Release Date(s)1977 (April 13, 2021)
Studio(s)JAD Films International/Eastern Media Film (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A
1977’s Dynasty (aka Qian dao wan li zhu) brought the hard-hitting action of Asian cinema to audiences in three dimensions. Directed by Mei-Chun Chang (who also helmed Revenge of the Shogun Women the same year), this martial arts epic features a story about a prince who is accused of treason, and along with a young man out for revenge, must fight against the emperor's deadliest forces. Utilizing the Super-Touch, or Optimax III, 3D system, it was the promise fulfilled by low budget filmmaker Michael Findlay, who had developed the system before his untimely death. This stereoscopic format filmed separate left and right images stacked on top of each other, which created two separate images within the same frame on the negative. It was temperamental with mixed results when it came to image quality, but produced excellent 3D images when in proper alignment.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents 3-D Film Archive’s new restoration of Dynasty on Blu-ray 3D in three separate presentations: polarized 3D, anaglyph 3D, and normal 2D, all in scope (2.39:1). Before the film begins, a title card informs us that “Dynasty has been restored from the best surviving 35 mm elements and the stereoscopic vertical alignment issues from principal photography have been addressed. However, there are baked-in Super-Touch 3D lens system anomalies which cannot be repaired.”
Due to the amount of glass surfaces used within this 3D camera system, constant maintenance was required for optimal filming, which was not always done. Because of this, a myriad of issues cropped up, including illumination mismatching, speckling, and vignetting. As stated in the opening title card, many of the vertical alignment issues have been repaired, but minor instability, speckling, and discoloration, particularly along the top left edge of the frame of the right eye, are still present and appear to be permanent. There are also leftover lines and splice marks.
None of these issues are major distractions as the 3D itself is stellar with wonderful depth, thanks in no small part to the film’s compositional work. As for traditional 3D effects, arrows and swords that fly past and are jutted at the camera are mostly effective. Only minor ghosting is visible, but it’s never intrusive. Watching the film in 2D reveals a softness, but with good detail, saturation, and contrast. Also included is an anaglyph 3D version of the film, which aired on TV during the 1980s, but the version presented here is a new 2021 master using 3-D Film Archive's newly developed Adaptive Multi-Band Anaglyphic Encoding process. It fares much better than most presentations of its type. In fact, it's superior to any anaglyphic version that has been seen in the past. It also further provides everyone who purchases the disc a way to experience the film without modern 3D technology. All three are marvelous presentations of a film that was essentially dying on the vine, rescued, and nursed back to health.
Audio options include English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, which recreates the film’s original 4.0 Quadrophonic mix, and English 2.0 DTS-HD MA, which features the original mono optical mix. Though the music in the quad soundtrack is a tad wobbly at times, it definitely opens things up with the roar of thundering horse hooves, swords and spears slicing and soaring through the air, and echoed voices ringing all around forests and temples. The mono mix is flat comparatively, but offers a nice alternative, and is likely the way that most folks saw it at the time. The dubbed dialogue is obviously loose against the film, but adds to the charm with good fidelity and clear exchanges. Optional English subtitles are also provided.
The following extras are also included, all in HD:
- Super-Touch 3D Lens System (2D – 10:23)
- The House of Terror 3D Comic Book (3D – 1:49)
- Go Away I Like You Too Much (3D – 2:41)
- Sold on Stereo, Commercial 3D in the 1950s (3D – 8:00)
- Inside a Mid-Century Department Store (3D – 4:52)
This release also sports an excellent extras package for 3D enthusiasts. Everything is provided in all three formats (2D, polarized 3D, and anaglyph 3D), aside from the first item. In Super-Touch 3D, 3D expert Mike Ballew discusses the history of the rarely used Super-Touch/Optimax III 3D system, which was a difficult 3D system and was only used for six films. The House of Terror 3D comic book offers five eye-popping, E.C. Comics-type stories. Go Away I Like You Too Much is an animated 3D music video by The Simple Carnival by Jeff Boller. Sold on Stereo features narration by Rich Wentworth who discusses the history of stereo photography, showcasing many photos taken during the 1950s of people, locations, and promotional items. Inside a Mid-Century Department Store features narration by Stephnie Weir covering the same subject matter, but in this instance, featuring a slideshow of stereo photographs taken at the gigantic, though now defunct, Titche-Goettinger department store in Dallas, Texas in 1955. Also included inside the package is a single pair of red and blue anaglyph 3D glasses.
Dynasty on Blu-ray 3D is another triumph for the folks from 3-D Film Archive, the true experts of not just this format, but other cinematic formats as well. It’s a wonderful release packed with three great presentations and engrossing extras. For those Blu-ray 3D enabled or otherwise, this one is a gem.
- Tim Salmons