Saturday 27 November 2021

On Blu-ray - David Hare notes a new edition of Josef von Sternberg's JET PILOT (USA, 1950/1957)

Two screens from the new Kino Lorber dual format release of Sternberg's 1950 (released 1957) Jet Pilot.

At the very least the 1.37 full matte transfer brings the movie back to its original photographic intention. Even the briefest comparison with the hideous 1.85 widescreen matte makes that clear.
But like the widescreen transfer from Universal which was also used by the German label Explosive Media for their widescreen on Blu-ray a few years ago, the transfer is from the same source and the sins are legion.
The image is obviously sharpened to buggery with visible EE and other giveaway digital artefacts all over the joint. And the color has been pushed through a combination of high gamma, deeper black levels and more digital manipulation into something that doesn't look anything like 1951 three strip Technicolor IB print.  

There was a period around 10 to 15 years ago when Universal began rescanning and preserving a lot of its deep archive library with 2K workflow. A lot of these are very dubious and they even extend to an atrocious rescanning of Marnie which is plagued with digital artefacting and mosquito noise/faux grain until the last reel. Jet Pilot I believe precedes even that era and I suspect the Universal master sources for both wide and regular ratios were made during the basic 1080p or upscale days for bare bones DVD. 

My old DVD-R copy of Universal's laserdisc from 1994 while far softer and less detailed than this has much cleaner and I think truer color grading, and it reflects a print from the era far more faithfully.
God knows, though this is hardly Sternberg's greatest picture but there's a lot in it to like besides the cold war camp aspects (ably aided by Jules Furthman's tongue in cheek screenplay) with the notion of a big juicy steak representing the triumph of American Capitalism over Soviet Commie austerity to say nothing of Janet Leigh's extraordinary red and gold metallic gown sourced from what must have been a Florida branch of Fredericks of Hollywood with which Janet Leigh captures John Wayne's eternal lust and desire.
And what else, really are the movies about?

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