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Warner’s ‘Doctor Zhivago’ Gets Star Blu-ray Treatment

31 Mar, 2010 By: Chris Tribbey

The full-scale restoration of Doctor Zhivago wasn’t an easy task for the people over at Warner Bros.

Warner Home Video releases 45th anniversary versions of the Russian Revolution romantic epic on DVD ($24.98) and Blu-ray Disc ($35.99) May 4, adding an all-new documentary along with the new transfer.

Currently the eighth-highest grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation), Doctor Zhivago was re-released more than once, and while shot in 35 mm, it was blown up for 70 mm for many theaters.

“It was the success of Doctor Zhivago that resulted in the release of Gone With the Wind in 70 mm,” said George Feltenstein, SVP of theatrical catalog marketing for Warner Home Video. “They had to make more prints than they ever expected. As a result, the original print was subjected to a lot of wear and tear.”

He added that the original film negative was so worn “it had Scotch tape in some places.”

“There have been attempts to restore it,” Feltenstein said. “But they were Band-Aid fixes.”

Film archivist and preservationist Robert Harris said the original film elements “have not been treated respectfully over the years, until now,” and were “heavily overprinted due to need for 70mm engagements.”

But, familiar with Warner’s digital restoration techniques, Harris predicted Blu-ray fans will be impressed come May 4.

“I would expect that it should be glorious,” he said.

Being released on home video for the first time since 2001, Doctor Zhivago received a pain-staking digital restoration from Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging before being outputted back to film, Feltenstein said.

The result properly relays the “sumptuous visuals and photography,” Feltenstein said, that helped the film earn five Academy Awards (it was nominated for 10, including best picture). Doctor Zhivago will be the only classic, restored film shown during the Tribeca Film Festival in late April.

“It’s so meticulously photographed and so epic in scale, it’s a film that cries out for Blu-ray,” Feltenstein said. “People today have no idea how huge this movie was at the time.”

Warner carries over the commentary and other bonus features from 2001, including an introduction by actor Omar Sharif and nearly a dozen featurettes. The Blu-ray also has an exclusive eight-song CD soundtrack, and a 44-page color booklet with essays, film facts and cast photos.

Warner is also releasing the film day and date for Amazon, cable and satellite VOD, iTunes, Xbox and Zune.

“The release of films like these is great for the whole industry, as well as the public,” Feltenstein said. “If [a consumer] hasn’t been brave enough to get Blu-ray yet, they need to look at Doctor Zhivago.”

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