My copy of the Blu-ray release of Ridley Scott’s director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven arrived today from DVD Pacific. At 194 minutes, this is one of the longest title to be released on either of the two HD formats, as far as I’m aware beaten only by the 198-minute Spartacus on HD DVD. Anyway, on DVD, this cut of Kingdom of Heaven came in a lavish four-disc set, splitting the film across the first two and showcasing a wealth of extras on discs three and four. For the Blu-ray release, all of the extras, barring the trailer, have been disposed of. And why? Would it really have been so hard for them to include an extra disc - even a standard DVD9 or two - including the extras? Was space on the BD50 really so scarce that they couldn’t toss in the three audio commentaries at a low bit rate? The first question can be answered by simply stating that Fox are cheapskates and have already built up a reputation for diddling customers over when it comes to extras on their Blu-ray releases. The second question can also be answered by going down the “Fox are cheapskates” route: instead of licensing a more efficient codec, they chose to encode the movie using bloated old MPEG2, and in doing so ensured that the only element of the disc that’s “Beyond High Definition” is the pop-up menu.
Anyway, what of the transfer itself? It’s impressive, and in the upper echelon of Blu-ray efforts. No, it’s not The Descent or Silent Hill, and it doesn’t hold a candle to HD DVD greats like Serenity and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, or even almost-but-not-quite titles like King Kong and The Adventures of Robin Hood. It is very good, though: a solid 8/10 affair marred only by some artefacting in the opening snow-laden scenes (MPEG2, look at you!) and some mild but persistent edge enhancement. Obviously, I’ve not watched the entire film yet, so I may uncover some additional problems when I go through it with a fine toothcomb, but first impressions would put it more or less on a level with Constantine and Robin Hood Daffy.
My copy of the French collector’s edition DVD release of Lucio Fulci’s Beatrice Cenci also arrived today, from FNAC, along with the two most recent “Grande Collection” Asterix books (interesting that one, shipped on the final day of the last month from Amazon.fr, arrived on the same day as the other, shipped four days ago from FNAC). I’ve given it the once-over, and it appears to have a decent if unremarkable transfer (it’s 1.85:1, which appears to be the intended aspect ratio, although some of the opening credits on the right-hand side are barely contained within the frame on a zero-overscan display), although the lack of English subtitles is going to be a bit of a pain. Still, at least my French (rudimentary) is better than my Italian (non-existent), so I suppose I can probably just about muddle through with the help of the subtitles.