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Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman
Czechoslovakia 1955 / 1958 / 1962

 

A one-of-a-kind silver-screen illusionist, Czechoslovak filmmaker Karel Zeman devoted his career to transporting viewers to realms beyond their wildest imagining. The deft, breathtaking combinations of live-action and animation techniques that he pioneered in the postwar years earned him comparisons to legends such as Georges Méličs, and an array of followers that includes Jan Švankmajer, Terry Gilliam, and Wes Anderson. Presented here are three of Zeman’s most enchanting fantasies—a boys’ adventure into the mists of prehistory, a Jules Verne–derived flight of fancy, and an exotic eighteenth-century tall tale—all of them treasure chests of wondrous sights, tactile textures, and headlong yarn-spinning that helped put Czechoslovak cinema on the international map.

Posters

Theatrical Releases: August 5th, 1955 / June 27th, 1958 (Bruxelles Film Festival) / July 1962 (Locarno Film Festival)

 /

Reviews                                                                                                       More Reviews                                                                                       DVD Reviews

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Criterion Blu-ray (January 2020): Firstly, we have already extensively reviewed the Second Run (UK) Region FREE Blu-rays of the three films contained in Criterion's Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman;

Journey to the Beginning of Time HERE, Invention for Destruction HERE and The Fabulous Baron Munchausen HERE.

 

Criterion have also transferred in "New 4K digital restorations of all three films" on three separate dual-layered Blu-rays - each with a max'ed out bitrate. These are from original materials by the Karel Zeman Museum and the Czech National Film Archive. There is only some minor variance with the Criterion having marginally richer black levels and heightened color tinting in The Fabulous Baron Munchausen. Otherwise the 1080P presentations are just as stunning - minor contrast tweaking is noticeable and they are a notch superior in terms of visual brilliance with slightly more robust technical transfers.

On their Blu-ray, Criterion use linear PCM mono track (24-bit) in the original Czech language and include the alternate English-dubbed (lossy Dolby) "The Fabulous World of Jules Verne" version available with Invention for Destruction and the alternative English-dubbed version: a feature-length reconstruction (by Derrick Davis) of the US release cut of Journey to the Beginning of Time via a lossy Dolby audio transfer. There is music in Journey to the Beginning of Time credited to E.F. Burian, Vlastimil Pinkas and Frantisek Strangmüller. Like the Second Run, the audio is imperfect but services the film presentation considerably - flat but with depth augmenting the visual effects. In Invention for Destruction and The Fabulous Baron Munchausen the score is credited to Zdenek Liska (Cremator, The Shop on High Street, The White Dove, Fruit of Paradise). The resulting audio is flat but clean and Criterion offer optional English subtitles on their Region 'A' Blu-rays.

The Criterion Blu-ray has many of the same extras as the Second Run packages with the short 'Museum' featurettes are here including Karel Zeman and the World, The Birth of a Film Legend, Why Zeman Made the Film, The Cast etc. spread out on the three BDs. On The Fabulous Baron Munchausen Blu-ray disc is the feature length Film Adventurer Karel Zeman  documentary on the life, work and influence of Karel Zeman with contributions from Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Koji Yamamura and others. It was made in 2015. It covers so much of the history and input from modern filmmakers notable kudos some from the likes of Tim Burton who has stated "Karel Zeman and Ray Harryhausen were the two big inspirations for me... what Zeman did was amazing" and Terry Gilliam who stated "He did what I'm still trying to do, which is to try and combine live action with animation. His Doré-esque backgrounds were wonderful. The Fabulous Baron Munchausen captured the real spirit of the character". It's a great supplement - highly notable as an extra for the film. There is the previously mentioned U.S.-release version of Journey to the Beginning of Time from 1960 and alternate English-dubbed soundtrack for Invention for Destruction, and the opening sequence of the 1961 U.S.-release version. On the Invention for Destruction Blu-ray there are four early short films by Zeman: A Christmas Dream (1946) about a little girl's Christmas dream, A Horseshoe for Luck (1946), Inspiration (1949), and King Lavra (1950). The latter is about a king hides an embarrassing secret - and it causes him to execute every barber who cuts his hair. New and made by the Criterion Collection in 2019, is the 13-minute program, entitled, Directed by Karel Zeman, featuring animation filmmaker John Stevenson introducing viewers to the core elements of director Karel Zeman's work. Also is the 24-minute Making Magic filmed by the Criterion Collection in 2019, with animator and visual-effects supervisor Phil Tippett and visual-effects artist Jim Aupperle discussing their appreciation for director Karel Zeman and his cinematic techniques. There are 'Restoration demonstrations' with an interview with restoration supervisor James Mockoski, new trailers for all three films and the package has liner notes with an essay by film critic Michael Atkinson, along with limited-edition deluxe packaging featuring pop-up art. I would have liked a little Michael Brooke in there too!

Karel Zeman was known as the Czech Melies and clearly influenced the work of Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam. Criterion's Three Fantastic Journeys Blu-rays set is a beautiful keepsake package to forever re-watch and appreciate the work of this pioneering director. It has our highest recommendation! 

Gary Tooze


 

(aka "A Journey to the Beginning of Time" or "Journey to the Beginning of Time")

 

Directed by Karel Zeman
Czechoslovakia 1955

 

A beguiling mix of natural history and science fiction, this early feature by Karel Zeman follows four schoolboys on an awe-inspiring expedition back through time, where they behold landscapes and creatures that have long since vanished from the earth. Hewing closely to the scientific knowledge of its era, Journey to the Beginning of Time brings its prehistoric beasts alive through a number of innovative techniques—including stop-motion, puppetry, and life-size models—creating an atmosphere of pure wonderment.

Comparison:

Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Box Cover

 

Presently the Criterion is only available in their Blu-ray package of Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman.

  

Distribution Second Run Region FREE - Blu-ray Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:25:51.000 / Eng DUB'ed version: 1:23:09.017        1:27:45.176 / Eng DUB'ed version: 1:23:36.052  
Video

1.37:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 46,969,377,877 bytes

Feature: 24,761,393,664 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

English DUB'ed version: 14,446,202,880 bytes/ 20.03 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

1.37:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,601,581,042 bytes

Feature: 26,543,149,056 bytes

Video Bitrate: 36.19 Mbps

English DUB'ed version: 15,898,533,888 bytes/ 24.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate Second Run Blu-ray:

Bitrate Criterion Blu-ray:

Audio LPCM Audio Czech 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

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

Subtitles English, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio:
Second Run

 

1.37:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 46,969,377,877 bytes

Feature: 24,761,393,664 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

English DUB'ed version: 14,446,202,880 bytes/ 20.03 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

The alternative English-dubbed version: a feature-length reconstruction of the US release cut with different opening and end sequences.
A new filmed appreciation by John Stevenson, director of Kung-Fu Panda and Sherlock Gnomes. (22:59)
The Making of Journey to the Beginning of Time (9:08)
Restoring the World of Fantasy featurette (2:10)
Image gallery.
Trailers (Restoration - 1:46 / US - 1:26)
Karel Zeman Museum Promo (1:22)
Booklet featuring new writing on the film by film historian Michael Brooke


Blu-ray Release Date:
October 7th, 2019
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio:
Criterion

 

1.37:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,601,581,042 bytes

Feature: 26,543,149,056 bytes

Video Bitrate: 36.19 Mbps

English DUB'ed version: 15,898,533,888 bytes/ 24.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

• Directed by Karel Zeman (12:21) John Stevenson
• US Release (1:23:34)
Museum Documentaries
• The Birth of a Film Legend (5:13)
• Why Zeman Made This Film (2:35)
• Where Was This Film Shot (3:59)
• Special Effects Techniques (2:59)
• Restoration Demonstration (2:11)
• Trailer (1:43)


Blu-ray Release Date:
February 25th, 2020
Custom Blu-ray Case

Chapters 15

 

 


Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray


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

 

1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


(aka "The Deadly Invention" aka "Vynález zkázy" or "The Fabulous World of Jules Verne" or "An Invention for Destruction" or "Invention for Destruction")


Directed by Karel Zeman
Czechoslovakia 19
58

 

This eye-popping escapade revolves around a scientist and his doomsday machine—and the pirates who will stop at nothing to gain possession of it. Freely adapting the fiction of Jules Verne, and inspired by Victorian line engravings, Karel Zeman surrounds his actors with animated scenery of breathtaking intricacy and complexity, constructing an impossibly vivid proto-steampunk world. Released abroad at the turn of the 1960s, Invention for Destruction went on to become one of the most internationally successful Czechoslovak films of all time.

Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Box Cover

Presently the Criterion is only available in their Blu-ray package of Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman.

  

Distribution Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:22:32.583 / English version: 1:22:29.125      1:22:57.347
Video

1.37:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,878,327,274 bytes

Feature: 17,724,635,136 bytes / English version: 17,703,960,576 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.99 Mbps / 25.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

1.37:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 45,636,559,891 bytes

Feature: 25,036,025,856 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.88 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate Second Run Blu-ray:

Bitrate Criterion Blu-ray:

Audio

LPCM Audio Czech 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit 

English version:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

LPCM Audio Czech 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbpss

Subtitles English, None (none on English version) English, None (same on English version)
Features Release Information:
Studio:
Second Run

 

1.37:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,878,327,274 bytes

Feature: 17,724,635,136 bytes / English version: 17,703,960,576 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.99 Mbps / 25.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

• A new appreciation by filmmaker John Stevenson, director of Kung-Fu Panda and Sherlock Gnomes (16:16)
• Karel Zeman s animated short films: Inspiration (Inspirace, 1949) (11:29) and King Lavra (Král Lávra, 1950) (29:37)
• Why Zeman Made the Film (03:33)
• Zeman's Special Effects Techniques (03:20)
• Restoring the World of Fantasy (02:49)
• Restoration (03:32)
• Karel Zeman Museum (01:12)
• Trailer (01:19)
• Booklet featuring new writing on the film by film critic and historian James Oliver
• Original soundtrack in 2.0 Dual Mono 24-bit LPCM audio


Blu-ray Release Date: November 19th, 2018
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio:
Criterion

 

1.37:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 45,636,559,891 bytes

Feature: 25,036,025,856 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.88 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

• Alt US Opening (3:00)
• Making Magic (23:29)
• Four early short films by Zeman:
• A Christmas Dream (1946 - 10:49)
• A Horseshoe for Luck (1946 - 4:36)
• Inspiration (1949 - 11:32)
• King Lavra (1950 - 29:41)
Museum Documentaries
• Why Zeman Made the Film (3:30)
• Special Effects Techniques (3:44)
• About the Restoration (3:35)
• Restoration Demonstration (3:04)

Trailer (1:38)


Blu-ray Release
Date:
February 25th, 2020
Custom Blu-ray Case  cardboard sleeve

Chapters 15

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


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

 

1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


(aka "Baron Prášil" or "The Outrageous Baron Munchausen" or "The Baron" or "The Original Fabulous Adventures of Baron Munchausen" )

 

directed by Karel Zeman
Czechoslovakia 1962

 

In The Fabulous Baron Munchausen, Karel Zeman conjures the adventures of the legendary, boastful baron, whose whirlwind exploits take him from the moon to eighteenth-century Turkey to the belly of a whale and beyond. A kaleidoscopic marvel that blends live action with techniques including stop-motion, cutout collage, puppetry, painted backdrops, and antique tinting, Zeman’s film is an exhilarating visual delight and a warmhearted whirl through a bygone age too entrancing to have existed.

Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Box Cover

Presently the Criterion is only available in their Blu-ray package of Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman.

  

Distribution Second Run Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:24:49.958      1:25:12.982  
Video

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,456,134,544 bytes

Feature: 21,536,839,680 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.00

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

1.37:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,681,101,755 bytes

Feature: 25,593,028,608 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.92 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate Second Run Blu-ray:

Bitrate Criterion Blu-ray:

Audio LPCM Audio Czech 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

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

Subtitles English, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Second Run

 

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,456,134,544 bytes

Feature: 21,536,839,680 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.00

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• Film Adventurer Karel Zeman (2015, 1:41:48): feature length documentary on the life, work and influence of Karel Zeman with contributions from Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Koji Yamamura and others
• New and exclusive filmed appreciation by writer, editor and film historian Michael Brooke (36;11)
• Karel Zeman and the World featurette (5:05)
• The Birth of a Film Legend featurette (5:10)
• Why Zeman Made the Film featurette (3:46)
• The Cast (2:23)
• Zeman's Special Effects Techniques (1:49)
• Karel Zeman: The Legend Continues featurette (3:30)

• Trailer (1:40)

• Museum Karel Zeman (1:17)
• Booklet featuring a new essay on the film by journalist and critic Graham Williamson
 

Blu-ray Release Date: July 24th, 2017
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio:
Criterion

 

1.37:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,681,101,755 bytes

Feature: 25,593,028,608 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.92 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

• Film Adventurer Karel Zeman (1:41:50)
Museum Documentaries
• Why Zeman Made the Film (3:44)
• Cast (2:21)
• Special Effects Techniques (3:28)
• Karel Zeman The Legend Continues (3:32)
• Karel Zeman and the World (5:07)
• Restoration Demonstration (2:36)
Museum Promo (1:19)
Trailer (1:42)

 

Blu-ray Release Date: February 25th, 2020
Custom Blu-ray Case

Chapters 15

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


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

 

1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Second Run - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Box Cover

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Distribution Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


 


 

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