Wednesday Annals of Philistinism (An Occasional Series)

on May 12, 2010 by Steve Simels


Possibly Apocryphal (But Nonetheless Interesting) Show-Biz Story: On December 22, 1965, the great pop artist Andy Warhol emerged from Manhattan's Ziegfeld Theatre where he had just attended the celebrity invitational premiere of David Lean's epic film Doctor Zhivago. A local TV news crew was waiting outside; one of the reporters shoved a microphone in the great man's face and the following exchange ensued.

Local Newsie: Well, Mr. Warhol, what did you think of Doctor Zhivago?

Warhol: I thought it was long and boring. But I like long, boring things.

I bring this up (and as I said, I can't guarantee the conversation actually took place) because I have just emerged from a viewing of the gorgeously remastered and restored 45th anniversary two-disc DVD version of Doctor Zhivago, courtesy of the good folks at Warner Home Video. And, as much as it pains me to say, I agree with the first half of Warhol's statement but not the second.

I know, I know. Lean's a great director yada yada yada. There are sequences of undeniable power and sweep. The use of widescreen is masterly. The celebrated Maurice Jarre score sounds great in 5.1 surround (although, as with the Laurence of Arabia music, Jarre kind of over-flogs the main theme.) WHV's new transfer looks ravishing, as does star Julie Christie.

I'm sorry, my eyes just glaze over. I don't know what it is, except maybe I just find Omar Sharif uninteresting. All I know is, the damn thing made me sleepy back in the 60s and it still does. Alas.

That said (and BTW, the title above is not irony so much as rueful regret) I'd be remiss if I didn't add that the WHV package is just chock full of interesting supplemental stuff. Disc one has a running audio commentary by Sharif, Rod Steiger and Sandra Lean (the director's widow), as well as a two-part making-of retrospective. Disc two has yet another making-of doc, plus Geraldine Chaplin's screen test and the theatrical trailer.

I should also add that the approximately 20 minutes of footage Lean was more or less forced to cut immediately after the film's opening has NOT been restored here, for the simple reason that it nobody has any idea where it is. Although in an age when the missing 25 minutes of Metropolis has finally been found, I suspect the DZ footage will show up one of these days. What was that about long and boring?

In any case, you can -- and despite my reservations probably should -- order the 45th anniversary edition here.


Tags: Andy Warhol, David Lean, Julie Christie, Omar Sharif

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