"Like watching it again for the first time” is a compliment often paid to the better home video transfers, particularly in a high definition era where luminous Bluray discs and HD cable broadcasts are available to a larger group of people than ever before. Watching Fox’s new Bluray disc of 1970's Patton today, I was indeed overwhelmed by the exhilaration of seeing the film for the first time.
Franklin J Schaffner’s miraculous film (from a script by a resume-light Francis Coppola) about one of America’s most flamboyant, controversial, – and successful Generals. Patton has had an unusually good history on home video; a bright, clear image has followed the film from VHS, to Laserdisc, and to DVD. In fact, the Laserdisc edition in had a warning sticker on the back stating that the image may experience “shimmering”, a nice way of telling mid-1990s consumers that their monitors weren’t going to be up to the job of displaying the image.
We’ve seen Patton many, many times over the years, and have always been struck by the photography. Photographed in a seldom used widescreen process called Dimension 150 (a process similar to Todd AO, but with the capacity for much wider lenses – see a more complete description here. Patton would be the second and last film after John Huston’s expensive 1966 flop, The Bible, to use the 70mm format. The clarity and depth of field of the image is stunning, producing an effect not dissimilar to that of the best 3D pictures. While screen grabs from HD discs are beyond the Scribe’s capabilities, I can steer you over to DVD Beaver for a fighting chance at getting a feel for the image. Short of seeing the film in 70mm on a proper movie screen, this is the best that it gets (for now…)