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Lawrence of Arabia (Superbit)

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 219 mins . M15+ . PAL


The restoration of this film was completed in 1988, just saving the original print before it was destroyed by time. Effectively restored to the nth degree, every frame of this film looks exquisite and better than it ever could have.

Originally shot in 1962, Lawrence of Arabia is a grand achievement and a film most definitely worth investigating. I personally had never seen the film and was very much looking forward to the Superbit version, having not had the chance to look at the original 'Collectorís Edition' DVD release.

Itís a beautiful and remarkable film, making full use of the massive desert vistas in its original 70mm format (and apparently one of the last films to ever do so). While the story itself seems almost devoid of plot with barely a woman in sight, it is a magnificent tale and languidly takes its time relating the characters and events that made up this real life historical figure. While the T.E. Lawrence of the title manages some extraordinary feats in the desert, he is consumed by the power he has been granted, eventually being driven to the brink of insanity by the civil war raging unchecked within him. This war between his God complex and his desire to be an ordinary man can be compared to that of Jesus; the story even visiting some of the same locales that Jesus frequented in life.

"No prisoners!"

Much has been said about the film and the man and the extraordinary portrayals of Lawrence by Peter OíToole and his sidekick Sherif Ali played by Omar Sharif, so I shanít bother to re-iterate here. DVDnet has an excellent review of the restoration of this film and its original DVD release of the 'Collectorís Edition' which you can read here.

I will add this though Ė the film is incredibly beautiful and although the story wends slowly on its way, it does so with a curious intrigue that binds the viewer. At least I, 33 years old and having just watched this film for the first time, thought so.


Delivered on two discs like its predecessor, the disc plays magnificently. I havenít viewed the original restored release, but imagine theyíve used the same print for the Superbit edition. The picture is flawless and I couldnít find a single film artefact dirtying up the screen. I canít begin to imagine how hard a shoot like this would have been and for the film to look so magnificent is indeed a grand achievement. The only real fault I could detect is in the film stock itself. We occasionally see reflection of the film, which appears as a wavery shimmering vertically onscreen and this is most noticeable against a night sky shot early in the film. At 43:20ish on the first disc, there is a weird blue pulsing on and around Omar Sharif that Iíve seen in older films before. Iím not sure what it is, but my guess would be a light issue. Again, this is during a night scene inside a tent.

Other than that, the film looks simply magnificent and makes full use of the widescreen with the enhanced ratio of 2.35:1. The wider shots of the desert are literally breathtaking and I was just blown away by the sheer vastness of these shots.


The original disc has the restored and 5.1 Dolby Digital remastered sound mix and here we get that alongside a new DTS 5.1 track. It sounds magnificent, but again I canít imagine this is all that different from the 'Collectorís Edition'. Most amazing of all is Maurice Jarreís suitably Middle Eastern influenced musical score that so suits the film and brings the triumph and the tragedy of Lawrenceís adventures to the screen. Perfect sound, although the surrounds donít get all that much to do other than the delivery of occasional music. There are some gunshots and odd moments dragged around, but nothing like the major film surrounds we have today. Not to disparage it though; they just didnít record in anything like five tracks back then. Nice try anyway.


After Disc One the screen says "INSERT DISC TWO" and thankfully this opens straight into the film without having to sit through the whole Superbit start again. Other than that we get the Dolby City Trailer in its entire noisy spectacle - and that's it.


There is little that hasnít been said about this Academy Award winning film and itís a bit late for me to be adding my two cents. However, I found the film exciting and tragically beautiful with brilliant camera movements and long shots extending the appeal and adding real depth to the desert visuals. I was wholly impressed and, as my partner remarked, the film could be set just about anytime, as it appears so timeless.

The restoration is magnificent and the Superbit looks and sounds magnificent, but I would imagine it looks and sounds very similar to the CE released previously. Still, this has a new DTS track, so it will depend on how badly you want DTS I guess. No extra features limits the appeal as well, particularly as the CE holds so many.

Itís great, but Iíd be more inclined to go with the 'Collectorís Edition' for value in the extras over the DTS track.

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      And I quote...
    "For posterity, this is magnificent, but I canít imagine itís much better than the Collectorís Edition previously released."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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