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On the Beach [Blu-ray]
(Stanley Kramer, 1959)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Stanley Kramer Productions
Video: Kino Lorber / Signal One Entertainment
Region: 'A' / Region 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Runtime: 2:14:31.313 / 2:14:23.597
Disc Size: 22,744,805,045 bytes / 24,166,959,151 bytes
Feature Size: 22,009,436,160 bytes / 22,281,440,832 bytes
Video Bitrate: 18.99 Mbps / 18.50 Mbps
Chapters: 9/ 10
Case: Standard Blu-ray case/ UK (thicker) case
Release date: August 26th, 2014 / October 12th, 2015
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1594 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1594 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps /
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
English, None / English (SDH), None
• Trailer (4:47)
Audio commentary written by On the Beach expert Dr. Philip
Description: The war is over. Nobody won. Only the inhabitants of Australia and the men of the U.S, submarine Sawfish have escaped the nuclear destruction and radiation. Captain Dwight Towers (Gregory Peck) takes the Sawfish on a mission to see if an approaching radiation cloud has weakened, but returns with grim news: the cloud is lethal. With the days and hours dwindling, each person confronts the grim situation in his or her own way. One (Fred Astaire) realizes a lifetime Grand Prix ambition; another (Ava Gardner) reaches out for a chance at love. The final chapter of human history is coming to a close... From acclaimed director Stanley Kramer (Judgment at Nuremberg) and screenwriter John Paxton (Crossfire), comes this spectacular movie landmark - a film masterpiece with a message that will resonate as long as the world has the power to self-destruct at its own fingertips. Co-starring Anthony Perkins and Donna Anderson.
Although there'd been "doomsday dramas" before it, Stanley Kramer's On the Beach was considered the first "important" entry in this genre when originally released in 1959. Based on the novel by Nevil Shute, the film is set in the future (1964) when virtually all life on earth has been exterminated by the radioactive residue of a nuclear holocaust. Only Australia has been spared, but it's only a matter of time before everyone Down Under also succumbs to radiation poisoning. With only a short time left on earth, the Australian population reacts in different ways: some go on a nonstop binge of revelry, while others eagerly consume the suicide pills being issued by the government. When the possibility arises that rains have washed the atmosphere clean in the Northern hemisphere, a submarine commander (Gregory Peck) and his men head to San Diego, where faint radio signals have been emanating. The movie's all-star cast includes: Peck as the stalwart sub captain, Ava Gardner as his emotionally disturbed lover, Fred Astaire as a guilt-wracked nuclear scientist, and Anthony Perkins and Donna Anderson as the "just starting out in life" married couple.
Based on Nevil Shute's popular novel, this flawed but moving end-of-the-world drama is set in Australia in 1964, after nuclear war has eliminated life in the northern hemisphere. While the folks down under await the nuclear fallout that will eventually kill them, the US Sawfish, a submarine commanded by Dwight Towers (Gregory Peck), ventures to California, only to learn that the radio signal still being transmitted from San Diego is being produced by a soda bottle--everyone at home is dead (dramatically reinforced by some extraordinary shots of a deserted San Francisco). Back in Australia, the principal characters deal with their imminent deaths in their own...Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
On the Beach has made it to Blu-ray from the Kino-Lorber label. The black and white image is transferred at 1.66:1 and looks quite clean. The 2 1/4 hour film is on a single-layered disc with a modest bitrate. There is a thickness to the visuals. The higher resolution adds pleasing layers to the contrast. There is minor depth and impressive detail in close-ups. Giuseppe Rotunno's (The Leopard, Rocco and His Brothers, Le Notti Bianche) cinematography has some infrequent, and curious, obtuse angles and plenty of shadow play. This Blu-ray seems to do a decent job of exporting the film in 1080P.
It seems as though we get a similarly robust technical transfer (single-layered - roughly the same bitrate) but the Signal One Entertainment appearance is slightly darker - and I presume this to be more theatrically accurate. It looks a smidgeon superior and quite excellent in-motion.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Kino transfer the film's audio via a DTS-HD Master stereo track at 1594 kbps. It's a pretty somber affair without much in the way of aggressive effects but a solid score by Ernest Gold (Cross of Iron, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World) and it seems to benefit from the uncompressed rendering sounding subtly impacting. There are optional English subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.
Signal One go with a linear PCM mono track (24-bit) - and again the flatness (and occasional hollowness) would be presumed to be a more accurate representation of the theatrical. Gold's score sounds tight and the dialogue clear and crisp with a few instances of it being 'shallow'. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles on the region 'B'-locked disc.
Only a trailer but, I think, the film deserves some discussion for its uniqueness alone.
This is where the UK package definitively vaults ahead; Signal One add an excellent audio commentary written by On the Beach expert Dr. Philip Davey (who wrote the essay When Hollywood Came To Melbourne) and is read by Australian actor of stage and television, Douglas Hansell. It's filled with details - technical and otherwise and has occasional gaps where the film is allowed to run. There is also the 1959 rare, 10-minute, 8mm amateur footage Making On the Beach. It was made by amateur filmmaker R. Goslin and captures scenes of location filming in Melbourne's beachside suburb of Frankston. With its humorous titles and voice-over narration, this accomplished amateur film provides a fascinating and unique insight into the making of On the Beach. There is a new (2015), 20-minute, interview with Donna Anderson and the actress discusses her time working with the cast and crew of On the Beach. There are some galleries; Stanley Kramer's photo album (with the option of just images or descriptive text and another with posters and lobby cards. Lastly, we get a theatrical trailer.
Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Signal One - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
The Signal One release goes the extra mile - a presumably more accurate a/v presentation and the many valuable extras including the commentary making it the package to own for fans of this iconic film that Stanley Kramer considered one of his most important. Region 'B'ers benefit. Certainly recommended!
August 11th, 2014
October 8th, 2015
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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