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Patton is a three-dimensional bronze bust of World War II field general George S. Patton who wrote poetry, fired pistols at strafing fighter planes, and loved the United States of America with a lofty and historical zeal. Tracing his personal rivalries with such generals as Rommel and Montgomery, his problematic treatment of his own men, and his nearly runaway contempt for diplomacy, the film triumphs as an enduring portrait of a complex and larger-than-life figure.
For more about Patton and the Patton Blu-ray release, see Patton Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on November 5, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates, Karl Michael Vogler, Edward Binns, Jack Gwillim
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
» See full cast & crew
Patton Blu-ray Review
With a new remaster, Fox finally rights Patton's picture quality wrongs.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, November 5, 2012
With the arrival of Blu-ray, it took film studios and home video production houses a few years to refine their workflows and figure out how to best treat older catalog titles. Initially, many stuck with what worked in the DVD days, smoothing away grain with heavy digital noise reduction and trying to make details pop with edge enhancement. These supposed picture quality remedies weren't particularly distracting in standard definition, but in 1080p —which is much more capable of displaying the nuanced texture of film—they're fraught with ugly side effects. In strong enough doses, edge "enhancement" gives footage a harsh, filtered quality, adding halo-like artifacts to hard outlines. Worse, de-noising invariably robs a high-def picture of clarity, softening the image and giving actors' faces a shiny, unnatural, almost airbrushed-looking sheen.
The two go hand-in-hand. DNR is accomplished through wholesale blurring, and then digital sharpening is used in an attempt to restore detail. The argument for keeping these techniques in place was that viewers wouldn't want a grainy picture on their slick new HDTVs. The counterargument, of course—which will alway win out for those who truly care about film restoration and preservation—is that grain is an inherent aspect of celluloid filmmaking, and that the act of smearing it away is akin to filing down the brush strokes on the Mona Lisa in order to create a "cleaner" picture.
In the six years since the first batch of Blu-ray titles first hit U.S. shelves, the studios—for the most part—have learned that sabotaging the natural look of film to appeal to naive consumers simply isn't a good idea. They've gotten better at high definition mastering. Better at compression. And they've learned to use their digital toolboxes more inconspicuously. (See the excellent recent Jaws release, or just about anything put out by the Criterion Collection.) But yes, there were unfortunately some early casualties, including the monumental 1970 war biopic, Patton, which was first released on Blu-ray in June of 2008.
Now, it's one thing to see a forgettable, b-grade film get treated carelessly on home video, but Patton is a classic—the winner of eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (George C. Scott), Best Director (Franklin Schaffner), and Best Original Screenplay (Francis Ford Coppola). An uncompromising biography of one of America's greatest and most controversial military figures, the three-hour film doesn't shy away from Patton's character flaws—his megalomaniacal ego and stubborn, hard-assed approached to leadership—while still honoring his drive and strategical genius. This is a movie that deserves to look its best, especially considering that it was shot in large-format 65mm, which should deliver stunning clarity in texture and detail.
That initial edition, however, was quite literally glossy; the natural filmic patina of the fine-grained original 65mm negative had been egregiously scrubbed out of each and every frame, inadvertently removing detail in the process. Some viewers inexplicably approved—just look at the user reviews here on the site—but I have a feeling they'll reconsider after seeing the night-and-day difference in 20th Century Fox's all-new remaster of the film, which ditches the DNR and edge enhancement in favor of a gorgeously unaltered picture that's drastically sharper. At last, George C. Scott's iconically craggy face no longer looks like a lump of half-molten candle wax. Read on to see exactly why the picture quality is unassailably better this time around:
Patton Blu-ray, Video Quality
I'll cut my fellow reviewer Marty Liebman some slack regarding his glowing assessment of the original 2008 release of Patton. Back then, we were all in awe of seeing our favorite classics in high definition for the first time, and perhaps more willing to overlook some blatant picture quality issues. The fact is, that initial Blu-ray edition looks bad—smeary, overly de-noised, robbed of detail—and if you need cold, hard, indisputable evidence, compare this full-sized screenshot from the first release to this one from the all-new 1080p/AVC- encoded transfer. In the former, notice how there's no texture to George C. Scott's face. Notice how his dog's fur is weirdly smooth. Notice the distinct lack of detail in the driver's uniform. In the shot from the remaster, however, fine film grain is visible, textures are keenly defined, and the picture appears infinitely more natural and lifelike. Go on, grain-haters, I challenge you to defend the first shot. It can't be done.
This new release is how Patton should've looked on Blu-ray all along. The clarity from the 65mm image is simply extraordinary from start to finish. The weft of cloth, the intricacies of the sets, the dirt on helmets, the detail in the actors' facial features—with the grain structure intact, everything is tighter, more palpable, better resolved. The tonal qualities of the picture are noticeably improved as well, with punchier contrast, denser colors, and more accurate skin tones. There are some almost imperceptible color/brightness fluctuations in certain longer shots—this is not uncommon when using such a large negative, which is more prone to uneven development—but otherwise, I can't drum up a single complaint about this revamped edition. The print is pristine. There are no compression quirks. No encode hiccups. Not only has Fox righted the PQ wrongs of the first release, they've also delivered one of the best high definition transfers of a catalog title in recent memory, right up there with The Sound of Music and Lawrence of Arabia. Patton fans who care about accurate film restoration will definitely find the double-dip worth it.
Patton Blu-ray, Audio Quality
From what I can tell, this new edition seems to retain the same lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track of the previous release, and that's a good thing. As Marty noted in his 2008 review, there is a slight hiss at times, but it's really only apparent if you're actively listening for it. For the most part, this is an impressive mix for a film from 1970. The emphasis is largely on dialogue—this is more of a biopic than an out-and-out war movie—and it almost always comes through cleanly and clearly, although there are two or three instances where Patton's barked orders are a bit peaked and harsh. The more action-heavy sequences arrive with significant sonic aplomb. Straffing planes criss-cross between speakers. Bullets zip through the rears and artillery shells land with potent explosions. There's little in the way of environmental ambience, but there are certainly plenty of directional and panning effects. Jerry Goldsmith's appropriately martial score is wonderfully realized here as well, with crisp trumpets, rat-a-tat-tat snare drums, and other marching band instrumentation, all carefully spread throughout the soundfield. Along with Spanish and French dubs, the disc includes optional English, Mandarin, and Cantonese subtitles.
Patton Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No changes here. As with the original release, the Blu-ray disc itself includes only an introduction (SD, 4:54) and a patchy but informative audio commentary, both by writer Francis Ford Coppola, who describes his early work on the project, the research involved, and the historical Patton. The intro is a bit redundant, but the commentary is certainly worth a listen. All the other special features are included on a DVD:
Patton Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Debuting nearly two years to the date of the first commercially available Blu-ray movies, the original 2008 release of Patton was treated like a DVD title, smeary with heavy digital noise reduction. Thankfully, 20th Century Fox has come to its senses, re-releasing the iconic war biopic with an all- new high definition remaster that finally does the film justice. This edition is sharper, more vibrant, and—best of all—looks naturally filmic. The proof is in the screenshots—I've uploaded 40 of them for your perusal—but the movie looks even better in motion. While the audio and supplementary features remain the same, this is one of those rare instances where a double-dip based on picture quality alone is definitely worth it. Highly recommended!
Patton: Other Editions
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Patton Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Patton and Von Ryan's Express Dated - September 12, 2012
20th Century Fox Entertainment has detailed its upcoming Blu-ray releases of Mark Robson's Von Ryan's Express (1965), starring Frank Sinatra, Trevor Howard and Raffaella Carrà, and Franklin J. Schaffner's Patton (1970), starring George C. Scott, Karl Malden and ...
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