"Nothing Less Than A Miracle In Motion Pictures!" proclaimed the original campaign, and 42 years later, this version of Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" remains a classic in fantasy entertainment.
As part of Columbia's Ray Harryhausen Signature Collection, "The 3 Worlds of Gulliver" was previously released on laserdisc back in 1995, with a few extras. Remastered for DVD, the new "Gulliver" has some major improvements worth discussing.
Visually, the new transfer has colour corrections which have eliminated the orange hue that plagued the laserdisc. Perhaps a few steps a bit too much on the blue side, the improvements nevertheless include more natural flesh tones, and the costumes and sets have greater colour depth. There's minimal artifacting, and the boost in brightness also fix the laser's rather grayish tone that made a few shots seem unintentionally underexposed. The grain and print wear are still evident, but many of these flaws appear to be part of the final optical shots, as cutaways reveal far cleaner backgrounds and solid colours.
The laser's sound was quite robust, and the film's original mono mix was given a processed stereo treatment. For the DVD, the original mono track is used, and though more subdued in volume, there's greater clarity, particularly in the high and mid-range frequencies, with Bernard Herrmann's stirring score benefiting the most. (The original laser notes indicated an isolated music and effects track, a bonus included on Columbia's "Mysterious Island" laser, but the feature was not included on the final "Gulliver" disc. The original mono score, however, is available from Cloud 9 Records.)
Ported over from the laserdisc is a "The Making of" featurette, in which the legendary animator explains the film's key visual sequences, with storyboards and some behind-the-scenes stills. Like the newly remastered film, the featurette has been colour corrected, with proper flesh tones and improved colour. This1995 material acted as a bookend to the laser, and the original (:57) intro from Harryhausen is not included on the DVD. In place of the laser's worn, full-screen trailer is a widescreen version - a rather peculiar choice since the film is presented full screen. An A/B comparison of specific shots within the trailer and from the film proper reveals the trailer is matted, cropping the image for 1.85:1 widescreen presentation.
Also included is the original "This Is Dynamation" featurette, which was used to publicize "The 7th Voyage if Sinbad" before that film's inaugural release. This short combines big hype with bold text, colour and early black and white footage, plus some interesting behind-the-scenes shots from "Sinbad's" production.
The real gem among extras, however, is the documentary/featurette "The Harryhausen Chronicles," which follows the animator's career from a boy smitten with the wonder of the original "King Kong" (1933), to his final work for Disney on "Clash of the Titans," in 1981.
Written and directed by Richard Schickel in 1997, the beautifully paced doc contains scenes from several unrealized and unfinished projects, test footage, and fascinating moments from his early solo ventures as a teenager. These latter shorts and subsequent nursery tales were shot on 16mm, and reveal Harryhausen's gift for technique and character, and one can see why his talents were embraced by producer Charles H. Schneer. Schneer, childhood friend Ray Bradbury (who presented an Honorary Oscar to the animator in 1992), animators Dennis Muren and Henry Selick, and George Lucas are also interviewed, and it's clear Harryhausen's movies deeply affected their childhood, and inspired their future careers. Leonard Nimoy provides a fluid narration, and with the exception of "One Million Years B.C." (1966), all his film work is represented with movie clips. Running almost an hour, the documentary sadly contains no chapters, making it a chore to jump to key periods in Harryhausen's career or specific film clips.
Filling out the disc are production notes in the included booklet, and DVD biographical notes for director Jack Sher, writer Arthur Ross, star Kerwin Mathews, and Ray Harryhausen.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan