The good…okay, the interesting news is that Criterion will release a digitally restored Bluray based on a 4K harvest of John Frankenheimer‘s The Manchurian Candidate (’62) on 3.15.16. The bad news is that they’ve decided to chop the aspect ratio down to 1.85, which will deliver a bit less height than the 1.78:1 aspect ratio used for the MGM/Fox Home Video 2004 Bluray. Why oh why? The aspect ratios of ’60s-era Frankenheimer films have always fallen between 1.66 and 1.75, and I’m telling you there’s something wrong with people who decide to slice into a film and effectively destroy perfectly good visual information for no reason other than some notion that the film was originally projected in 1.85.
Would it do any good to say I’ve seen Candidate projected at 1.66:1 and that it looks beautiful that way? I can’t swear to it, but I recall that the MGM/UA laser disc of Candidate had a 1.66 a.r., and I know for an absolute damn fact that 1.66 was used for the MGM/UA laser disc of Frankenheimer’s The Train. Why couldn’t Criterion at least go with the 1.75:1 aspect ratio they used for their Bluray of Frankenheimer’s Seconds (’66)? Or the 1.78:1 a.r. that Frankenheimer’s Seven Days In May has been mostly seen within?
More height is always right. How does it add to The Manchurian Candidate‘s visual allure to slice off a portion of the top of the image? I’ve never understood this sick impulse and I don’t want to understand it. Perverse and inexplicable.
Okay, yes, I might buy the Criterion version but only because I love the design of the cover jacket. Is there really going to be a substantive image-quality difference between the ’04 Bluray and the Criterion? Maybe if you have an 80″ or 100″ screen but I wonder if I’m really going to see a whopping difference on my 60″ Samsung.