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Blu-Ray Review: Timeless Romance of ‘Doctor Zhivago’ in HD

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CHICAGO – David Lean’s “Doctor Zhivago” is one of the most beloved films of all time and it has been masterfully transferred to Blu-ray courtesy of the best studio in existence when it comes to ushering timeless classics on to the next generation format. Warner Brothers has done it again with a must-own for classic movie fans.

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0

Ask ten people to name a classic “epic” and several will list “Doctor Zhivago” (with maybe only another Lean film, “Laurence of Arabia” beating it out for the first to mind.) The 1965 film based on the novel by Boris Pasternak was such a cultural phenomenon when it was released that it stands as the eighth highest grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation (at $987 million, just behind “Jaws” and just ahead of “The Exorcist”).

Doctor Zhivago was released on Blu-Ray on May 4th, 2010.
Doctor Zhivago was released on Blu-Ray on May 4th, 2010.
Photo credit: Warner Brothers Home Video

Like a lot of films, “Doctor Zhivago” was not openly embraced by critics when it was first released. Clearly, it was wildly popular among the people, but the film took time to grow with those who get paid to write reviews. In 1998, the American Film Institute infamously listed their 100 best films of all time and Lean’s 1965 work was at #39 between “Double Indemnity” and “North by Northwest”. It won five Academy Awards, including Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Writing, Best Costume Design, and Best Score (for one of the most instantly recognizable in history from Maurice Jarre). The film lost Best Picture to “The Sound of Music”.

Doctor Zhivago was released on Blu-Ray on May 4th, 2010.
Doctor Zhivago was released on Blu-Ray on May 4th, 2010.
Photo credit: Warner Brothers Home Video

That score is one of the reasons to pick up the recently-released Blu-ray, for it’s never sounded better than it does on this release. Naturally, 1965 audio isn’t going to overwhelm, but this mix is perfectly balanced with score, dialogue, and effects coordinated perfectly. The video is far more impressive with just the right color levels, line detail, and grain so that the movie doesn’t look overly polished and “wrong” but also has never looked better on the home market. It’s arguably the best transfer of the year, even if just for the pop of Julie Christie’s blue eyes, which look like they could come off the screen.

The Blu-ray of “Doctor Zhivago” includes an entire disc of supplemental material, including a lot of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from the era of the film’s release. The film itself includes a commentary by Omar Sharif, Rod Steiger, and Sandra Lean along with a new commemorative two-part 45th-anniversary retrospective. There are over a dozen vintage featurettes, an hour-long doc called “Doctor Zhivago: The Making of a Russian Epic,” and even a CD sampler of the Grammy-winning soundtrack album

Even the packaging of “Doctor Zhivago” distinguishes the release, looking more like a hardcover book and coming with a detailed booklet about the making of the film. A timeless film presented in pristine HD with copious, historic special features - what more do you want from a classic on Blu-ray?

Official Synopsis:

“Lara inspires lechery in Komarovsky (her mother’s lover who is a master at surviving whoever runs Russia) and can’t compete with passion for the revolution of the man she marries, Pasha. Her true love is Zhivago who also loves his wife. Lara is the one who inspires poetry. The story is narrated by Zhivago’s half brother Yevgraf, who has made his career in the Soviet Army. At the beginning of the film he is about to meet a young woman he believes may be the long lost daughter of Lara and Zhivago.”

‘Doctor Zhivago’ is released by Warner Brothers Home Video and stars Geraldine Chaplin, Julie Christie, Tom Courtenay, Alex Guiness, Siobhan McKenna, Ralph Richardson, Omar Sharif, Rod Steiger, and Rita Tushingham. It was written by Robert Bolt and directed by David Lean. The Blu-ray was released on May 4th, 2010. It is rated PG.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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