"The Leopard: Original Italian Version" (1963), Blu-ray. A Criterion release from 2010.
Criterion's retail package contains the original, Italian version as well as the butchered, and badly dubbed, American release version on 2 discs. The Italian version (reviewed here) is presented in 2.21:1 Aspect Ratio, with an LPCM Mono 48 kHz 24-bit Italian audio track. English Subtitles are available.
A Commentary track is on the disc with the Italian version. Criterion's other Extras for this release are on the 2nd disc with the American version.
This is Luchino Visconti’s study of the end days of aristocracy in Sicily in the 1860's. Sicily, already resigned to being conquered time and again, will now join the united, Italian republic where it will be pretty much ignored.
Burt Lancaster (brought in because The Money wouldn't fund the film without an American star) plays the Prince who tries to keep up appearances while already resigned to what's going on around him.
3 Hours 5 Minutes long.
No time off for good behavior.
The original, Italian title for the film is "Il Gattopardo". Based on Giuseppi Tomasi di Lampedusa's posthumously-published, 1958 novel of the same name (itself a surprise, best seller), Visconti's film garnered an Oscar Nomination for Best Color Costuming. Meanwhile, a variant edit of the film, not released in theaters, was submitted to the Cannes Film Festival, where it Won the prestigious, Palme d'Or.
Criterion has also included the American release version on a 2nd Blu-ray disc -- badly dubbed (except for Lancaster, who was recorded in English to begin with) -- and with large swatches cut out. But since all the critics agreed the American version is junk I went for the Italian version, with English subtitles.
Indeed, the American version flopped in its US release -- not helped by the fact US Distributor, Fox, took the Technicolor original and printed it in a cheaper, lower quality process for US theaters. The original, Italian version, on the other hand, is widely considered a "classic".
On the plus side, the picture quality of the restored, Technicolor wide screen is truly excellent on this Criterion Blu-ray. A fine example of what Technicolor could achieve in the 60s.
The audio track is mono, LPCM 48 kHz 24 bit, and is really annoying, although that is likely faithful to the original. Visconti apparently loved music, and didn't seem to mind including large chunks of it -- deliberately performed badly -- to make his artistic points. The Garibaldinis attack to ear piercing, martial trumpets. OK, neat point -- war is hell and all that. But then their attack, and the ridiculous trumpets, just go on and on and on.
War really is Hell.
The Prince is greeted at his country palace by the town's brass band playing Verdi -- incredibly badly. And just when you think you can't possibly stand another moment of that, they walk into the local church where the organist starts playing DIFFERENT Verdi -- equally badly. Is it any wonder the aristocracy is in a bad mood?
Did I mention this film is over 3 hours long?
And the final 40 minutes of it are a grand ball -- depicted in excruciating detail. As a documentary on grand balls in Sicily in the 1860s this is pretty cool, but as the "climax" of this movie it is just one more stunningly boring way to draaaaaag things out even further.
I was so shocked at how much I disliked this film (supposedly Visconti at the height of his creative powers), I played it AGAIN with the audio Commentary track running to learn what I had missed in my simple-minded, uneducated viewing. But even the flowery prose of the Commentator (film scholar Peter Cowie) could not make this film more interesting.
Avoid. Just . . . avoid.