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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Mono
  • Swedish Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by noted film historian Peter Cowie
  • An annotated, illustrated Bergman filmography, featuring excerpts from Wild Strawberries and The Magician with commentary
  • Improved English subtitles
  • Optional English-dubbed soundtrack
  • Original theatrical trailer with optional English subtitles
  • Restoration demonstration

The Seventh Seal

1999 Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: , Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe, Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Inga Gill, Maud Hansson, , Gunnel Lindblom, Bertil Anderberg, Anders Ek, , Gunnar Olsson, Erik Strandmark
1957 | 96 Minutes | Licensor: Svensk Filmindustri

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #11 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: February 9, 1999
Review Date: May 19, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

After a decade of battling in the Crusades, a knight challenges Death to a fateful game of chess. More than forty years after its initial release, Ingmar Bergman's stunning allegory of man's apocalyptic search for meaning remains a textbook on the art of filmmaking and an essential building block in any collection. Criterion is proud to present The Seventh Seal in a pristine new transfer.

Forum members rate this film 9/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterionís original release of The Seventh Seal is presented in the original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc.

This disc was delayed initially after Criterion decided to make a new transfer for the DVD, not simply porting their laserdisc transfer over (which was common for them to do at the time.) I havenít seen their laserdisc but based on their restoration demonstration included on this disc, which compares the new DVD transfer with the old laserdisc transfer, it looks to be a rather huge improvement.

While itís not up to par with their recent transfers itís still quite good. Thereís a decent amount of detail as a whole, a few sequences coming off just a little soft around the edges. Contrast can vary, being too dark or looking a little too bright suggesting some boosting. The transfer presents some noise but nothing too distracting.

The print has been nicely restored. There are still some tears and marks but theyíre quite minimal, along with some pulsating.

Overall Iíve always been pleased with it, but it is open to improvement. There was a Region B Blu-ray release of the film that showed a sharp improvement, and Criterion will actually be re-releasing this title on DVD and Blu-ray, which Iím sure will look much nicer.

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion includes both the original Swedish mono track and an English dub. The Swedish track is the one to go with, though itís still a fairly weak sounding track. Voices sound fine, but music can sound a tad edgy at times and there is a little bit of background noise. Itís acceptable and fine, but Iíve heard better mono tracks from Criterion

Itís still far better than the English track, which sounds to be in rather rough shape, or at least a bit compressed. It sounds muffled and presents a lot of static and its fair share of cracks. Itís a bit of a disaster actually and one should stick with the Swedish track.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

It looks like Criterion has ported everything from their laserdisc, which were only a couple of features.

First up is an audio commentary by Peter Cowie. Like most of his tracks itís a scholarly one, really digging deep into the symbolism and ďmeaningĒ of film, giving his interpretation of things. He also offers some information on the production, the performers, and Bergmanís career in general. Itís a very informative, wonderfully done track, and Cowie has a lot to offer. Cowieís tracks can be love-or-hate for most, myself usually enjoying them, but of the Cowie tracks Iíve heard this is one of my favourites.

Cowie also offers a visual essay entitled Ingmar Bergman: An Illustrated Filmography. Uncommon now, these types of supplements were common from Criterion during their early days. Theyíre presented as text notes that you navigate through using the arrows on your remote, throwing in some photos. He also throws in a couple of film clips, including a 4-minute clip from Wild Strawberries and a 7-minute clip from The Magician, with audio commentary. This essay, which is rather lengthy, covers Bergmanís early life and film career up to Fanny and Alexander. It does sort of rush through most of his films, giving each one at least a mention, but does concentrate more on his more highly acclaimed or better known films. I enjoyed it, though, having known next to nothing about Bergman upon my first viewing a decade or so ago, and I think those getting an intro to the director will benefit from it.

After that is a theatrical trailer and then the restoration demonstration, which compares the DVD transfer to the laserdisc transfer, showing a rather sharp and obvious improvement.

And if you didnít get enough Cowie you get an insert with a short essay by Cowie, writing what could be described as an abridged version of his commentary.

Not loaded but I was always happy with this release. But a new edition from Criterion will be released in June, featuring what appears to be the same features found on here, plus a few more including the documentary Bergman Island. It will also be available cheaper than this DVD edition.

6/10

CLOSING

Itís a film any serious film buff should own in their DVD collection and this release is nice overall (nice enough transfer and decent supplements, if slim pickings.) But even if you can find this one cheaper (new or used) Iíd hold out for the new DVD or Blu-ray coming from Criterion in June, which is even cheaper.


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