Three and a half weeks ago The Digital Bits‘ Bill Hunt reported that Warner Bros. Home Video will almost certainly release a 50th anniversary 4K Bluray of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hunt had been hearing “for months” that the disc was being prepared, but after hearing the same from “retail sources” he became convinced that it’s really, really being released, and probably sometime in early April.
Stanley Kubrick‘s groundbreaker opened in the States on 4.3.68, right when the LSD market was booming among middle-class, college-age youth.
And now someone has released an image of suspicious-looking jacket art. Where is the crucial mention of “remastered UHD 4K”? Are you telling me WHV marketers would’t emphasize that selling point?
Does this mean Hollywood Elsewhere is going to finally purchase a 4K Oppo player? No, it does not mean that. I’ve been waiting for distributors to start releasing 4K versions of classic-era, large-format films (Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus, The Ten Commandments plus all the VistaVision films and perhaps even an assortment of spiffed-up 35mm classics) along with 4K renderings of the Hitchcock and Kubrick libraries, and no one (not even Criterion) has even begun to do that.
The only 4K Bluray of a ’50s-era title that I know of is David Lean’s The Bridge On The River Kwai. Sorry to sound like a peon but I’m fairly satisfied with a 4K streaming version that I bought on Amazon; ditto the 4K streaming version of Lawrence of Arabia. As things currently stand I don’t believe I’d experience a serious 4K bump if I were to buy the UHD Kwai along with the 4K Oppo.
I’m also delighted with WHV’s six or seven-year-old Bluray of 2001, and am not persuaded that I’d get that much of a bump from a 4K version. Maybe I’m wrong — maybe the UHD 2001 will deliver the wowser like never before. But I’m from Missouri. If WHV wants to offer a 4K streaming version, I’d probably buy that. But ixnay on the hardware. At least for now.
An AVS Forum guy called “NorthJersey” recently wrote the following: “Considering the movie is 50 years old, how much improvement can we expect of it’s release on UHD w/HDR ? With its 65mm source and the decades of dedication to its preservation, my guess is that it will be a significant improvement over all prior releases and a “must own” according to reviews. How good will its objective HDR performance be? I’m sure the improved color volume will be the most noticeable aspect of the HDR, perhaps greater details in the vast darkness of space? I would guess so, based only upon existing UHD releases of 4K+ scans of films, both 35mm and 65mm.”
Some guy responded as follows: “Existing SDR transfers truncate the dynamic range in the original film. Using an HDR container will enable us to see at home what folks saw in the cinema. The film source contains more dynamic range than SDR like 1080p Bluray can handle. The original film also contains colors outside the rec709 palette. We’ve never been able to see those on home video before. Now we will get to! And of course for the resolution junkies, even 35mm film contains more than 4K of info when shot and transferred well. This film probably has more than 8K of resolution in it given the size of the negative and attention to technical detail lavished on it.”
Postscript: I’ve mentioned this once or twice before, but a 50th anniversary celluloid IMAX release (uprezzed from 70mm) of 2001: A Space Odyssey would really excite the faithful.