Dr. Zhivago (1965)

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Turbulent were the times and fiery was the love story of Zhivago, his wife and the passionate, tender Lara.

Doctor Zhivago comes towards the end of Hollywood’s great love affair with the monstrous epics of the 1950s and 60s. Cut from the same cloth as Ben-Hur and Cleopatra, Zhivago marks director David Lean’s third entry into the genre, after The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Sadly, although still normally in most lists of the top 100 films of all time, it lags behind Lean’s other two entries. In fact, the criticism Lean faced at the time forced him to vow never to direct another film; a vow he broke only twice. Ryan’s Daughter (1970) and A Passage to India (1984) were his final two theatrical releases, although he did also direct a TV move in 1979 entitled Lost and Found: The Story of Cook’s Anchor.

I, for one, would not rate Zhivago so highly. Not a magical film, although certainly not tragic either. It is a beautiful film to watch as it is wonderfully shot with sweeping landscapes and phenomenal atmosphere- perhaps one of the last times Hollywood indulged us with this type of splendid literary adaptation or a film which actually required an intermission! The plot, given below from the WB press release for the new 45th Anniversary bluray, shows some of the soap opera like qualities the storyline has.

0mar Sharif stars in the title role of Doctor Zhivago, portraying the surgeon-poet over a half-century period. Zhivago, who is married to Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin), an aristocratic girl with whom he raises a family, is also in love with Lara (Julie Christie), a nurse whose life has been destroyed by tragedy. Repeatedly brought together and separated from each woman by war and revolution, Zhivago is torn apart by conflict. He loves Tonya deeply but his poetic soul belongs to Lara. Much like his beloved country, Zhivago’s spirit becomes battered by the devastation of war as he struggles to maintain his individualism in the face of overwhelming odds.

Here is a quick little snippet just to give a bit of flavor…

This doesn’t really does the storyline justice as Pasternak’s original novel is so chopped and condensed that, even with a running time of three hours the result is, at times, a bit disjointed, uneven, and frankly hard to follow.

The casting is good if not great; the directing is great if not genius (it isn’t Kwai, for example). That said, it is better than any picture of today.

As they sometimes do for their bigger releases, Warners has a dedicated site over at www.doctorzhivagomovie.com. This gives a good overview of the film and all the extras which are included, plus all the purchase options and formats. One stop shopping only a click away!

Warner Brothers has, as we are getting quite used to, completely and utterly outdone themselves on this release on blu. The film looks outstanding and has never looked better. I didn’t see much if any edge enhancement and the blacks are deep. There is a bit of grain which will upset the purists, but for a film of this age it looks beyond compare. Audio is superb as well, with again the slight caveat of age. Battles, music, and dialogue are all prominent in the mix at the proper times. It’s available through all the usual channels plus On Demand and for Download at Doctor Zhivago.

The set comes with one bluray disc, containing the feature along with a commentary track and a new retrospective Doctor Zhivago: A Celebration. This is the only new supplement and is okay. The commentary is a bit stilted but acceptable. It all is irrelevant given the great feature film itself.

We also get an additional standard DVD of supplemental material, all of which has come out before but is good to have. We also get an eight track sampler of Maurice Jarre’s Academy Award winning score. This last piece is very similar to the presentation of Gone with the Wind. The entire package comes in a nice book form with a 44 page printed insert. Bravo!

Warner Brothers continues to set the standard in current classic film releases, especially on bluray. Granted most other studios are doing very little in this area, but it wouldn’t matter.

A must have for any serious film fan.

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