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Lawrence of Arabia: Limited Edition

Moviemaking is a fragile affair. Films are deeply vulnerable to such matters as casting and office politics, and many of the pictures we love are happy accidents. That said, many, many things could have gone wrong with David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. The film took a lot longer to set up, shoot, and edit than anticipated. But instead of being a disaster, Lawrence became one of the greatest movies of the 20th century, and one of the weirdest, most counter-intuitive epics ever committed to film. The production history of Lawrence is a fascinating one, especially if you like movies in general and this movie in particular, and its story is fully recounted in several books. Much of this material is replicated on this DVD's excellent hour-long "making-of" documentary. T.E Lawrence himself was, off and on, an icon of 20th century British culture. The illegitimate son of an Irish lord, at the outbreak of World War I, he joined army intelligence. Lean's film chronicles his exploits uniting the Arab tribes in the fight against the hated, well-armed Turks, winning over such figures as Sheik Ali (Omar Sharif) and King Feisal (Alec Guinness), while an American reporter (Arthur Kennedy) makes an international hero out of him. Reduced to its essence, the story of Lawrence is fairly simple, if not skimpy, though it still requires concentration On the other hand, the film is rather mysterious. That's because the quirky, brittle, difficult man at its center is such a mystery. In a key scene, when Lawrence reaches the Suez, a motorcyclist from across the water hollers "Who are you?" The film does not presume to answer that question — it is enough that the film has asked it. Based on the 1988 restoration by Robert Harris and John Painten, Columbia TriStar's Lawrence of Arabia: Limited Edition offers a strong anamorphic transfer (2.20:1) — the blues of the skies are clear; the flesh tones are rich. The set comes in two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DS-SL), with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0. Extras include Laurent Bouzereau's documentary The Making of Lawrence of Arabia, an eight-minute "conversation" with Steven Spielberg, four short contemporaneous news features, talent files on 11 cast and crew members, newsreel footage of the New York premiere, a very good narrated slide show of advertising campaign images, and theatrical trailers for Lawrence,, The Guns of Navarone, The Bridge on the River Kwai. Inserted reprint of the original 1962 souvenir booklet. Dual-DVD digipak in hardcover-book shell.
—D.K. Holm

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