The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Warner Bros. - 1973
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 150 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman, Don Gordon, Anthony Zerbe, William Smithers, Woodrow Parfrey,
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Written by: Dalton Trumbo & Lorenzo Semple Jr. based on the book by Henri Charriere
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: May 24, 2011
"The greatest adventure of escape"
They called him Papillon, meaning buttlerfly. If only he had wings to go with the name. Unable to fly, Henri Charriere virtually willed himself free. He persisted until he did the impossible: escape Devil's Island. Shot in Spain and Jamaica Papillon is based on Charriere's bestseller.
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and based on a bestselling book, Papillon is a true story about French ex-convict Henri Charriére a petty criminal who is unjustly convicted of murder, and his constant struggle to escape to freedom from the brutal French penal system in Guiana's infamous Devil's Island. I have said this before but I will say it again, Steve McQueen was just plain cool. His onscreen charisma and tough guy persona made him fun to watch. I haven't seen Papillon in years and jumped at the chance to review it when I saw it was coming to Blu-ray. My only experience with it was seeing it on television and I believe that was an edited version because I don't recall ever seeing the sequence where Papillon lives with the native people in the beach village. I guess that would make sense since the native women walk around bare breasted. There is a bit more violence than I recall also. The scene on the ship involving Papillon defending Dega from the two thugs comes to mind. There is a little action and suspense but this is most decidedly a dramatic film that portrays Papillon's struggle for freedom, the visceral nature of the human condition and the friendship that develops between himself and Dega. What I like most about this film is the nuanced performances by McQueen and Hoffman. It would be fair to say that Papillon was an ambitious undertaking especially in the early 1970's. Shot in parts of Spain and Jamaica its locations are beautifully captured and enhance the thematic nature of the story. Director Frank J. Schaffner paints with broad strokes which sometimes impacts flow but I don't find it to be to a deleterious degree. Having not seen it in a long time I thoroughly enjoyed this revisit. Fans are sure to be pleased with its high definition rendering on Blu-ray as it looks wonderful.
The rating is for thematic elements, brief violence and partial nudity.
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)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Papillon comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Home Video featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 19 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.8 Mbps.
This is a solid looking high def catalog release that presents this 38 year old film in a positive light. It boasts clean, well depicted primary colors and a good mix of secondary hues that mate well with the source material. Other than the film's opening sequence I found little to complain about in terms of the overall quality of the video. Resolution is discerning with varying degrees of delineation. The opening sequence is noticeably soft and almost appears out of focus at times. Beyond that sharpness is stable with lucid clarity which enhances depth. Black and white levels are spot on which gives a fair amount of pop to colors and brighter exterior sequences while keeping darker or low lit segments looking noticeably punchy with quiet blacks with visibly gradational detail in shadowy backgrounds. Grain is present and moderately textured. This is a pleasing video presentation that appears faithful to the film's original elements.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack delivered crisp dialogue in a mostly front oriented presentation that offered a few splashes of light ambience through the surround channels. There was minimal low frequency detail mixed to the subwoofer and while its effects never reached room engaging levels it was tangibly present in a few instances. The blend of Jerry Goldsmith's evocative music score, voices and sound effects through the front channel speakers was rendered with good clarity, limited but fair dimensional perspective and average depth. It never sounded thin or dynamically starved and based upon the dated elements in the recording sounded just fine.
- The magnificent rebel - 12 minute vintage featurette
- Theatrical trailer
- Comes packaged in a sturdy 32 page book style keep case with photos, talent files etc.
I enjoy Papillon for its entertaining story, compelling performances and beautiful cinematography. I wouldn't necessarily qualify it as classic filmmaking but I am sure that its fans have an appreciation for it just the same. Those looking forward to its arrival on Blu-ray are in for a treat as it looks pretty darn good in high definition. The supplemental package is thin however the 32 page collectible Blu-ray Book makes for an excellent storage case/keepsake. Kudos to Warner for bringing Papillon to Blu-ray and for making this a worthwhile addition to any fans collection.
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