Exodus (1960)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Paul Newman, Sal Mineo, Lee J. Cobb
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

Ah the 50s and 60s, golden times for big movies… When we think of epic-scale films of the time, "Spartacus, " "Ben Hur," or "Battle Of Britain" come to mind immediately… and "Exodus." Based on the acclaimed novel by Leon Uris, "Exodus" is the story of the birth of the state of Israel. After World War II Jews from all over Europe were sent to concentration camps on the British occupied island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean. They were refugees without a future or a homeland to return to, as no country was willing to welcome them.
To make a point and to direct public attention to the situation a Jewish British officer (Paul Newman) breaks out 611 Jews from a concentration camp and puts them on a Freighter to freedom in Palestine, but before they can leave the harbor the British set up a blockade. It appears to be an utterly hopeless situation but the Jews’ determination is unbroken and they confront the entire world by going on a mutual hunger strike. Will their desperation finally set them free and offer them a future in the Promised Land?

"Exodus" is a magnificent film that was beautifully shot on location all over the Mediterranean. Great vistas and harrowing, intimate shots go hand in hand as we witness the tribulations of these people and their struggle to find peace and a home. The story and the characters are moving and make you think about the condition the world was in after the Second World War – and the shamble it is in today.
Paul Newman is putting in a superb performance that shines in its understatement and subtlety that he brings to the role. He is complemented by a superb cast of the time, including Lee J. Cobb as his father, Peter Lawford, Sal Mineo and Eva Marie Saint. But even smaller parts are perfectly cast and manage to bring believability to this historic document.

Sadly MGM Home Entertainment didn’t seem to care much for the film as it is coming to DVD in a loveless release. To my surprise the film is presented in a non-<$16x9,anamorphic> 2.35:1 <$PS,widescreen> transfer. Five years into DVD, I didn’t even remember non-<$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> existed and the shock was all the worse. The image is seriously lacking detail and definition and appears overly "blocky" throughout. It is a result of the high contrast the transfer exhibits as well as some edge-enhancement that is evident. Due to the lack of definition the transfer also exhibits a lot of shimmering as image details are blurred and fine details just can’t be properly reproduced.
The film itself is in comparably good shape, though a few select reels show noticeably more speckles than others. There is a serious registration problem with the filmstrips, as the colors are never properly aligned and misplaced colored halos can be seen almost throughout the film. The color misalignment also creates some stark and unnatural looking color fall-offs adding to the DVD’s overly contrasting look.

The DVD contains the movie’s soundtrack in Dolby Stereo, although it sounds mostly like an expanded mono track, as I was unable to really locate real spatial effects. The track is generally good and free of defects, though the frequency response is limited and puts the film a bit on the hard-sounding edge. Not overly distracting but enough to make it feel "vintage."

The only extra on the disc is the movie’s theatrical trailer.

It is too bad that MGM Home Entertainment evidently took an old, unrestored and defective transfer of the movie and simply dumped it onto DVD once again. The studio is capable of high-end presentations but releases like this just make you scratch your head over their "quantity-over-quality" policy. Here they have a magnificent movie that is critically acclaimed, yet they disgrace it with their loveless treatment. My recommendation would really be, if you don’t want to release them properly, don’t release them at all. This sort of sub-par quality just damages MGM’s reputation among film lovers and doesn’t do service to anyone. Not the studio, not the consumer and most certainly not the movie.
Let me point out, though, that if you can get over MGM’s shoddy treatment, "Exodus" is a must-see film!