Ivanhoe (1952)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Robert Taylor, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Elizabeth Taylor, Emlyn Williams
Extras: Tom & Jerry Cartoon, Trailer

To me, ’Ivanhoe’ has always been one of the most perfect adventure movies about medieval knights, their honor, pride and shiny armors. Part of it is because everything in this film is exceedingly romanticized and, well, perfect. From the painted puffy clouds to the matte paintings of castles and landscapes, the entire movie feels like a storybook filled with atmosphere, intrigue, heroism, romance and so much more. All of this may not be appealing to today’s audiences but for a wide-eyed boy like myself, growing up, this has always been a special film, and still is.

Warner Home Video has now released ’Ivanhoe’ on DVD for the first time but sadly it turned out to be a mixed bag. Very mixed, in fact. The transfer is untreated, coming from a mediocre and worn print. As a result the image is not what you may expect. Overly soft and washed out, color reproduction is never properly living up to the film’s original glory, rendering colors poorly defined and bleeding with the color strips of the Technicolor print, oftentimes not even properly aligned. The image is riddled with speckles, dust and scratches also, making it hard to really enjoy the film at its fullest.

The audio comes as an untreated mono track in English and French. The limited frequency response creates a fairly harsh-sounding presentation that clearly gives away the film’s age. Sibilance is evident and the crescendi in Miklós Rósza are often distorted and undistinguishable.

As extras, Warner is providing a Tom & Jerry cartoon on the DVD as well as a gallery of trailers for various swashbuckling films from the Warner catalog.

Sadly, ’Ivanhoe’ is a bit of a disappointment with a rather poor transfer on all fronts. The film could have used some clean-up, or better yet some serious restoration. Too bad Warner missed the opportunity here to give the great film the treatment it deserved.