Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version (frame 1515)

Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version

Reviewed by dvdfreak & Jean-Marie Marbach

Last modified on Friday 06th September 2019, 09:09:03 AM

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Label:  Universum Film GmbH (Germany)

Region:  B
RCE protection:  n/a
Copyright protection system:  AACS

Disc type:  2 x BD50 (the data occupy 41.48 & 42.89 GB)

Playback time (hh:mm:ss.frames):  1:56:56.00

Video:  MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p24
Aspect ratio:  1.37:1


Bitrate (min / avg / max):  0.00 / 21.33 / 38.16 Mbps

Bitrate (min / avg / max)

Audio:
 

German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 / 1,217 kbps
German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono* / 1,135 kbps

Subtitles: None

Menus available in: German


Special features:
 

Disc 1
  • The 2016/17 colour-only restoration of the 1943 Export version (see below)

Disc 2
  • The digitally mastered 1943 Premiere version (see below)
  • "Münchhausen. Ein Mythos in Agfacolor."
    ("The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - A Myth in Agfacolor,"
    MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p24, in German Dolby Digital 2.0 / 224 kbps)
    • "Teil 1 - Zum Werdegang des deutschen Farbfilms."
      ("Part 1: On the Beginnings of German Colour Film," 38:46)
    • "Teil 2 - Münchhausen. Ein Film und seine Geschichte."
      ("Part 2: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - A Film and Its History," 16:14)
    • "Teil 3 - Münchhausen. Die Tricks."
      ("Part 3: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - The Special Effects," 17:49)

  • 20-page booklet (in German)

Notes: 
On the different versions (summarized from the booklet):

  • 1943 - The film premieres on March 3 at the length of 3,662m (135 min.); 3 months later, it's shortened to 3,225m (119 min.) for general distribution

  • 1953 - The 3,225m long original camera negative, its colour already beginning to fade, shortened further to 2,900m; the cut footage presumably lost

  • 1957 - Colour strips (red, green & blue) on Eastman-Kodak film stock struck from the shortened negative

  • 1987 - Original (nitrocellulose) negative, long considered unusable, presumably destroyed

  • 1991 - Comparison of the West German elements with the East German second original negative identifies the latter as the Export version, consisting of alternative and/or inferior takes

  • 1995 - Using the export negative to supplement the surviving elements of the Distribution version, a "Hybrid version" is produced

  • 2005 - The Hybrid version, colour timed to the then applicable TV broadcast standards, released internationally on DVD

  • 2016 - 3,590m long 35mm Agfacolor copy of - supposedly - the Premiere version discovered at Gosfilmofond of Russia, too faded for a proper colour restoration; the Distribution version is restored from the colour strips, while the export negative serves as the basis for the "Agfacolor colour restoration"

    An interactive workflow made it possible to simultaneously compare both sources. However, the export negative was to serve primarily as a reference for the colour restoration of the problematic colour strips. Both sources were scanned in 4K resolution, and graded in parallel in two timelines, so that the consistency could be evaluated by means of a split screen. Another colour reference was a post-war Agfacolor copy of the export negative. In contrast to the West German post-war print from the Cinemathèque suisse, this copy, printed on original Agfacolor stock from the Wolfen film factory in the GDR, is relatively colour-stable.

    Parts missing in the colour strips were supplemented from an Agfacolor copy of the Gosfilmofond of Russia, which originated from the same negative and was probably made in 1943. It has faded to magenta, so here the alignment of colours with the restored colour strips was limited.

    The interactive Agfacolor restoration brought important insights into the colour deficiencies, affecting especially the first half of the film, discussed since 1953. The masquerade scene proved problematic in both sources. In the colour strips, the colour separation is low and in the export negative it has a strong cyan cast. The scene in the
    Cabinet of Miniatures and the adjoining narrative framework are missing in the colour strips. They were supplemented from the heavily faded 1943 Agfacolor copy. The whole section has a brownish hue and it was nearly impossible to bring out different colours. Comparison with the export negative showed that also there this scene is significantly less colourful than others and has a remarkably poor resolution.

    For the night scene at the inn, only a very small colour separation could be determined in the colour strips as well as in the export negative, while the marketplace scene in Petersburg again shows very well-preserved, intense colours. For the whole film, it wasn't always possible to reach a consistent colour scheme for costumes in many scenes from both sources.

The following in-depth review courtesy of my friend, Jean-Marie Marbach, a great admirer of Munchausen '43, who also kindly supplied both this Blu-ray & the Kino DVD:

So here are my thoughts on the new Munchausen Blu-ray:

After waiting and hoping for so many years for a Blu-ray release of this movie, I'd never thought I'd say this once it's here, and what's more, in a special edition featuring three different versions of the movie... but what a frustrating release this is!

After translating some of the information found online, the versions are as follows:

The "Distribution version" (Verleihfassung - 116 minutes) is currently the most widely known version, the one which was re-released in theaters in the '80s, and aired on TV ever since.

The "Premiere version" (Premierenfassung - 131 minutes) is a version found at the Gosfilmofond of Russia in 2016, while looking for sources which could be used for this HD restoration project. This finding was apparently a surprise to everyone involved, as it is much longer than the Distribution version. Containing scenes considered lost since 1943, and only known until now from archival stills, this version is the closest to the original theatrical release.

Finally, the "Export version" (Exportfassung - 117 minutes) is the version produced for theatrical export outside of Germany, and edited with alternate takes, as was usually done with German Export versions since the '20s.

Oddly enough, the aspect ratio is different for each version:
- Premiere version: 1.333:1
- Distribution version: 1.367:1
- Export version: 1.370:1

- The Distribution version is presented here as the main version, while the other two are "just" extras. Hence, it got the most extensive restoration.
I don't know to what extent the picture was restored, but the result is disappointing. Tears, scratches and hair are still present. If the restoration included damage removal, it left a lot untouched. Video is fairly stable (no wobbling, and only mild flickering) but also pretty soft. Definition is underwhelming, and is only made worse by a thick layer of grain. I don't usually consider grain a problem, but here it looks weird at times, full of dark specs, very soft and unnatural.
The most disappointing are the colors, pale and desaturated, and not only in shots taken from the faded 1943 Agfacolor copy mentioned in the booklet. Blacks are washed out. The result is much less pleasing than what I saw in theater and on the Region 1 Kino DVD.
There are two audio tracks: DTS-HD MA 2.0 and DTS-HD MA 5.1. I didn't notice much difference between the two. The 2.0 is just mono sound duplicated in both channels. And I don't see the point of the 5.1 track, as it doesn't seem like a proper 5.1 mix was done.

- The Premiere version looks worse still, even more washed out... but who cares? It's fascinating for a long time fan of this film to see so much new footage. Not only whole new scenes, but also longer edits of known scenes. Unfortunately, the lack of subtitles prevents me from judging this new material, and I therefore can't tell if this additional footage is important to the story or not.

- Now for the Export version...
Wow!
The print is fairly damaged, but wow! Definition is very impressive. There is so much more detail (check out the fabric of the princess' green veil in cap n° 08).
The grain is lighter and thinner here, but very natural. I'm convinced this is what the original footage looked like.
Colors are fantastic, popping out and gorgeous. The scenes in Munchausen's garden at dusk (cap n° 06) feature some of the most beautiful colors I've ever seen on film. This is exactly how I remembered this film (in cap n° 05, the "restored" Distribution version looks almost monochromatic in comparison). It is as striking as the best Technicolor movies (cap n° 03 & cap n° 07), although the Agfacolor color palette is different, more on the pastel side.
As I said, the print is quite damaged, but it could look fabulous if properly restored.
Finally, this is the version with the widest aspect ratio, 1.37:1.

Unfortunately, beyond the print damage, there's a major issue here: Like all German Export versions, it was entirely edited with alternate takes. What was considered as the best takes were kept for the local version, while lesser ones were used for the Export version.
Although there are times when I actually prefer alternate takes (I find some scenes in the Export version of Murnau's Faust visually more interesting), I agree with whomever was in charge of the editing here: The Export version features clearly inferior takes. Actors seem less natural, dialogues sound more rehearsed (easy for me to notice since I've seen this movie so many times). Worst of all, the subtlety and wittiness of Hans Albers' Munchausen and other characters (Count Cagliostro comes to mind) are mostly gone. It's just not the same film.

Finally, the extras also feature a documentary about Agfacolor movies. It looks very interesting, but also difficult to follow without subtitles (increasing the overall frustration). German Blu-ray releases of classic German films never feature any subtitles... It's as if Germans assume no one outside Germany can be interested.

So in conclusion, it's great to have three different versions of the 1943 Munchausen on Blu-ray, and kudos to the Murnau Foundation and Universum Film for releasing them, but it's also a disappointment.
Despite the beautiful colors and impressive definition, it's impossible to fully enjoy the Export version due to the lesser quality of the alternate takes, while the two other versions featuring the characters' brilliance and wittiness look terrible in comparison.
Overall a deeply frustrating experience, leaving an ideal version of this magical movie to the viewer's imagination.

*difference between channels is -Inf. dB (0.00 %)


Premiere Version (frame 1408)

Premiere Version

Reviewed by dvdfreak & Jean-Marie Marbach

Last modified on Thursday 05th September 2019, 03:53:15 PM

Česká verze / Return to index

  
Label:  Universum Film GmbH (Germany)

Region:  B
RCE protection:  n/a
Copyright protection system:  AACS

Disc type:  BD50 (the data occupy 42.89 GB)

Playback time (hh:mm:ss.frames):  2:12:06.01

Video:  MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p24
Aspect ratio:  1.33:1


Bitrate (min / avg / max):  0.00 / 33.78 / 41.18 Mbps

Bitrate (min / avg / max)

Audio:
 

German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono* / 793 kbps

Subtitles: None

Menus available in: German


Special features:
 

  • "Münchhausen. Ein Mythos in Agfacolor."
    ("The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - A Myth in Agfacolor,"
    MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p24, in German Dolby Digital 2.0 / 224 kbps)
    • "Teil 1 - Zum Werdegang des deutschen Farbfilms."
      ("Part 1: On the Beginnings of German Colour Film," 38:46)
    • "Teil 2 - Münchhausen. Ein Film und seine Geschichte."
      ("Part 2: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - A Film and Its History," 16:14)
    • "Teil 3 - Münchhausen. Die Tricks."
      ("Part 3: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - The Special Effects," 17:49)

*difference between channels is -30.79 dB (2.88 %);
encoded as 24-bit, the original audio track has a constant bit depth of 16 bits


Export Version (frame 1418)

Export Version

Reviewed by dvdfreak & Jean-Marie Marbach

Last modified on Thursday 05th September 2019, 03:53:15 PM

Česká verze / Return to index

  
Label:  Universum Film GmbH (Germany)

Region:  B
RCE protection:  n/a
Copyright protection system:  AACS

Disc type:  BD50 (the data occupy 41.48 GB)

Playback time (hh:mm:ss.frames):  1:57:06.12

Video:  MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p24
Aspect ratio:  1.37:1


Bitrate (min / avg / max):  0.00 / 21.31 / 36.78 Mbps

Bitrate (min / avg / max)

Audio:
 

German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono* / 1,657 kbps

Subtitles: None

Menus available in: German


Special features:
 

None

*difference between channels is -49.21 dB (0.35 %)


Kino International / Hybrid Version (frame 769)

Kino International / Hybrid Version

Reviewed by dvdfreak & Jean-Marie Marbach

Last modified on Tuesday 03rd September 2019, 11:09:11 PM

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Label:  Kino International (USA)

Region:  1
RCE protection:  No
Copyright protection system:  CSS / CPPM

Disc type:  DVD9 (the data occupy 7.53 GB)

Playback time (hh:mm:ss.frames):  1:50:47.29

Video:  NTSC (fieldblended from a PAL source)
Aspect ratio:  1.31:1 non-anamorphic


Bitrate (min / avg / max):  2.04 / 5.77 / 7.49 Mbps

Bitrate (min / avg / max)

Audio:
 

German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono* / 192 kbps

Subtitles: English

Menus available in: English


Special features:
 

  • Introduction by Friedemann Beyer, head of the F.W. Murnau Foundation (17:37, in English)
  • Original theatrical trailer (3:55, in German)
  • Animated short film: "Abenteuer des Freiherrn von Münchhausen - Eine Winterreise"
    ("Adventures of Baron Munchausen - A Winter Journey," 7:04)
  • Photo gallery (24 pages)
  • Examples of Agfacolor restoration: "Frauen sind doch bessere Diplomaten"
    ("Women Are Better Diplomats," 6:30, in German with explanatory notes in English)
  • Excerpt from the Agfacolor film "Die Fledermaus" (4:37, in German)
  • Gallery of Munchausen illustrations (32 pages)
  • Illustrations by Gustave Doré (32 pages)

*difference between channels is -70.24 dB (0.03 %)

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Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version | Premiere Version | Export Version | Kino International / Hybrid Version

Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version (frame 5712)

Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version | Premiere Version | Export Version | Kino International / Hybrid Version

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Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version | Premiere Version | Export Version | Kino International / Hybrid Version

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Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version | Premiere Version | Export Version | Kino International / Hybrid Version

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Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version | Premiere Version | Export Version | Kino International / Hybrid Version

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Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version | Premiere Version | Export Version | Kino International / Hybrid Version

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Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version | Premiere Version | Export Version | Kino International / Hybrid Version

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Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version | Premiere Version | Export Version | Kino International / Hybrid Version

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Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version | Premiere Version | Export Version | Kino International / Hybrid Version

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Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version | Premiere Version | Export Version | Kino International / Hybrid Version

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Universum Film / Blu-ray / Distribution Version | Premiere Version | Export Version | Kino International / Hybrid Version

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