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High Road to China Blu-ray

United States
Hen's Tooth Video | 1983 | 105 min | Rated PG | Apr 17, 2012

High Road to China (Blu-ray)
Temporary cover art

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0


25GB Blu-ray Disc
Single disc (1 BD)

Region A (B, C untested)

List price: $34.95, Price history

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Movie rating
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Blu-ray rating
Video 2.6 of 52.6
Audio 3.1 of 53.1
Extras 0.5 of 50.5
Based on 2 user reviews

Movie appeal


High Road to China


High Road to China Blu-ray features poor video and solid audio in this enjoyable Blu-ray release

Patrick O'Malley, a boozing, washed-up aviator, meets his match when he's hired by determined heiress Eve Tozer to find her long lost father. They travel east in O'Malley's WWI biplanes, surviving close calls, combat with warlords and attacks by mysterious enemies along the way. But nothing tops the ongoing battle they have with each other - which leads, inevitably, to romance.

For more about High Road to China and the High Road to China Blu-ray release, see High Road to China Blu-ray Review published by on where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.

Starring: Tom Selleck, Bess Armstrong, Jack Weston, Wilford Brimley, Robert Morley, Brian Blessed
Director: Brian G. Hutton

» See full cast & crew

High Road to China Blu-ray, Video Quality

  2.0 of 5

After so long a wait, I would like to report that the image on Hen's Tooth's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray is a triumph, but I can't. I have been advised by Hen's Tooth that they were supplied with a hi-def transfer performed by the film's rightsholder from the original camera negative (or "OCN"); so at least Hen's Tooth can't be blamed for the pervasive lack of detail that afflicts the entire presentation and that no transfer from an OCN should display.

I'm not talking about the somewhat muddy quality of the image when the film starts. That's a function of the credit sequence, which, consistent with the standard of the time, was produced by optical superimposition that inevitably degraded the image. The picture quality changes significantly after the shot that includes Hutton's director's credit, which appears at 4:42. But while the image becomes noticeably cleaner, it never at any point displays the level of detail, in close-ups, medium or long shots, of which film is capable and that Blu-ray can readily reproduce.

Now before anyone runs off screaming "DNR" (a grossly abused and misused term on internet forums), let it be noted that film grain is visible and plentiful in this transfer. Indeed, the occasional night scenes (e.g., when Eve and Charlie first meet up with O'Malley and Struts) can be quite grainy. No, this appears to be a more fundamental issue with black levels and contrast settings, because it is hard not to notice just how bright everything in this image is at all times. There are no deep blacks or shadows, and as anyone who has ever performed the most basic calibration on a TV should know, an emphasis on brightness above all is the enemy of detail, which gets washed away by an excess of white. (Fleshtones also suffer from excess redness, but this could easily be a side effect of overbrightening.)

Indeed, this transfer strikes me as one prepared by technicians with their eye on the DVD market, as if the loss of detail didn't concern them, because they knew it would be lost in the downconversion anyway. What remains is certainly better than DVD, but we have long since passed the point with Blu-ray where "better than DVD" is an acceptable standard. My initial reaction on viewing the Blu-ray of High Road to China was that it must have come from a second or third generation print, which might explain the loss of detail. Having learned that it came from an OCN transfer, I can only shake my head in disappointment at what might have been. (And if the explanation turns out to be that the OCN had deteriorated past the point where it could support an acceptable transfer, which does happen, then someone in a position of authority should have made the decision to use a superior alternative.)

With respect to the aspect ratio, for a long time IMDb listed High Road to China with an AR of 2.35:1, which was wrong. I suspect the confusion arose from the fact that the cameras and lenses were supplied by Technovision, a French company that was also known for a widescreen process of the same name. As with Panavision (which subsequently acquired Technovision), people often confused the company with the process.

Currently, IMDb lists the film's AR as 1.78:1, presumably relying on the Blu-ray. That, too, is inaccurate, because it's not an AR for theatrical exhibition. High Road to China was released theatrically at 1.85:1, and Hen's Tooth is following the Warner practice of releasing such films on video at 1.78:1, which is the official AR of HDTV. Whether this involves cropping a few pixels or adding a few (by "opening up the matte") is impossible to say without definitive information on the OCN. High Road to China was shot in Europe by a British cinematographer (Ronnie Taylor) and a mostly European crew; if it was shot with a "hard" matte, it was most likely at 1.66:1, which would have allowed room to open up the image for this Blu-ray. Certainly nothing about the Blu-ray looked cramped or cut off.

High Road to China Blu-ray, Audio Quality

  3.5 of 5

The film's original soundtrack is reproduced as DTS-HD MA 2.0, with both tracks containing the same mono track. Mono releases remained common thirty years ago, if the film's budget was limited, especially since many movie theaters had yet to "upgrade" to stereo. (Yes, it's true.) Still, the Blu-ray's track has fine fidelity, with excellent reproduction of dialogue and sufficient dynamic range to bring out John Barry's beautiful score. Barry wrote relatively fewer cues for this film than for some of the others for which he composed soundtracks, but his main theme effectively establishes the tone, and it strongly anticipates his Oscar-winning score for Out of Africa two years later.

There's a dogfight sequence that shows off the work of the sound editors, even if all the sound stays in front, and there's enough bass extension in some of the pyrotechnics to engage the subwoofer (assuming one's system is properly configured). Yes, Virginia, mono soundtracks can tell a good story

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High Road to China Blu-ray, News and Updates

High Road To China Blu-ray - February 1, 2012

Independent distributors Hen's Tooth Video have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray Brian G. Hutton's adventure film High Road To China (1983), starring Tom Selleck, Bess Armstrong, and Jack Weston. Street date is April 17th.

High Road to China Blu-ray, Forum Discussions

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