is an American Korean War veteran. Leading the expedition to find the munitions dump is the half-Asian Lucky Legs (Angie Dickinson), Brock's ex-wife. One of Brock's less-endearing qualities is his rabid racism -- he can't accept the fact that their five-year-old son is completely Oriental in appearance. The other members of the patrol are also haunted by past memories -- Goldie (Nat "King" Cole) is a veteran of Korea and World war II who hates war and wants to see peace at all costs; Corporal Pigalle (George Givot) is an ex-French gendarme who doesn't like taking orders; and Private Andreades (Gerald Milton), is a hard-nosed Greek expatriate. When the patrol arrives at the compound, they are greeted by Major Cham (Lee Van Cleef), the communist commander who immediately falls in love with Lucky Legs -- complicating the situation immensely.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

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

China Gate has a modest Blu-ray transfer from Olive Films. This is only single-layered and there are some inconsistencies in the source used. Aside from the acceptable stock war footage there are a few scenes that drift in-and-out of sharpness looking murky and hazy (see example below). There are also speckles and some frame vertical scratches. The black levels in the better quality sequences seem to support the film well but viewers should be aware of the weaknesses although I wouldn't say they had a detrimental effect on my viewing experiences. I appreciate the impressive depth exported at times. Another obvious visual feature is the cinemascope mumps (horizontal stretching) which, for myself, makes the presentation feel more film-like. The Blu-ray improved the appearance over an SD rendering and I think the improved resolution trumps the inconsistencies. I was happy to see Fuller's film looking as good as it does.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inconsistencies

 

 

Audio :

Audio comes in the form of a DTS-HD mono track at 948 kbps. The score started by Victor Young and completed by Max Steiner benefits from the lossless but not with any dramatic moods or tones. There is no depth or range to speak of but it seems a faithful transfer without unacceptable flaws in exporting the dialogue although there were a few less-consistent areas here as well.  There are no subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

No supplements - not even a trailer which is the bare-bones route that Olive are going with most of their releases.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Obviously not of the list of Fuller's best achievements - I still found reasons to appreciate the story. Sure the melodrama and themes are ham-fisted but that is the part of Fuller I like most. China Gate was always a film I wanted to see - and since the source print is a bit compromised I assume that is why it was rarely seen (and the film itself probably doesn't warrant a restoration.) All said and done I am positive to the Blu-ray (in it allowed me to firstly see the film - and secondly in the best possible presentation - as any restoration work is unlikely. Fuller fans should indulge. 

Gary Tooze

April 5th, 2013

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
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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