David Lean’s 1962 “Lawrence of Arabia” is one of the most universally praised films ever made, and deservedly so. Nominated for 10 Oscars, winner of seven (including Best Picture), it has only grown better with time. The few aspects that might signal its age are its lack of fancy special effects, its non-surround audio, and Peter O’Toole’s boyish face. But its presentation of the roots of modern conflicts in the Mideast seems more relevant and important as time goes on. It is a prerequisite to understanding many of the headlines of this year (and last year ... and the one before that ... etc.).
The remarkable restored director’s cut, assembled about a decade ago, has been released on DVD a number of times, but this is the sort of epic filmmaking that needs to be presented in the highest possible quality. Nothing can replace the experience of seeing it projected on a huge theater screen; but, within the limitations of even the best home equipment, the new two-disc Blu-ray release looks amazing — possibly the best-looking Blu-ray I’ve ever seen: beautiful, sharp and detailed.
The first disc has nothing on it but the film — which, given its three-hour, 45-minute length is a wise decision — and a “Picture-in-Graphic” track, which shrinks the image to make room for written commentary. It has a lot of information, but it’s hard to imagine sitting through the whole thing; the movie speaks for itself. The second disc repeats the more than an hour and a half of extras from earlier editions, plus a new interview with O’Toole.
Sony also offers a Gift Set — for $95.99 — which adds another disc of extras, a soundtrack CD, a book and some “collectibles.” If you’re one of the 1%, you may be able to afford it, but for all but the most ardent fans, paying three times as much to get that stuff seems rather silly.
“Lawrence of Arabia” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Blu-ray, two discs, $26.99; Gift Set, Blu-ray, 3 discs plus soundtrack CD, book and other gewgaws, $95.99)
ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).