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The Message [Blu-ray]
(Moustapha Akkad, 1977)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Filmco International Productions
Video: Anchor Bay
Disc Size: 44,295,835,176 bytes
Feature Size: 44,132,192,256 bytes
Video Bitrate: 25.73 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: November 12th, 2013 / UK version came out July 2nd, 2012
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Resolution:1080i / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3343 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3343 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
Description: In 7th century Mecca, powerful leaders are in conflict with Muhammad who attacks the many injustices their way of life produces - slavery, drunkeness and cruelty. Muhammad claims to have seen a vision of the Angel Gabriel and calls to the people of Mecca to worship one God only. After a revelation from God, Muhammad agrees to take up arms against Mecca and leads a group of inexperienced Muslim troops to victory at the wells of Badr. However, in the wake of their subsequent defeat at the Battle of Uhud, Muhammad and his followers accept a ten-year truce, allowing them to continue spreading the word of God. Muhammad is the prophet...The Messenger of God.
Producer-director Moustapha Akkad made a true labor of love out of The Message, which seeks nothing less than to tell the story of the origins of Islam. Originally released in the U.S. as Mohammad, Messenger of God, the film has the appeal of most biblical epics: persecuted true believers, a revolutionary prophet scorned by the powers-that-be, and the miraculous triumph of faith. It also has the cheesiness of many biblical epics, with nose-flaring performances and awkward dialogue, but the whole mish-mash is generally entertaining (and informative for those unversed in the "origin stories" of Islam). Akkad had one major hurdle; he couldn't portray the person or voice of Mohammad himself, as such things are traditionally forbidden in Islam. To say the least, this presents an interesting narrative challenge. Akkad tackles it by having characters address the camera-as-Mohammad, or having disciples step out of Mohammad's tent to repeat what the prophet has just said. It's a weird device, but the surprising thing is how often you forget about it. Akkad is aided by some topnotch technicians, including cameraman Jack Hildyard (The Bridge on the River Kwai) and composer Maurice Jarre (whose score was Oscar-nominated); Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas, and Michael Ansara lead the cast.Excerpt from Amazon.ca located HERE
This handsomely-mounted historical epic concerns the birth of the Islamic faith and the story of the prophet Mohammed -- who, in accordance with the tenants of Islam, is never seen or heard (any physical depiction of the prophet is considered a heinous sin within the faith). In Mecca in the 7th century, Mohammed is visited by a vision of the Angel Gabriel, who urges him to lead the people of Mecca to cast aside the 300 idols of Kaaba and instead worship the one true God. Speaking out against the corrupt political and military leaders who rule Mecca, Mohammed and his followers struggle to worship God as they see fit, which eventually leads them into exile in Medina. However, one day God gives Mohammed a message to return to Mecca and take up arms against their oppressors -- while recruiting as many followers as they can along the way. With the help of his uncle, a brave warrior named Hamza (Anthony Quinn), Mohammed and his followers return to Mecca to liberate the city in the name of God. The Message (originally screened in the U.S. as Mohammed, Messenger of God) proved to be highly controversial during its production and initial release. Unfounded rumors had it that Mohammed would not only be depicted in the film, but that he was to be played by Charlton Heston or Peter O'Toole. This resulted in angry protests by Muslim extremists, until director Moustapha Akkad hired a staff of respected Islamic clerics as technical advisors. The advisors butted heads with Akkad, and they quit the production, which led the Moroccan government to withdraw their permission to film in their country. In time, Akkad ended up shooting on location in Libya under the sponsorship of Muammar Qaddafi, which presented a whole new set of political and practical problems for the filmmakers. Finally, when the film was scheduled to premier in the U.S., another Muslim extremist group staged a siege against the Washington D.C. chapter of the B'nai B'rith under the mistaken belief that Anthony Quinn played Mohammed in the film, threatening to blow up the building and its inhabitants unless the film's opening was cancelled. The standoff was resolved without explosion or injuries, though the film's American box office prospects never recovered from the unfortunate controversy. The Message was shot in two versions, one in English and one in Arabic (entitled Al-Ris-Alah), with different actors taking over some of the roles due to language requirements.Excerpt from MRQE located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The Message (an excellent film, by the way) came out on Blu-ray in the UK in July 2012 in this poor interlaced transfer from Anchor Bay. I see now Anchor Bay also are releasing it in the US on Blu-ray on November 12, 2013. So I wanted this review (of the UK BD) to serve as a warning that, I would strongly suspect, that the US Blu-ray release will be exactly the same weak transfer. So while the film is strongly recommended - the Blu-ray is not. This looks poor in-motion and I was distracted by the effect of the 1080i (interlaced) transfer. Skin tones seem unusually warm as well and the overall image seems unstable. The aspect ratio has been rendered to 1.78:1 from the original 2.35:1. Once we can confirm the US edition is actually 1080P and different from this one - we will comment on it here.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Audio is offered in two selections - a linear PCM, original 2.0 channel, at 2304 kbps and a surround bump via a DTS-HD Master 5.1 at a healthy 3343 kbps. It is painfully aware when there is DUB'ing but other than that the original music by Maurice Jarre (The Tin Drum, The Man Who Would Be King, The Damned) via the lossless renderings adds a nice layer onto the film's epic and historic qualities. There are no subtitles offered.My Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.
No supplements which is a shame as this is a film that deserves some. A commentary for a 3 hour film might be asking too much - but some discussion would have been appreciated.
November 9th, 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.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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