The doctor is in....Blu-ray, that is. Warner Home Video has released David Lean's 1965 blockbuster as a deluxe Blu-ray edition and it's probably a cliche to say it, but the film has not looked this good except on the big screen. Zhivago is as much a film about cinematography and production design as it is a human story of entangled romantic relationships set against the chaos of the Russian Revolution. Additionally, Maurice Jarre's classic score should have earned him co-star billing. As such, the Blu-ray format does justice to Freddie Young's magnificent camerawork and John Box's lavish sets. The film was never regarded as highly by critics as it was beloved by the public. Coming off Lean's triumphs with The Bridge On the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, most reviewers gave the movie respectable, if unenthusiastic notices. Certainly the pace is slow, even by 1965 standards, and the plot meanders to the degree that some of the characters and their relationships become confusing. The performance of Omar Sharif as the titular character has been deemed as bland (a criticism Sharif himself agrees with), but the flaw lies less in the actor than in the fact that Zhivago is a largely boring character who merely serves as a witness to the incredible events unfolding before him. The Boris Pasternak source novel caused a sensation when it was banned in the Soviet Union, which naturally ensured it's best-seller status across the rest of the world. Lean's screen adaptation certainly keeps in those aspects critical of the Communist dogma, but accentuates the love story at its center. The movie proved to be critic-proof, as audiences lined up around the globe to make this one of MGM's biggest moneymakers ever.
The Blu-ray set contains two discs, neatly packaged in the format of a small hardcover book that presents a wealth of beautiful stills from the film. The first disc contains the film an audio commentary by Omar Sharif, Rod Steiger and Sandra Lean. The second disc contains trailers, vintage and recent newsreels and featurettes, including Revisiting Doctor Zhivago, a new documentary in which directors such as Taylor Hackford, Martin Campbell and Nicholas Meyer reflect on their memories of the film and how it continues to inspire their work. There is also an 8 track sampler track from the original soundtrack album that is rather awkwardly attached to the outer book instead of being contained within the DVD package. Given how addictive the main themes are, one wishes WHV had sprung for a few extra bucks to include the entire album. If you're not a fan of the film, there probably isn't anything here that will convince you to change your mind...however, even the severest critic will have to admire the epic grandeur of the movie. It can truly be said of Doctor Zhivago that "they don't make 'em like that any more."
Click here to view original trailer and to order from Amazon