Gandhi appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on these 4K UHD Discs. Disc One ran 1:32:00, while Disc Two spanned 1:39:14.
Though occasionally a bit dated, the image held up nicely, and sharpness appeared good overall. A few interior shots could seem slightly soft, but the majority of the film offered nice clarity and accuracy.
The movie lacks jaggies or shimmering, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to mar the proceedings, and with a nice layer of grain, I suspected no intrusive noise reduction.
Colors came across as natural and vivid, and they displayed some lovely and warm tones. We got a broad array of hues, and the disc’s HDR offered superb range and impact to these.
Black levels also seemed deep and rich, and shadow detail felt clean without any excessive opacity. The HDR brought extra punch to whites and contrast. This was an appealing visual presentation.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, I also liked the Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Gandhi, especially in regard to its soundfield. Though the mix accentuated the forward channels, it spread the sound cleanly and distinctly across that spectrum.
Both effects and music developed neatly and covered the forward speakers well. The overall impression of the forward soundfield seemed strong for its era, and the mix added a lot of life to the proceedings.
For the most part, the rear channels worked to reinforce audio heard from the front. The back channels bolstered the music and effects, and occasionally became pretty active.
For example, some train scenes added a nice level of involvement, and crowd shots contributed a good sense of place. These elements occasionally felt a little too “speaker-specific”, but they still came across with a fine environmental impact,
Audio quality held up well, with speech that remained consistently concise. The lines occasionally felt a little reedy, but they were fairly natural much of the time, and they lacked edginess or other issues.
Effects demonstrated a bit of distortion at times, but they usually came across as pretty accurate, and they boasted nice range, with good low-end when appropriate.
The score fared even better, as the movie’s music appeared warm and full. This became a more than satisfactory soundtrack for a nearly 40-year-old film.
How did this 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray? The Atmos audio showed more involvement as well as improved clarity and dynamics compared to the slightly dull 5.1 of the prior release.
Visuals boasted the expected upgrades, as the 4K appeared better defined and showed superior blacks, colors and stability. While the Blu-ray seemed very good, the 4K topped it in all ways.
On 4K UHD Disc Two, we locate two trailers. Otherwise, all the set’s extras appear on the included Blu-ray copy.
On Blu-ray Disc One, we find an introduction by director Richard Attenborough. In this one-minute, 24-second clip, Attenborough tells us a little about the production, but he mostly just imparts that he hopes we’ll like it. Don’t expect much from his remarks, though he seems so warm and likable that I wish I enjoyed his movie more than I do.
Blu-ray Disc One also presents an audio commentary from Attenborough. For his running, screen-specific chat, the director discusses the film’s structure, historical topics and the movie’s choices, cast and performances, shooting in India and other locations, consultation with real historical figures and factual concerns, cinematography, problems launching the production, its reception, and other filming details.
Given the movie’s length and Attenborough’s age, I feared that this would end up as a slow, spotty commentary. Happily, the director stays active and informative throughout the film.
Attenborough throws out quite a few good details and provides a nice overview of the production. At times he starts to simply narrate the flick, but those moments are rare.
Instead, Attenborough keeps on task and makes this a nice discussion. Heck, he even states that he thinks ET the Extraterrestrial should have won Best Picture – good for you, Sir Richard!
Blu-ray Disc One concludes with Gandhi’s Legacy. If activated, this “picture-in-graphics” track occasionally causes the movie to shrink to about one-third of the TV frame.
The rest of the image shows images and text that connect to Gandhi’s life and efforts as well aspects of the society in which he operated and related topics.
“Legacy” works well, as it offers a lot of useful information. It also comes with a helpful interface, one that allows viewers to easily skip to the next page if desired. “Legacy” adds value to this set.
Moving to Blu-ray Disc Two, we find a collection of video programs. With the nine-minute, 26-second In Search of Gandhi, we hear from Attenborough.
The director discusses his childhood thoughts about Gandhi and how he came to the project. He also chats about working with the Indians and financial issues.
Attenborough covers some interesting areas – almost all of which we already hear in the commentary. If you don’t listen to that track, then “Search” merits your time, but otherwise you can skip it.
Looking Back goes for 18 minutes, 21 seconds, and includes notes from Attenborough, Craig, executive in charge of production Terence Clegg, director of publicity Diana Hawkins, director of photography Billy Williams, and actors Edward Fox, Geraldine James, and Saeed Jaffrey.
The show mostly concentrates on the movie’s reception. We learn about its distribution, reactions to it, awards, and its continued legacy.
I thought “Looking Back” would offer reflections on the production, not opinions of the film many years later. This leads to quite a lot of praise, obviously, but at least the show lacks the gushiness typical of this kind of piece. It doesn’t serve much purpose, but it doesn’t grate, at least, which counts as an accomplishment for this genre.
Next comes the nine-minute, 40-second Madeleine Slade: An Englishwoman Abroad. It features Attenborough and James. The show covers James’ casting, notes about the real Slade and aspects of James’ performance.
The limited focus allows the program to offer decent details. Though not a great piece, “Slade” offers enough content to make it useful.
We look at the lead actor via Reflections on Ben. During this nine-minute, 23-second clip, we hear from Attenborough, Jaffrey, Clegg, Williams and James.
The show examines the casting of Ben Kingsley, the actor’s preparation for the role, and his work in the film. A few good notes emerge, but the absence of Kingsley himself harms the piece.
Shooting an Epic in India fills 17 minutes, 56 seconds with comments from Attenborough, Clegg, Hawkins, Williams, Craig, and Fox. “Epic” examines filming in India and the related challenges as well as Attenborough’s style on the set.
It offers a pretty strong glimpse of various issues. I especially like the notes about protests against the production, and the rest of the show includes good reflections on the appropriate areas. This stands as possibly the disc’s best featurette.
After this we go to The Funeral. The 13-minute, 34-second piece presents remarks from Attenborough, Clegg, Hawkins, James, Jaffrey, Craig, and Williams. This show looks at the recreation of Gandhi’s funeral for the film.
We learn about various aspects of this immense production sequence. “Funeral” covers the topic well as it throws in a number of insights.
The Words of Mahatma Gandhi displays exactly what it implies. In this one-minute, 58-second piece, we see filmed text that show a number of his quotes.
While the material itself is mildly interesting, the presentation seems odd. The text could have fit into part of a booklet, which would have been more efficient than having to wade through the video display. Even still frames would have been more useful.
More compelling are the four bits of Vintage Newsreel Footage. These offer exactly what they claim, as we find film pieces that vary in length; all in all, the disc features 10 minutes, five seconds of material.
These are uniformly interesting, but the last is easily the best of the bunch. Titled “Gandhi Speaks: First Talking Picture Ever Made by India’s Famous Leader”, it provides a short interview with Gandhi while on a hunger strike, and it seems to be the most revealing and compelling of the lot.
Under the “Interviews” banner we find three clips that start with Ben Kingsley Talks About Gandhi. During this 19-minute, 23-second piece, we indeed hear the actor as he recalls his experiences on the film.
As a whole, Kingsley adds some decent tidbits, but frankly, he comes across as rather full of himself, and this attitude slightly mars the discussion.
I also think the program includes far too many clips from the film, as these detract from the issues at hand. Ultimately, this is a reasonably interesting interview at times, but it doesn’t bring a great deal to the table.
Two elements come under the title of From the Director’s Chair. We find “On Casting” (7:03) and “On Music” (2:54).
In these, Attenborough discusses finding various actors and aspects of the flick’s score. Attenborough avoids too much repetition from the commentary and gives us a mix of nice details.
The Making of Gandhi video montage avoids the normal still frame presentation. Instead, we find a five-minute, 23-second running program that shows a mix of images.
Most of them simply represent shots from the movie, but there are also some publicity shots and a few glimpses from the set. The set never reaches a depth implied by its name, and ultimately I think these are fairly dull.
As a movie, Gandhi falls well short of its goals. It glorifies the life of a great man to an unrealistic degree, and it comes across as a dull, stodgy hagiography. The 4K UHD offers very good picture and audio along with a strong collection of supplements. Gandhi leaves me semi-cold but the 4K UHD represents it well.
Note that as of June 2020, the 4K UHD disc of Gandhi can be located only as part of a six-movie “Columbia Classics Collection”. This set also includes 4K UHD versions of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dr. Strangelove, Lawrence of Arabia, A League of Their Own and Jerry Maguire.
To rate this film visit the original review of GANDHI