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The Elephant Man(1980)
A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous facade, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity.
For more about The Elephant Man and the The Elephant Man Blu-ray release, see the The Elephant Man Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 31, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Freddie Jones
» See full cast & crew
The Elephant Man Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 31, 2009
David Lynch's "The Elephant Man" (1980) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. Amongst the supplemental features on the disc are: Joseph Merrick: The Real Elephant Man, a look at the tragic history of the man whose story inspired David Lynch's film; an interview with director David Lynch conducted at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, 2007; an interview with actor John Hurt; a second interview with David Lynch conducted by Mike Figgis in 2006; and more. With optional English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Japanese subtitles. Region A/B "locked".
Before Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins, The World's Fastest Indian) meets John Merrick a.k.a The Elephant Man (John Hurt, Scandal), we see that he is forced to work as a "circus freak". Merrick is "owned" by a feisty man by the name of Blytes (Freddie Jones, The Last Butterfly), who makes a living showing his "possession" to the curious in exchange for a small fee. Blytes introduces Merrick to Dr. Treves, who offers to pay him handsomely if he allows him to examine the man in his hospital. Blytes immediately agrees.
Merrick arrives at the hospital with a big bag covering his face and a large gown covering his body. Dr. Treves introduces him to his colleagues - who are just as shocked and amused by his deformed body as are those who have attended Blytes' "shows" - and places him in one of the hospital's private rooms.
Slowly but surely, Merrick earns the hearts of the hospital staff. Wealthy Londoners and dignitaries also take an interest in him; a few even visit him in the hospital. Eventually, his story reaches Queen Victoria, and she sends a letter to congratulate Dr. Treves and the hospital staff for helping Merrick.
Angered that other people have started benefiting from his precious "possession", Blytes takes Merrick away from Dr. Treves. The two end up in France where Merrick is once again forced to work as a "circus freak". He suffers enormously. Eventually, he manages to escape from Blytes with the help of a few circus players.
Like a lot of critics before me who have written about David Lynch's The Elephant Man, I have mixed feelings about it. Part of me likes the film a lot - its story is disturbing yet beautiful. I think that there is a strong message of hope and compassion in it that anyone could appreciate. Part of me, however, would always question its bitter-sweet sentimentality - coming dangerously close to introducing a religious sentiment to the story - which becomes almost impossible to tolerate immediately after Merrick arrives at the hospital.
Films about such extreme human suffering are most effective when they leave one struggling to rationalize its existence, not when they let one feel good about enduring it. There is no grace in the pain Merrick must cope with, and this is why he has such a profound impact on everyone that meets him. Unsurprisingly, The Elephant Man is most convincing when Lynch's camera studies the faces of the main protagonists, not when they confess in front of it what torments their souls.
Shot in glorious black and white, The Elephant Man has that unique intensely dark aura all Lynch films have. Though not as immersive (Lost Highway), and certainly not as manipulative (Mulholland Drive) as it is in his later films, it is still notably effective.
The acting is very strong. The scene where Hopkins meets the Elephant Man for the first time is incredible. Hurt is also fantastic, though almost impossible to recognize under the heavy makeup. Jones delivers an unforgettable performance as well.
The Elephant Man also benefits from an outstanding music score courtesy of John Morris (Dirty Dancing. His simple but elegant melodies enhance the dark aura of the film very well. The string motives, in particular, are tremendous.
In 1981, The Elephant Man was nominated for eight Oscar awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, and Best Original Score.
The Elephant Man Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and grated a 1080p transfer, David Lynch's The Elephant Man arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
Even though this transfer is not as convincing as the ones Optimum Home Entertainment/Studio Canal introduced for Belle de jour and The Deer Hunter, it still represents a solid upgrade when compared to previous SDVD releases of The Elephant Man. Fine object detail and clarity are good but not consistent. For example, some of the darker scenes in the film tend to look a bit soft. Mild digital noise is also easy to spot. On the positive side, contrast levels appear relatively stable. Finally, I noticed a few minor flecks while watching the film, but I did not see any large cuts, dirt, or stains. All in all, even though there are a few minor issues with the transfer, I believe that it certainly allows one to experience David Lynch's film in an entirely new way. (Note: This is a Region A/B "locked" disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A, Region-B or Region-Free player in order to access its content. Please note that the disc's main menu could be set in one of the following languages: English, Spanish, Danish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, or Japanese).
The Elephant Man Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are five audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. I opted for the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.
I don't have any reservations with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The dialog is crisp, clear and very easy to follow. John Morris' terrific music score is also well balanced with it. Dynamically, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 certainly does not rank as one of the best I have heard, but this is hardly surprising; surround activity is indeed rather limited. Finally, there are no disturbing pops, cracks, or hissings to report in this review.
For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Japanese subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, the split the image frame and the black bar below it.
The Elephant Man Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features on this Blu-ray disc are encoded in 480/60i. Therefore, they are perfectly playable on Region-A PS3s and SAs.
Joseph Merrick: The Real Elephant Man - a look at the tragic history of the man whose story inspired David Lynch's film. In English. (20 min, 480/60i).
The Air is on Fire - an interview with director David Lynch conducted at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, 2007. In French and English, with English subtitles. (15 min, 480/60i).
John Hurt Interview - the actor talks about the Elephant Man, how the film was shot, what director David Lynch wanted to accomplish with it and how, etc. (21 min, 480/60i).
David Lynch Interview - a long and very informative interview with the director of The Elephant Man in which he recalls how the film came to exist. In English. (25 min, 480/60i).
Interview with David Lynch and Mike Figgis - another long and very informative interview. David Lynch's comments on the process of transforming an idea into film are fascinating. (20 min, 480/60i).
BD Live Functionality -
Booklet - a 20-page illustrated booklet containing an essay by Time Out London magazine writer and critic tom Huddleston.
The Elephant Man Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This is yet another good addition to the Studio Canal Collection. The supplemental features, all of which are perfectly playable on Region-A PS3s and SA, are excellent. RECOMMENDED.
The Elephant Man: Other Editions
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The Elephant Man Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Studio Canal Collection Gets Detailed - September 16, 2009
Our British mates of DVD Times have listed the full release details of seven titles that Optimum Home Entertainment is releasing on Blu-ray on September 28 under the "Studio Canal Collection": 'Belle de jour', 'The Deer Hunter', 'The Elephant Man', 'Last Year In ...
• Optimum Unleashes Blu-ray Deluge - June 2, 2009
Optimum Home Entertainment has added nearly forty catalog titles to its Blu-ray schedule, for release between July and September 2009. Titles run the gamut of genres, from Hong Kong martial arts to European arthouse classics, and more Luc Besson than you can ...
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