Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
September 28, 2010 by Dennis Amith
A film from 1951 that stands out for its magical storyline but also for its wonderful performance by Ava Gardner and James Mason. A surprising release on Blu-ray and a significant improvement compared to the original DVD release from KINO. Definitely recommended!
TITLE: Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
FILM RELEASE: 1951
DURATION: 123 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1920x1080p)
COMPANY: Kino International
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Written and Directed by Albert Lewin
Produced by Joe Kaufmann, Albert Lewin, John Woolf
Music by Alan Rawsthorne
Cinematograpy by Jack Cardiff
Edited by Ralph Kemplen
Production Design by John Bryan
Costume Design by Beatrice Dawson
James Mason as Hendrik van der Zee
Ava Gardner as Pandora Reynolds
Nigel Patrick as Stephen Cameron
Sheila Sim as Janet
Harold Warrender as Geoffrey Fielding
Mario Cabre as Juan Montalvo
Marius Goring as Reggie Demarest
In this timeless romantic fantasy from director Albert Lewin, Ava Gardner stars as a nightclub singer vacationing in Spain, with whom all men fall hopelessly in love. But Pandora, never having known true love, is indifferent to her suitors’ affections. Until, one evening, she swims out to a mysterious yacht and meets its captain (James Mason). Mastered in HD from the 35mm negative of the 2009 restoration, this Kino edition preserves Jack Cardiff’s (The Red Shoes) vivid Technicolor cinematography with breathtaking clarity.
Ava Gardner is absolute ravishing as the character of Pandora, the object of men’s desires and a woman who is searching for the meaning of her own life, until she meets a man named Hendrik, a man who may be the answer that she has been looking for.
To describe the 1951 film “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” may be a little difficult. It’s definitely a dramatic film, a love story but with a twist of fantasy mixed into it. The film was definitely uncharacteristic for a film released during its time. But by saying that, I don’t want to dismiss this film as fantasy kitsch, nor do I want to portray Ava Gardner as the ultimate sex kitten and that is why this film should be watched. “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” is much more than that. It’s a magical film in which characters encounter fate, destiny, tragedy and focuses on a unique love shared by two individuals.
“Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” is written and directed by Albert Lewin (“The Picture of Dorian Gray”, “Saadia”, “The Living Idol”) and stars James Mason (“Heaven Can Wait”, “Lolita”, “A Star is Born”, “Georgy Girl”, “The Verdict”), Ava Gardner (“Mogambo”, “The Night of the Iguana”, “On the Beach”), Nigel Patrick (“The League of Gentleman”, “Raintree Country”, “Breaking the Sound Barrier”) and Harold Warrender (“Ivanhoe”, “Conspirator”, “Time Bomb”).
The film takes place in the 1930’s and fisherman have found two dead in the sea off Spain. Quickly, Geoffrey Fielding (played by Harold Warrender), his niece Janet (played by Sheila Sim) and Stephen Cameron (played by Nigel Patrick) check to see the two bodies and they confirm that both dead are people they knew. Geoffrey finds a book that was found alongside the bodies.
When Geoffrey returns back home, he tells us the story of “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman”.
Pandora Reynolds (played by Ava Gardner) is a beautiful woman that many have wanted to be with, to marry but for Pandora, despite her beauty and a woman who looks as if she has everything, the fact is that she is unhappy. She is unable to love anyone but herself and she is known for making demands on men to show their love for her. One man who wants to marry her gets a rejection by Pandora and immediately, he kills himself.
But Pandora doesn’t feel any sadness at all. That is until she meets Stephen, a professional racer who has loved her and she asks, would he sacrifice his own race car to prove and show his love for her. Stephen shows that he would push his car over the cliff and into the ocean if Pandora would marry him and she agrees. When Stephen does what she says, she is bound by her promise to marry him but not immediately. She will marry him on September 3rd which is more than a month away.
Their friend and anthropologist Geoffrey comes to pick them up and while driving, Pandora feels a connection to a ship in the sea. As the three stop around the area of the beach, Pandora for some reason takes off all her clothes and starts swimming to the ship.
When she goes to check inside, she meets the stoic Dutch captain named Hendrick van der Zee (played by James Mason). Hendrick is different than most men, that he is not taken to her immediately like most men. Instead of looking at her, he is more interested in his painting. When Pandora sees the painting, she is shocked… it is a painting that looks exactly like her. Hendrick tells her that the painting is of a woman named Pandora. As the two talk, she finds herself interested, curious and possibly attracted to the stranger. And while both Stephen and Jeffrey come to pick her up on a boat, she asks Hendrick to join them for dinner the following day.
We then learn that Hendrick is very familiar with antiques, even moreso than Geoffrey. And because he is Dutch, Geoffrey hopes that he can translate a story about the Flying Dutchman to English. Hendrick is hesitant to see the book but then reads it. He tells the story about the accursed Flying Dutchman, a man from the 16th century who killed a woman named Pandora, a woman he had loved and was to join her in death but was unable to. He is punished but when he is sent to prison, the prison door is open, the guards are all asleep and he escapes back to his ship with his crewmates.
The Flying Dutchman contemplates killing himself but can’t. Perhaps all that has happened was a dream and when he awakes, he will realize it was all a dream. So, the Flying Dutchman sleeps and then awakens to find out that the knife he he had dropped earlier is on the ground and to his shock and awe, there is no crew on his ship. Everything is being done on its own.
We then learn that that Flying Dutchman is condemned to sail the seas for eternity and he must find a woman who loves him enough to die for him. As every seven years, he is allowed to go on shore for six months to find the woman who will fall in love with him and die with him.
Geoffrey is shocked because Hendrick has since stood up and is reading the book as if he has memorized every line, every word perfectly and Geoffrey realizes that Hendrick is in fact the Flying Dutchman and he has been alive for centuries. And not only has he come back, for the first time in his centuries of being alive, he has found Pandora once again.
But with Pandora planning to get married, will Pandora fall in love with him and die with him or will Hendrick’s guilt prevent him from getting close to Pandora?
“Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” is presented in 1080p (1920 x 1080p). It’s important to note that this film is 60-years-old and prior to watching this Blu-ray release, I have had the movie on DVD from KINO courtesy of their “Glamour Girls” DVD box set.
The original picture quality of this film was very dark and even murky, showing its age. The Blu-ray release is a major step forward in the restoration of this film. The 2009 Technicolor restoration not only shows us how the film was meant to be seen, but no longer are the scenes that were too dark an issue. You can actually see the detail indoors. May it be the detail of the wood or the tiles, the skin uplclose to even seeing outdoor details, especially during a scene with Stephen and Pandora riding in the race car. Before, the scene was so dark that you couldn’t see much detail but now on Blu-ray, you can see the detail on the road, where the car is driving to and for the indoor scenes, you can see everything quite nicely.
May it be detail of the home, the vehicles or the clothing, the detail can be seen in HD quite nicely.
With that being said, the film is not perfect. You will see color fluctuations at times and slight flicker. You can see normal skin tones star to turn greenish and back (for a very short while). Also, where many niche companies tend to want to remove and limit any dust or scratches that can be seen on the Blu-ray, you can see them clearly in HD.
But by no means do I expect a smaller company like KINO to spend over a million dollars or more for restoration like the major film companies have done with their timeless classics. If anything, what KINO managed to do in bringing this classic to Blu-ray and showing us how much better it looks from its DVD counterpart is quite amazing and if you loved the film, you’re going to love it on Blu-ray. This is probably the best this film will ever look in a video release.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” is presented in an uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0. Dialogue is clear and understandable and through the restoration feature on the special features, you can see how the restoration of the film really brought out the audio for the film. From the dialogue to the music of Alan Rawsthorne, audio-wise, the film sounds good for a 60-year-old film.
There is one caveat and that is there is no subtitles. There is some dialogue spoken in a foreign language and I wish those were subtitled but I guess it was non-essential as the subtitles were not part of the original part of the film but for those who are not able to hear, the lack of subtitles is actually disappointing as English subtitles are typically a standard in any release.
“Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” comes with the following special features:
- Alternate Opening Titles– (2:28) Prints for the UK market varied slightly from the American release. Instead of the prologue about the Flying Dutchman, the UK version featured a quote by Omar Khayyam.
- “El Torero de Cordoba” – (17:28) – A 1947 documentary about the career of Manuel Rodriguez Manolege, the Spanish bullfighter who was the inspiration for the character Montalvo. Presented with burned-in English subtitles.
- Comparison of Restoration – (5:49) A featurette that shows how much the 2009 Kino restoration looks versus its original 35mm (unrestored) Technicolor print.
- Theatrical Trailers – Featuring the US Release trailer, US Release (abridged and B&W) trailer and the UK 2010 re-release trailer.
“Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” comes with a slipcase.
“Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” was a film that I never expected to be released on Blu-ray from KINO. As there are so many other films in the company’s catalog that can easily be considered for release on HD. But I’m happy we did get a release because this film is quite magical and definitely unique when compared to many films released at its time.
Ava Gardner is just beautiful and ravishing in her her role as Pandora Reynolds and even in reality, the actress was the object of desire for many of Hollywood’s top actors as she was married and had relationships with Mickey Rooney, Howard Hughes, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra.
While Gardner brought the beauty and believability to the character of Pandora, James Mason was very convincing as the Flying Dutchman, Hendrick van der Zee. A professional performance that you would expect from a well-revered thespian, even a Shakespearean actor, Mason does a fantastic job in his role.
But the biggest surprise was the story. I was expected some type of vampish movie of men just going crazy over a woman that they can’t have which was quite cliche during that time and in cinema decades earlier. But what I didn’t expect is the twist of Hendrick as being the actual Flying Dutchman and is an accursed man who wants to finally die in peace but needs a woman willing to die for him. As macabre as it may sound, the way the film was written and how Pandora is always searching a meaning to her life and finds a connection with Hendrick made this love story about fate and destiny and overall, a story that I truly enjoyed.
So, I’m grateful to see such a film being released on Blu-ray as it truly is a film that stands out compared to other early ’50s films. And I hope KINO continues with releasing more classics on Blu-ray!
Overall, “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” is a film worth watching and for those who owned it on DVD previously, this Blu-ray version is a significant improvement in picture quality and audio quality that you will definitely want this release. No more darkness, no more murkiness, not to say that this Blu-ray release is perfect but it is the definitive version to own of the film at this time. Definitely recommended!
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