Bad, bad news from our friends at the best label in the world. Stalag 17 in 4K is the new Walkabout, now in black and white. To be honest, I had a suspicious feeling when I read all the positive reactions so far, after all Kino changed their authoring house and the rest is history. But even a solid, standard encode of this film on a BD-100 with the narrow 1.37:1 aspect ratio could be achievable by the laziest authoring house, so I wasn’t all pessimistic.
I’m not sure whether I should laugh or rage about it now. It’s a horrendous encode. If you followed the Walkabout debacle (which I believe I brought into roll as there were literally no critical takes on that release before I bought and put in my disc), this is exactly the same. The underlying master, sourced from the OCN (I read somewhere that it was considered lost) is of astonishing beauty and detail devoid of Paramount’s DNR & smear. The waiting period between the UHD’s announcement and release pretty much guarantees that KL did the master themselves compared to their quickly released, ready-made UHDs, such as the upcoming The Last Castle and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
You can see the beauty of the master everywhere where no sky or larger grey areas are visible. Dolby Vision doesn’t help there, this is a hopelessly truncated encode. I may get some screenshots up on BR.com in order to make people aware of the issue. In short, if you didn’t notice any issues with Walkabout, you won’t notice anything here and it’ll be one of the greatest UHDs for you. Otherwise, we can only hope that the Paramount dam breaks in Europe one day and they’ll start licensing their films to other labels like MGM now.
The included BD is also from the new master but no help either. It’s the same authoring house, as Tarzi said. What’s interesting for me (I never bothered to compare) is how aggressively they filter their masters for their BD releases. If I didn’t know that this was indeed a 4K OCN master, I’d have said it’s clearly an older one. The BD therefore has the same shortcomings but due to the general filtering across the entire master, the encoding issues don’t render as visible as on the UHD. It’s a pick your poison situation but I’d definitely go with the UHD as there’s at least no permanent filtering and quite the astonishing detail when the encode holds up.