The Sand Pebbles (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 05-27-2008, 01:37 PM - Thread Starter
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attachment.php?attachmentid=110466&d=1210879026
The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

83






Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 1966
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 179 Minutes
Genre: War Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: MPEG-2
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p/24


Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Lossless, English Dolby Surround, Spanish/French Mono
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean
Starring: Steve McQueen, Richard Crenna, Candice Bergen, Richard Attenborough
Directed by: Robert Wise
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Written by: Robert Anderson based on the novel by Richard McKenna
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 3, 2008







"Peace has to start from within"



Film Synopsis:

Directed by Hollywood icon Robert Wise (West Side Story) and nominated for eight Oscars?, the definitive naval epic THE SAND PEBBLES (1966, Fox) stars Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Richard Crenna, Mako and Candice Bergen and follows a defiant sailor as he clashes with foreign culture as well as his own superiors during the 1926 Chinese Revolution.

Here is the story synopsis as stated on the rear jacket of the novel by Richard McKenna:


The Sand Pebbles is a gripping novel of adventure aboard a Yangtze River gunboat (The U.S.S. San Pablo) at the very moment of China's bloody awaking to its new destiny. It is the story of men, a ship, and a way of life engulfed in a tidal wave of revolution. But most of all, it is the story of Jake Holman, a tough young American sailor who finds himself caught between the perils of love and the madness of war."




My Take:

As a film fan I try to keep an open mind when sitting down to watch a movie. I like Steve McQueen and was looking forward to The Sand Pebbles as I have never seen it. I liked this film but not as much as I had hoped. He gave a strong performance and Jake Holman was definitely a complex and believable character. I felt that he, Frenchy, and Maily were well developed characters in that you cared about them. There were others that had integral roles in the story, such as Shirley, the Captain and Po-han but I felt that they didn't evolve as well as the others. I would like to have seen a bit more interaction between Shirley and Jake. I think that would have meant more to the story in the third act. Frenchy and Maily were two very sympathetic souls who were destined to failure but theirs was the plot point that you really cared about. Once they were gone it seemed like the story needed a new mission and the rescue of Jamison and Shirley seemed more like an after thought. Lastly, I thought three hours was too long for this one. It didn't have the epic feel and deep plot of some other recent wartime films I have reviewed.

Those minor issues aside there was plenty to like about this film. The performances by McQueen, Attenborough, and Arsan were superb. I appreciated the attention to detail in the scenery, weaponry, language and cinematography. It didn't try and overplay the simple thematic elements presented but used them to pull the audience in. McQueen is stealthy cool and his performance here was reminiscent of him at his best.





Parental Guide:

The disc is rating is PG-13. I assume that when the film was released it must have garnered at least a PG or higher rating considering that there was no PG-13 rating back in 1966. The rating is for violence and sexual material. This would be appropriate by today's standards.






AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 84



  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692



Video: 82


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

Fox has brought The Sand Pebbles to high definition Blu-ray Disc featuring 1080p MPEG-2 encoded video with an average bitrate of 19 mbps and 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio lossless sound with an average bitrate of 3.2 mbps.

Looking at the audio and video as a whole I would have to say that it was impressive. This was especially true of the soundtrack. This is a wartime based film (although not an American war) that is almost entirely dialogue driven. The only real explosive elements came when the San Pablo needed to attack a group of Chinese boats that were protecting a large cable (rope really) which was stretched across a canal to prevent access. Machine guns, rifles, onboard canons and explosions all sounded fairly dynamic and punchy. I would not put it on the same level of a track recorded today but the mix was certainly decent. Dialogue was intelligible but felt slightly compressed at times as if the recording microphones were too far from the actors. The surrounds and subwoofer were used sparingly to deliver the onscreen action. Where they were used quite often and too excellent effect were in reproducing Jerry Goldsmiths incredible music score. At times it just sounded so good I was astounded. Crystal clarity and wonderful instrument separation was coupled along with an enveloping presence that brought forth every musical detail.

The video presentation was consistent in its rendering of detail, deep blacks and shadow delineation. There are many low light and shadowy sequences in this film. I didn't notice any scenes that suffered from poor background detail or lack of visible structure in low light. I found it impressive considering the age of this film. A few of these sequences necessitate being able to make out shapes etc. in the dark so it was a positive to have that ability. Images looked detailed enough so that visible texture within background was visible. Obviously that related to principle objects in the shot as well which left them looking defined and dimensional. A good example of this was the ship's engine room which looked superb in high definition. Sharpness and clarity was not always resolute (especially in the distant daytime panning shots of the harbor and cityscapes) but those shots looked that way consistently and seemed inherent. Colors were subdued and appeared almost under saturated. Hues were natural looking which prevented fleshtones from being drab. I would like to have a bit more diversity in that regard but in the end I didn't find it distracting.



Bonus Features:



The is a noteworthy set of Bonus supplements that I am sure will please even the most demanding Sand Pebbles fans. Kudos to Fox for including so much great content on a 42 year old catalog title release.




  • Commentary by Director Robert Wise and Actors Candice Bergen, Richard Crenna and Mako

  • Isolated Score Track with commentary by music producer Nick Redman, Film Music Historian Jon Burlingham and Film Historian/Screenwriter Lem Dobbs

  • Trivia track

  • Road Show version scenes

  • The Making of Sand Pebbles Documentary

  • Steve McQueen Remembered Featurette

  • Robert Wise Remembered Featurette

  • China 1926 Remembered Featurette

  • A ship called San Pablo Featurette

  • The Secret of San Pablo Featurette

  • Radio Documentaries narrated by Richard Attenborough

  • Radio Spots

  • Original Theatrical Trailer




Final Thoughts:



The Sand Pebbles is considered by many to be an epic film. At the time of its release it may very well have been. I saw it is as a very good film with epic aspirations but that is just my opinion. Fox has brought it to Blu-ray Disc high definition in a wonderful package that is sure to delight fans. If you have been waiting for this release then feel free to pick it up on June 3rd.







attachment.php?attachmentid=109949&d=1210373731






Ralph Potts
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post #2 of 14 Old 05-27-2008, 03:10 PM
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SOLD!
I'm all for getting older titles on Blu Ray.

Blu Ray... 3-D TV... 4K... I Like New STUFF!!!

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post #3 of 14 Old 05-27-2008, 05:21 PM
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Ralph, thanks for your as usual excellent review.
I first saw this one almost 40 years ago, and it grabbed me immediately and has been one of my all time favorite films ever since. I feel it has some of the best work McQueen and Crenna ever did (my all time favorite of McQueen's is Papillion).
My pre-order has been in for this one since it was announced.
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post #4 of 14 Old 05-27-2008, 05:32 PM
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An Mpeg2 video encode? Fox must have done this disc early in 2007 and meant for it to be released much earlier.
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post #5 of 14 Old 05-27-2008, 06:47 PM
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I've been waiting a loooong time for this and Patton.

 

It ain't ignorance causes so much trouble; it's folks knowing so much that ain't so

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post #6 of 14 Old 05-27-2008, 07:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacksmyname View Post

Ralph, thanks for your as usual excellent review.
I first saw this one almost 40 years ago, and it grabbed me immediately and has been one of my all time favorite films ever since. I feel it has some of the best work McQueen and Crenna ever did (my all time favorite of McQueen's is Papillion).
My pre-order has been in for this one since it was announced.

Well, Ralph, I agree entirely with Jacksmyname that your review is just as good as the movie itself. I, too, really like this film.
I also agree with him on the performances of McQueen and Crenna-- not to mention fine work by Candace Bergen and Oscar-worthy performances by Richard Attenborough and the incredible (and nominated) Mako.

One real value of this release is that the commentary track (which must be built from interviews, etc.) contains remarks on this major film by the director and three of the stars, only one of whom is still alive!

Can't wait to get this one as well. I swear I'll be begging from the New Orleans tourists before June is to far underway!!
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post #7 of 14 Old 05-27-2008, 10:26 PM
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If you liked the film try reading the book. I did years ago and it's a very in depth story that will help you flesh out the characters and story a lot.
I haven't read the book or watched the film in a long time but both have stuck with me all these years and I'll probably have to pick that title up when a good sale comes up. Thanks for a good review and reminding me of it again.
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post #8 of 14 Old 06-02-2008, 03:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dartman View Post

If you liked the film try reading the book. I did years ago and it's a very in depth story that will help you flesh out the characters and story a lot.

The book goes into great detail on the day-to-day operations of the ship - the bad habits and unsavory behaviors of many crew members - and also a fuller treatment of the engine overhaul that Holman and Pohan take on. The movie has a different feel than the book - largely because of McQueen's performance - which he rendered with superb body language that the printed word just cannot convey effectively. This Blu-Ray is going to be in every film lover's collection.

Regards,
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post #9 of 14 Old 06-04-2008, 08:12 PM
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The isolated score track, with commentary during the silences by several film-music experts and recorded interview exerpts by Goldsmith himself, is IMO worth the price of the disc in and of itself.

I'm blown away by this release, which successfully restores the cinematic look of the film, corrects the color aberrations of the last DVD release, and includes a brilliantly restored lossless audio track.

Wide Awake

on the Edge

of the World

 

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post #10 of 14 Old 06-05-2008, 11:12 AM
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^^^^^^

Think I'll try this one. I just didn't like the way Patton looked on my display though most would call me crazy and it was great. Looked too artificial to me for lack of better description. The sound was just OK on that one and I'm a bit of an audiophile what with SACD, DVD_A., vinyl etc. so it is good to know your feelings about this track which really is arousing my curiousity that much more.
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post #11 of 14 Old 06-07-2008, 06:06 AM
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rdclark,

I ended up renting it yesterday and watched the first half. I have nothing to copmpare this to as I'm not an owner of the SD DVD. I wish I was to take a peek on how this looks in comparison to it as well as the sound. I also wish I had the Patton SD DVD to compare the BD to.

I enjoyed viewing this movie up to this point and will finish it over the weekend to give a final conclusion.
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post #12 of 14 Old 06-11-2008, 02:55 PM
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Ralph thanks for the great reviews, I find myself every other day or so looking to see if you have posted a new review.

From your reviews of Patton, The Longest Day and The Sand Pebbles I Have decided to do a pre-order from Amazon for one of their Blu Ray War Bundles, all three films for $65.00.
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post #13 of 14 Old 06-11-2008, 03:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Icehouse View Post

Ralph thanks for the great reviews, I find myself every other day or so looking to see if you have posted a new review.

From your reviews of Patton, The Longest Day and The Sand Pebbles I Have decided to do a pre-order from Amazon for one of their Blu Ray War Bundles, all three films for $65.00.

Greetings,

Very cool Icehouse! Enjoy....


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post #14 of 14 Old 06-28-2008, 06:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ralph Potts View Post

I would like to have seen a bit more interaction between Shirley and Jake. I think that would have meant more to the story in the third act.

Interestingly, this is what we got in the longer Roadshow version (which was included on the DVD set). Unfortunately it was not included on the Blu - a big negative for me
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