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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia Even More Stunning on Blu-ray

Written by Kirk Baird

Lawrence of Arabia sets the new standard for Blu-ray releases, as this miraculous 4K high-definition transfer brings stunning life to one of the truly great and influential works of cinema. An epic in every sense of the word, the sprawling desert landscapes of Lawrence of Arabia is why theatres exist, while this is undeniably the definitive version for the home, with a polished print so clean it’s doubtful the film has ever looked this beautiful.

Based on the autobiography of T.E. Lawrence with a script by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, Lawrence of Arabia is the tale of an extraordinary British man (an impossibly handsome Peter O’Toole, whose blond hair and blue eyes brighten the screen as never before) who fights ancient allegiances, armies, and himself in an effort to unite Arabia under one rule during World War I.

Director David Lean’s triumph took seven Oscars in 1963, including Best Picture, though the Academy failed to reward O’Toole for what is essentially his stunning debut film performance. Considering his competition that year — Jack Lemmon for Days of Wine and Roses, Burt Lancaster for Birdman of Alcatraz, Marcello Mastroianni for Divorce Italian Style, and winner Gregory Peck for To Kill a Mockingbird — such an oversight is forgivable, though no less tragic.

The magnificent cast includes Alec Guinness as a prince sheik (it’s a testament to his acting that his performance is so commanding, despite a fake black beard and tan makeup), Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, and Jose Ferrer. The film also picked up Oscars for Freddie Young’s gorgeous cinematography and the lush score by Maurice Jarre – who was the fourth choice to compose the soundtrack and who had only six weeks to write it and record it once hired by Lean.

The nearly four-hour movie takes up one Blu-ray, with several extras packed on a second Blu-ray disc, including a delightful recent interview with O’Toole as he reminisces about the film and his colleagues on the set.

Lawerence of Arabia is an enduring classic, universally praised as one of the greatest films of all time. And on Blu-ray, it finds a release worthy of its fame.

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