Lost Horizon appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD. Due to those dimensions, the image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given the movie’s history, I thought the picture held up acceptably well.
As noted in text at the film’s start, portions of the original flick have gone missing over the decades, and that meant a mix of issues with the presentation. For one, a few minutes of footage remains completely lost, so the DVD used still photos for those scenes.
Other segments simply provided degraded visuals. These stood out like a sore thumb, as they were notably softer and more flawed, with obvious contrast issues.
As awkward as the still photo scenes could be and as ugly as the occasional degraded shots appeared, much of Horizon actually looked fairly positive. Much of the film presented pretty nice delineation, with better than average sharpness. Occasional soft shots materialized – impacted by light edge haloes – but the film usually delivered appealing definition.
Jagged edges and moiré effects were mild nuisances at worst, and print flaws became a persistent issue. Small specks, scratches and marks popped up across much of the film – while they weren’t overwhelming, they did create persistent distractions.
Black levels seemed to be inconsistent. Much of the time they appeared appropriately rich and dark, but they could also become drab and muddy on occasion. Contrast levels varied throughout the movie, and a few scenes looked excessively bright.
Shadow detail also felt erratic. Most parts of the movie showed a nice balance within the low-light sequences, but others were too dark and difficult to discern. In the end, the image seemed acceptable given its origins but it still appeared inconsistent and flawed.
The film’s Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack has survived with a little more grace than has the picture, but it didn’t seem noteworthy either. Though speech displayed a thin quality typical of the era, dialogue usually sounded acceptably accurate and distinct.
As with dialogue, effects and music seemed flat and lackluster and they failed to demonstrate much dynamic range. However, those issues often appeared during older movies, so I had no great worries about them. All in all, I thought that the soundtrack of Horizon appeared to be typical for its era.
The disc includes a few extras, and we open with an audio commentary from film critic Charles Champlin and UCLA film restoration expert Robert Gitt. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at cast and crew, production areas and the film’s restoration.
Though Champlin chimes in at times, Gitt carries most of the commentary, and that means we learn more about the restoration than anything else. This seems fine, though I admit I’d like to know more about the creation of the film itself. Still, we get enough good information about all the topics to make this an enjoyable chat.
Gitt reappears for a Restoration Comparison. Here we see a look at the 1937 main title vs. the credits used for a WWII-era reissue. We also view some “fixes” made to clean up the transfer as well as some outtakes. As Gitt examines the material, this becomes a decent overview.
An Alternative Ending arrives next. It offers a more concrete conclusion to the film instead of the more vague finale in the final cut. It’s not very good but it’s interesting to see.
In addition to the film’s brief and vague trailer, we get a Photo Documentary. Accompanied by commentary from historian Kendall Miller, this shows a mix of clips and stills. Miller gives us a nice look at the production while we see an appropriate compilation of visuals.
Part of Frank Capra’s “classic era””, Lost Horizon does little for me. It offers an ambitious affair that lacks much real dramatic impact. The DVD presents erratic but passable picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. Horizon turns into a slow-paced disappointment.