Hooray for HD DVD!
Once again, I must apologise for the sparsity of updates over the last few days. It turns out that the problems I was having didn’t go away - if anything, they got worse. I took a trip to the doctor this afternoon, and, while I didn’t come away with a definite diagnosis, she said that the most likely answer was that I have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Apparently, there’s not a great deal that can be done about it, beyond establishing a diet that agrees with me and making sure I take lots of fibre and fluids, but I did get a prescription for a high fibre drink called Regulan, which, taken over the course of the next 30 days, should flush anything nasty out of my bowel and intestines (and all for under a fiver - seriously, one of the few things about this country that I’ll never knock is the NHS).
Anyway, while I wait for my Regulan to take effect, I’m going to take my mind off the horrendous stabbing pains in my gut by posting about the two HD DVDs that arrived recently (Wednesday and Thursday respectively), A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut. While 2001: A Space Odyssey featured an absolutely sumptuous transfer on HD DVD (I’ll post screen captures soon, I promise), these two look fairly good but not great. Detail levels are above average, but there are some tell-tale signs of grain reduction, and overall they just don’t leap of the screen in the way that 2001 does. Particularly revealing is the fact that my old standard definition DVD of Eyes Wide Shut actually shows more grain than this new HD transfer. Now, maybe it was just the naturally lower resolution of the DVD accentuating the grain, but one thing’s for sure, this is the first time I’ve seen an HD release that is less grainy than its standard definition counterpart.
Oh, and, by the way, although the packaging claims that the both the censored American R-rated and international unedited versions are included on the same disc, in actual fact only the unedited version is there (I checked - no dodgy CGI men obscuring the rumpy-bumpy). Apparently, the Blu-ray and DVD versions released at the same time are the same. I’m personally not complaining - at least they included the right version! - but I’m slightly disappointed not to be able to see the apparently ridiculous censorship for myself, and I’m sure someone’s going to take Warner to the cleaners for false advertising (the back cover clearly states that the film is rated “R”).
Finally, a quick note on Eyes Wide Shut’s aspect ratio. As you probably know by now, the previous DVD release was presented in a 1.33:1 open matte aspect ratio, supposedly reflecting Stanley Kubrick’s preferences (although, of course, he isn’t about any more to ask). The new HD DVD, Blu-ray and DVD versions, meanwhile, are presented in a matted 1.78:1 ratio (as per all Warner releases with an intended 1.85:1 ratio). Now, I’m aware that the issue of how these films should be presented has been argued about since time immemorial, with passionate and convincing arguments coming from both sides of the fence, but ultimately I trust my eyes more than any theorising, and, having watched the 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 versions side by side, I am in no doubt that the 1.78:1 looks more “right”. Again, screenshots will follow when I get the chance to do them.