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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Moby Dick [Blu-ray]


(John Huston, 1956)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Moulin Productions Inc.

Video: Twilight Time



Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:55:37.847 

Disc Size: 35,463,407,951 bytes

Feature Size: 32,829,616,128 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.98 Mbps

Chapters: 24

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: November, 2016



Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1570 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1570 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1894 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1894 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Isolated Score:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2047 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2047 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English (SDH), None



Audio Commentary with Film Historians Julie Kirgo, Paul Seydor, and Nick Redman
Isolated Score Track
A Bleached Whale: Recreating the Unique Color of Moby Dick (5:41)
Posters, Lobby Cards & Production Stills
Original Theatrical Trailer (3:13)

Liner notes by Julie Kirgo

Limited to 3,000 Copies!





Description: The legendary writer-director John Huston adapts Herman Melville’s great American novel, Moby Dick (1956), with the assistance of another legend, co-screenwriter Ray Bradbury. Everyone is familiar with the story about the obsessive Captain Ahab (Gregory Peck), determined to hunt down at whatever cost the titular Great White Whale, a potent symbol for all the unstoppable evil in the world. Featuring extraordinary supporting performances from Richard Basehart, Leo Genn, Orson Welles, and Friedrich von Ledebur; and sterling cinematography from Oswald Morris.



The Film:

The story of a sea captain, obsessed with the white whale that took his leg, became an obsession in its own way for one of Hollywood's greatest directors. John Huston read Herman Melville's Moby Dick when he was sixteen and had dreamed of making a film of it as soon as he began directing The Maltese Falcon (1941).

Huston saw his father Walter Huston as the perfect Ahab and after John and his father received Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Supporting Actor respectively for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), a chance to make their big-budget adaptation became a reality. Then, in 1950, Walter suddenly died of an aneurysm and John was forced to find another Ahab.

Gregory Peck became Huston's new choice through a chance meeting at a Hollywood party. Peck was not sure he was right for the role, in fact, he always thought John Huston would have done a better job. However, Peck's box office draw delighted Warner Brothers who seconded Huston's choice. Still, some critics disliked Peck's performance, but the director always thought he conveyed the exact quality he wanted for the obsessed seaman. "Here was a man who shook his fist at God," is how Huston described Ahab.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

Easy to pick holes in Huston's brave stab at Melville's masterpiece, which opens with breathtaking boldness as a solitary wanderer appears over the brow of a hill, comes to camera to proclaim his 'Call me...Ishmael', then leaves it to follow in the wake of his odyssey. Granted the great white whale is significantly less impressive when lifting bodily out of the sea to crush the Pequod than when first glimpsed one moonlit night, a dim white mass of menace lurking in a black sea. Granted, too, a lightweight Ahab (Peck) and a pitifully weak Starbuck (Genn). But there are marvellous things here: Ishmael's alarming initiation into the whaling community at the tavern; Father Mapple's sermon (superbly delivered by Welles); Queequeg's casting of the bones and his preparation for death; nearly all the whaling scenes. Lent a stout overall unity by Ray Bradbury's intelligent adaptation, by colour grading which gives the images the tonal quality of old whaling prints, and by the discreet use of a commentary drawn from Melville's text which imposes the resonance of legend, it is often staggeringly good.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE


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

Moby Dick comes to Twilight Time Blu-ray in a dual-layered, 1080P transfer with their usual high bitrate. The film has had an extensive 8-month restoration. From Greg Kimble in the supplement "A Bleached Whale: Recreating the Unique Color of Moby Dick" - DoP Oswald Morris and Huston, shot this in England/Ireland, and experimented with the appearance desiring to replicate 19th century whaling prints still in existence (and seen in the opening credits) onto film. This look was processed only in the Technicolor prints and not in the film negative. The result worked as a brighter and desaturated look with a warm tone, almost like tinting of a silent film. The result of these visuals are reasonable but not overwhelming on digital and you can appreciate it more by indulging in the extras and commentary. I have taken one of the split screen images HERE to give you an idea of how far the image has improved. It can still look rough at times - more-so in the first 10-minutes where I may have seen a few artifacts, some noise - but there are some incredibly well-textured visuals as well and the look is wholly unique - not flawed. The appearance was an intentional gambit by the filmmakers. It frequently looks like a dull flat oil painting. I loved my viewing. This Blu-ray gives as a good presentation as you are likely to find. It is very flat in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. There is more on the restoration HERE.


NOTE: There are Region 'B' (or 'FREE') Australian and Spanish Blu-ray versions floating around HERE - but I don't know the quality.

There was a remake of Moby Dick in 2010 with William Hurt, Donald Sutherland and Ethan Hawke, that we reviewed on Blu-ray HERE.






















Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track at 1570 kbps (24-bit) sounds solid with seafaring effects and the powerful score by one-timer Philip Sainton. It has been described as "...Sainton's score is one of the finest pieces of music ever written about and inspired by the sea -- his language is melodic and highly appealing, and his use of the orchestra to describe the moods and actions of his characters, the men, the ship, the whale, and the sea, is rich with well-developed, attractive, and exciting passages." Thankfully it is also available as an isolated track and remains impressive. There are optional English subtitles (sample above) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE.


Extras :

Twilight Time add a new, impressive, audio commentary by the team of Julie Kirgo, Paul Seydor, and Nick Redman interacting well and discussing the film's merits, both lauded and misunderstood as well as the long-winded novel (my bias). A Bleached Whale: Recreating the Unique Color of Moby Dick spends under 6-minutes on the film's intricate color scheme involving historical input and discussion from, restoration colorist, Greg Kimble. He describes the hurdles overcome to restore Moby Dick including shrinkage, flickering, mold as well as the color issues - ending with a split-screen montage (an example is HERE). It's excellent. There are galleries with posters, lobby Cards & production stills and a theatrical trailer. The package has some liner notes by Julie Kirgo and is limited to 3,000 copies.



Moby Dick is a unique and amazing film. I can't think of anything to compare it to - it's so noble yet intense dealing with obsession, adventure, courage, insanity with elements of horror and science-fiction... an absolute masterpiece (who can forget Friedrich Ledebur as Queequeg?) It's also an incredible journey - with young Ishmael. The Twilight Time Blu-ray provides as good an a/v transfer for the film as I have even seen and am so appreciative of its presentation with further value from the commentary, restoration featurette, wonderful isolated score and liner notes. It's a complete package and I rate it highly! 

Gary Tooze

November 27th, 2016


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.

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Gary W. Tooze






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