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Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia on DVD

A Must See DVD Event

David Lean's epic WWI drama is a sweeping movie spectacle in the grand tradition, one that belongs in every movie lover's library. It's a visually beautiful film in which many of the shots are so gorgeous they could be hung on a wall.

The superb look blends beautifully with an outstanding musical score and screenplay, and an all-star cast to create one of the great movies of the age.

The story concerns a cartographer with delusions of grandeur, T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole), who wangles an assignment to go into the Arabian desert to seek out and find Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness). He ends up assembling a rag tag Arabian revolutionary army, taking the port of Aqaba, and generally wreaking all kinds of havoc on the Turks who control the region.

Lawrence, who leads by example for the most part - which endears him to his Arab friends - is instrumental in uniting various Arab tribes into a guerilla fighting force. Along the way he begins to feel he's something a tad more than human which, when his inevitable fall comes, makes discovering his own humanity all the more difficult for him to handle.

The movie runs about 227 minutes with the Overture and other musical sections included, yet it never, ever drags. The story itself is a ripping yarn, but in the hands of a master director like Sir David Lean, the movie actually becomes bigger than ever.

Whether it be with shots of the wind blowing sand across the dunes, blazing scenes in which characters come into camera range from beyond the horizon and through a mirage, Lean's touch brings the desert alive, turning it into almost a living, breathing entity. This is a film that should be experienced on as large a screen as possible!

The DVD is of the restored version that played theaters around the beginning of the 1990's. They've done a fine job, too, and the DVD finally does home video justice to the subject material.

The widescreen picture, enhanced for 16x9 TV's, is usually spectacular, though there appear to be a few flaws during some of the particularly bright desert scenes. They aren't DVD flaws, however, but rather come from the original source.

The audio has been remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1, and they've done a terrific job of incorporating the rear channels to surround the audience with dry desert winds, huge echoes, and the like.

In short, this version of Lawrence is the best ever.

Of course there's more. As it did with "Bridge Over the River Kwai," Columbia Tristar Home Video has made this release a two disc set and included enough extras to choke a horse.

Disc One includes some DVD ROM features (like historic photographs and an interactive map of the Middle East), but Disc Two really pulls out the stops. There's a wonderful documentary on the making of the film - and its restoration, as well as a conversation with Steven Spielberg, who puts the movie into his personal historical perspective. Another four original featurettes give additional background material, plus there's a section of the original newsreel footage from the film's New York premiere.

And that isn't all. There's stuff from the original ad campaign, talent files, trailers, and more DVD ROM features.

Add to that a 12 page booklet taken from the original 1962 souvenir booklet and you have a DVD tour de force for the ages.

The only problem is that they've broken up the movie to cover both discs. This is understandable to a point: it's a LONG movie. They've broken it at the proper point, too: Intermission.

Where the problem comes is that when you put in the second disc, you have to sit through the interminable menus, choose the audio format you want again, and then sit through the FBI anti piracy warnings as if it were the beginning of the film. This doesn't do a lot to keep the mood, unfortunately. We preferred the way Warners did the break on the Ben-Hur DVD; you merely flip over the disc and, though you still have to go through a menu, the movie starts when you hit play without the extra singing and dancing.

Still, if that's what it takes to get Lawrence of Arabia on DVD, then so be it. We'd rather have it this way than not have it at all. This is a must see DVD.

Lawrence of Arabia, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
227 min. Widescreen (2.20:1), 16x9 compatible, Dolby Digital 5.1.
Starring Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle, Anthony Quinn, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy, Jose Ferrer
Produced by Sam Spiegel
Written by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, Directed by David Lean.


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Updated May 13, 2006