Camelot appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was an inconsistent presentation, though I suspect most of the concerns stemmed from the source material.
Sharpness became one of these inconsistent elements. Though much of the movie exhibited good – and often great – definition, more than a few exceptions occurred. Oddly, many of these involved close-ups – and they’d come in the middle of otherwise crystal-clear scenes. We’d go from a razor sharp wide shot to a blurry close-up. Was this an attempt at “glamour photography” for the leads? Maybe, but it became perplexing and distracting.
Still, I thought the majority of the flick demonstrated strong delineation, and I didn’t see any signs of jagged edges or moiré effects along the way. I noticed no edge haloes, and I didn’t witness the ill effects of digital noise reduction, as the image remained film-like. As for print flaws, a couple of minor specks cropped up along the way, but that was it. Grain got rather heavy at times, but that was another source problem; for instance, the heavy grain around the 1:37:00 mark came from the use of optical zooms and was inevitable without the use of artificial “clean-up” techniques.
In terms of palette, Camelot usually opted for fairly warm tones. It tended toward a somewhat autumnal feel but still found room for a mix of bright colors as well. These appeared vivid and full.
As was the case with sharpness, blacks were erratic. At times, they appeared deep and tight, but other occasions showed them to be somewhat dull and inky. They tended toward the more positive side of the street, but the inconsistencies occurred.
The same was true for shadow detail, especially early in the flick. The opening segment that preceded the virtually film-long flashback was a true mess; it appeared murky and lost Arthur in the shadowy morass. That cleared up pretty quickly, though, and most of the movie displayed low-light scenes with reasonable to good delineation.
With all these complaints, how did I justify a “B” rating for the image? For one, so much of the movie looked great that I thought the flaws became negated to a degree. For another, as I noted earlier, I strongly suspect that the concerns were part of the source material and the Blu-ray simply replicated sins committed in 1967. While I’d like the film to look tighter and clearer, this was what they shot, and the Blu-ray duplicated it in a positive manner.
I felt pleased with the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Not surprisingly, the soundfield mainly stuck to the forward channels. In the front I heard solid stereo separation for the music, and effects seemed to spread nicely across the spectrum. Placement of audio appeared forced and a bit too “speaker specific”, but the sounds blended acceptably and even demonstrated some decent panning at times. The surrounds generally presented light reinforcement of the score, though they also could kick in with some light ambience.
Audio quality was dated but it seemed more than acceptable. Dialogue sounded somewhat thin but was fairly distinct and accurate without edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects also lacked dynamics but they seemed clear and clean and didn’t show signs of distortion. Music was the strongest component, as the score and songs showed nice range and vivacity. Nothing here dazzled, but the track was pretty good given its age.
When we shift to the set’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from film critic/historian Stephen Farber. He offers a running, screen-specific look at the original stage production and its adaptation for the screen, cast and performances, story/character topics, sets, costumes and visual design, songs and score, other films about the subject matter, and additional reflections connected to the movie.
While Farber manages to give us a decent array of thoughts about Camelot, he doesn’t provide enough to keep us occupied for three hours. Granted, I don’t expect someone to speak constantly during such a long movie, but Farber fades away too often – and he doesn’t deliver a lot of meat even when he does speak. Although you’ll learn about the film during the commentary, there’s not a lot of return on investment here, as the amount of information doesn’t seem worth the time it takes to listen to the whole track.
Next comes a documentary called Camelot: Falling Kingdoms. It runs 29 minutes, 59 seconds and provides notes from former WB head Jack Warner’s grandson Gregory Orr, Post-War Hollywood 1946-1962 author Drew Casper, How to Write a Screenplay author Mark Evan Schwartz, The Sound of Broadway Music author Steven Suskin, Broadway Musicals author Ken Bloom, NYU Steinhardt Music Associate Professor Meg Bussert, and Hollywood and the Left author Steven Ross.
“Kingdoms” looks at the status of the movie industry in the 1960s and how the decline of the studio system affected Camelot. We follow the film’s development and path to the screen as well as details about crew and cast, songs and score, changes between stage and screen, production design and costumes, other aspects of the production and the movie’s reception.
“Kingdoms” tends to move a little too briskly, which leaves it with a feeling of glossiness and a lack of depth. That said, it manages to provide a reasonable amount of information about the film. It touches on the appropriate subjects and doesn’t often repeat material from the commentary, so it’s a fairly efficient half an hour.
For a period piece, we get the nine-minute, 45-second The Story of Camelot. In it, we mostly take a tour of the set and see behind the scenes footage. It’s promotional in nature, of course, but it has enough decent shots from the production to make it worthwhile.
Another archival component arrives with The World Premiere of Camelot. With this 29-minute, four-second program, we go to the aforementioned Times Square premiere of the film, where we get some “Red Carpet” comments from director Joshua Logan, composer Alan Jay Lerner, producer Jack L. Warner, production and costume designer John Truscott, and actor Richard Harris. We also visit the set for a few behind the scenes glimpses.
Of course, no one should expect anything especially meaty from “Premiere”. Like “Story”, it exists for promotional purposes, and it’s consistently fluffy and frothy. Nonetheless, it’s great to hear from the principals back in 1967, and the archival footage adds some quality material. Throw in some campy clothing ads and this becomes a fun addition to the set.
In addition to five Theatrical Trailers, some additional materials appear. A four-song CD Soundtrack Sampler gives us the movie’s renditions of “I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight”, “Camelot and the Wedding Ceremony”, “How to Handle a Woman” and “If Ever I Should Leave You”. I guess the CD adds a little value, but it’s a bit of a tease; anyone who likes it will probably want to have the full soundtrack instead.
The package also includes a hardcover book. It features essays called “The Stuff of Legends” and “Musical Majesty”, biographies of the three lead actors, trivia, production photos, ads and art. I like these books and think this is another satisfying one.
Camelot came out during the era in which movie musicals waned, and it’s not hard to see why. Long, slow and not very effective, the film offers some lush visuals but lacks consistency or much to make it endearing. The Blu-ray comes with erratic but usually strong visuals and audio as well as a reasonably good roster of bonus materials. Fans of Camelot should be happy with this release, but it seems unlikely to convert many to its cause.