WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH [1958 / 2012] [Deluxe Combo Blu-ray + DVD] [USA Release] Louis De Rochemont’s Cinemiracle Adventure!

Come on board the magnificent Norwegian square-rigger as it sails its spectacular 17,000 mile journey, manned by a crew of young sailors-in-training, all photographed in the widescreen splendour of “Cinemiracle” and Cinerama’s only true competitor to thrill 1950s audiences by sheer size and clarity.

Now digitally re-mastered in the unique “SMILEBOX” curved screen simulation, the colour, the music, and the true artistry of this classic is reborn. Embarking from Oslo, Norway, the ship sets out across the Atlantic with a storm-tossed stop in Madeira, where New Year’s festivities entice the young crewmen to enjoy Portuguese musical celebrations and heart racing rides in basket sleds down steep cobblestone streets. After that, it is on to Willemstad, Curacao, where the young sailors take part in Dutch festivities. They catch a courtyard performance of Pablo Casals in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, they’re greeted by native steel bands and Calypso singers. By the time they arrive in New York, the Cinemiracle cameras offer a kaleidoscopic treat of colour and sound created by famed photographer Arthur “Weege” Fellig. A later encounter with the U.S. Navy Task Force makes for a grand promenade of ships, and when underwater shots of frogmen and a submarine emerge from the depths to reveal the Windjammer on the open sea, Cinemiracle becomes the true star of this breath-taking story. Morton Gould s top-notch score, along with a fine variety of music throughout the picture, sounds perfect in Cinemiracle’s 7-channel sound recording. Re-mastered from the best available elements, audiences are once again to rediscover and re-appreciate this cinema classic. Now seen for the first time digitally, the film hasn’t looked and sounded as good since its original theatrical engagements, over 50 years ago.

FILM FACT No.1: 1958 Laurel Awards: Nominated: Golden Laurel Awards for Top General Entertainment + "Special Merit Award." 1958 National Board of Review, USA: Win: Top Ten Film.  

FILM FACT No.2: The film features a music film score by Morton Gould, with additional musical performances by cellist Pablo Casals and Arthur Fiedler conducting the Boston Pops Orchestra. A musical highlight in the film is the Piano Concerto by Edvard Grieg. This ties in with the narrative of the voyage because one of the sea-cadets is a piano-student who is preparing to play the concerto in Boston. The film also features a meeting with the German ship Pamir, which sank in a hurricane in September 1957. The film begins in non-widescreen format of 1.33:1 aspect ratio, as the crew prepares for the voyage. When the ship finally sets out and about fifteen minutes into the picture, the screen expands to Cinemiracle 2.56:1 aspect ratio dimensions, virtually the same as what happens when viewing a Cinerama film.

Cast: Captain Yvngvar Kjelstrup, A.B. Gunnar Haugsvaer, A.B. Lasse Kolstad, A.B. Trygve Bendiksen, Pau Casals, Asbjørn Espenak, Arian Fredriksen, Niels Arntsen, Oscar Strønen, Semund Remøy, Sverre Solheim, Arne Andersen, Nils Hermansen, Wilbur De Paris, The New Orleans Jazz Band, Arthur Fiedler (conductor), The Boston Pops Orchestra and Judy Lee Thompson (uncredited)

Directors: Bill Colleran and Louis De Rochemont III

Producer: Louis De Rochemont

Screenplay: James L. Shute

Composer: Morton Gould

Cinematography: Jay Gayne Rescher, A.S.C. (Director of Photography) and Joseph C. Brun (Director of Photography)

Image Resolution: 1080p (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 and 2.56:1

Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio

Subtitles: None

Running Time: 142 minutes

Region: Blu-ray + DVD: All Regions

Number of discs: 2

Studio: Flicker Alley

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ [1958] is probably the easiest modern comparison to the Cinerama/Cinemiracle film process is the IMAX theatres, particularly the true IMAX experience that you find at museums around the country, with the curved ceilings. In fact, ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ would not be out of place on one of those programmes. Just as the nature films shown at the IMAX theatres are meant to showcase the larger film projection using the wonders of the world we live in, so is this 1958 documentary a lengthy way to show off the massive Cinerama screen via a documentary of the seafaring life.

The Cinerama and Cinemiracle projection was a widescreen process that was essentially, close to three times the length of an average film screen. A true Cinerama theatre had a curved screen that was filled by three different 35mm projectors showing individual sections of one long image. The effect, unsurprisingly, was huge and immersive. Yet, also somewhat impractical and also a tad bit challenging to replicate in other cinema formats. How would you link up the three different panels so that the picture looks complete without divisions? For this Blu-Ray, as well as on the ‘THIS IS CINERAMA’ release, Flicker Alley has developed what they are calling SMILEBOX. A regular letterboxed version of the film would have to be really thin to fit on our standard rectangular widescreen television sets; so, the producers have modified the usual presentation, giving the picture a slight curve to simulate the true Cinerama and Cinemiracle screen.

‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ is a documentary following the Norwegian sailing vessel Christian Radich from Oslo around the world to New York City, stopping at multiple points in between Spain, Trinidad, and more. The film was essentially a special-event picture that toured Cinerama theatres through to the mid-1960s and is the only full film to be shot specifically in the “Cinemiracle” process. It has an overture and an intermission, all of which are included in this restoration. It even had an opening sequence that only used the centre panel.

The film begins in a non-widescreen format of 1.33:1 aspect ratio and we see the crew prepares for the voyage. When the Christian Radich ship finally sets out, then about fifteen minutes into the picture, the screen expands into the “Cinemiracle” dimensions, virtually the same as those of Cinerama, which serves as a great introduction. Once the picture opens up, going from the one to the three, you get a real sense of an amazing widescreen scope.

The tone of the film itself is fairy light-hearted. Though I compared ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ to IMAX films, the travelogue actually reminds me more of a Wonderful World of Disney nature film in the way real footage is fashioned into a narrative via creative editing and a friendly voiceover. The Christian Radich ship was a “school ship,” meaning its crew was largely teenage boys getting a working education. The boys learn English along the way, and one even brings a piano along to get some practice. At each port of call, they get to tour the local sites and participate in cultural events. Some of the staging is obvious. In one city, the ship's dog runs away and while the boys search for it on bicycle, the camera crew knows where it is at all times, following it on an afternoon out on the town with a native dog it met in the streets. There are multiple musical numbers, either on land or sing-alongs at the bottom of the ship. (We find out in the extras, an actual vocal group was brought in for some of these.)

The “story” is not the priority here, but one watches the amazing Windjammer visiting incredible sites on its voyage. The photography is often breath-taking. Underwater shots of the boy’s skin-diving, the red skies of dawn, exercises with the U.S. Navy, and the vast open spaces of the world's oceans look incredible in this format. The New York sequences can even boast being collaboration with the iconic photographer Arthur “Weege” Fellig, including a kaleidoscopic use of the three-panel effect, with different images in each screen. Plus, you get to ride on the back of a fire truck! The added length of the frame allows for a real sense of scale. The footage isn't trapped in an unnatural box, but rather has the openness experienced in real life, replicating the true range of vision. The colours are lush and vibrant. Honestly, ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ is probably not a  film you are going to watch very often just for the heck of it, it's more likely going to be the Blu-ray you pull out to show off via your Home Cinema set up to your friends.

WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH MUSIC TRACK LIST

KARI WAITS FOR ME (Written by Terry Gilkyson, Rich Dehr and Frank Miller)

MARIANNE (Written by Terry Gilkyson, Rich Dehr and Frank Miller)

SUGAR CANE (Written by Terry Gilkyson, Rich Dehr and Frank Miller) [Performed by Wilbur De Paris and His New Orleans Jazz Band]

MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS (Written by Terry Gilkyson, Rich Dehr and Frank Miller)

SATURDAY NIGHT (Written by Terry Gilkyson, Rich Dehr and Frank Miller)

DON’T YOU WORRY (Written by Terry Gilkyson, Rich Dehr and Frank Miller)

VILLAGE OF NEW YORK (Written by Terry Gilkyson, Rich Dehr and Frank Miller)

Piano Concerto in A Minor (uncredited) (Music by Edvard Grieg) [Performed by Sven Libaek, piano soloist, with Arthur Fiedler conducting the Boston Pops Orchestra]

SONG OF THE BIRDS (uncredited) (Traditional)

THE BATTLE OF THE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC (uncredited) (Music by William Steffe)

Blu-ray Image Quality – ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ is presented at first in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, then eventually in the awesome 2.56:1 aspect ratio and encoded with a stunning 1080p image transfer, Bill Colleran and Louis De Rochemont III's ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Flicker Alley. Generally speaking, detail ranges from decent to pleasing, while clarity is never seriously compromised. Some colour fluttering, however is occasionally noticeable, but not detrimental. Small alignment issues between the three panels are also present. There are also a few basic warping issues that affect colour stability and to a lesser extent definition, usually around the edges of the frame. It is true, the film looks somewhat uneven, but it definitely has the organic look an older film should have. And this really makes a big difference. All in all, considering the small budget that was apparently available for this project, ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ looks surprisingly good. The following information of who was involved behind-the-scene in producing this stunning Blu-ray disc are as follows:

Reconstructed and Re-mastered by Dave Strohmaíer.

Image Restoration and Colour Grading by Greg Kimble.

Telecine by Scott Maloney at Modern Videofilm.

Seven Channel Cinemiracle Sound transferred at Chace Audio by Deluxe by Thom Piper, Jr. & Gilbert Paul.

Special Graphics Reconstruction by Martin Hart at The American WideScreen Museum.

Special Digital Clean-up by Gary Jackemuk at DigitalVision.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ is provided with two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc and they are 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio. The audio track will not test the muscles of your audio system. It has somewhat limited dynamic amplitude, but this should not be surprising - throughout the majority of the film a narrator explains what takes place in front of the camera and tells the viewer where the Windjammer is heading next. There are bits of music and chatter here and there, but dynamic movement is indeed very limited. There is a wide range of dynamics during the overture, and the strings in particular sound quite good. There is slightly better depth and sound fluidity here as well. Overall, I think that it is fair to say that the audio has been optimised quite well.

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Special Feature: A Cinemiracle Adventure: The WINDJAMMER Voyage [2012] [1080p] [1.78:1 / 1.33:1] [56:17] This is a brand new documentary by historian Dave Strohmaier on the film’s original production and the phenomenon ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH.’ In this long and very informative documentary, you will see rare and unpublished film recordings from the recording of Windjammer, and interviews with a large number of the contributors, who tell about the filming and what happened in the years that followed. Among others, recall their contribution to ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ and discuss the 1958 film's success, in which follows the school ship Christian Radich on a speculative voyage, that was not just a film, it was a phenomenon.  The premiere, both in Norway and in the USA, received massive attention, and the film went in month after month for an enthusiastic audience.  ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ was the only film  produced in Cinemiracle, a complicated system that required three synchronized film projectors and a gigantic canvas screen, and the original Windjammer experience was impossible to reproduce –  not least because the original negatives are not preserved. In 2010, however, they were able to present a newly restored, digitized edition of the film at Cinemateket, made by Americans David Strohmaier and Randy Gitsch. The documentary was directed by historian Dave Strohmaíer. Contributors include: Thomas Hauerslev [www.in70mm.com], Jan E, Olsen [Norwegian Film Institute], Alf R. Bjercke [Production Technical Advisor], Tore Bilet [Cadet #85], Jon Reistad [Cadet #16], Kaare Teerland [Cadet #2], Lasse Kolstad [Boatswain], Sven Erik Libaek [Cadet #35], Jan Halvorsen [Cadet #34] and Turi De Rochemont [wife of Louis De Rochemont III].

Special Feature: WINDJAMMER Breakdown Reel [1958] [1080p] [1.33:1] [13:52] Both Cinerama and Cinemiracle 3-panel systems could breakdown during a show. If this happened, a regular projector had an emergency or breakdown reel ready to screen. The footage presented here comes from one such reel for ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH.’

Special Feature: WINDJAMMER Gets a Facelift! [2012] [1080p] [1.78:1] [12:08] This is a short but very illuminating interesting piece on the re-mastering of ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH.’ We also get specific in-depth informative comments on the colour corrections that are particularly interesting. Many before and after examples of the film are shown along with a little history of the Christian Radich ship itself. Contributors include: Randy Gitsh [Film Producer], Dave Strohmaíer [Reconstruction], Greg Kimble [Image Restoration] and Kent Gibson [Visual Effects Supervisor].

Special Feature: Christian Radich Ship Today at the Aalborg Denmark Tall Ships Festival 2010 [2010] [1080p] [1.78:1] [6:12] Here we get to have a look at the great Christian Radich ship, which has been preserved for future generations through active operation as a school ship for all ages and also for charter on special voyages and is a great ambassador for Norway. The Christian Radich ship has won over 37 tall ship races since 1956. At the start of the documentary, we get a short introduction by Einar Corwin, the present director of Christian Radich.

Theatrical Trailer [1958] [1080p] [2.56:1] [2:34] This is a new re-creation of the Original 1958 Theatrical Trailer release for the film ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH.’

Special Feature: WINDJAMMER Slideshow [2012] [1080p] [1.78:1] [9:08] Here we get to view Behind-the-scene Black-and-White and Colour images. Featuring images of the production, the original exhibition, and original publicity of the Cinemiracle film ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH.’ In the background we get to hear the composed music for the Cinemiracle film.

Special Feature: Original Newspaper Ads Slideshow [2012] [1080p] [1.78:1] [1:53] With the following slideshow, you get to view a selection of vintage newspaper adverts related to the film’s original 1958 theatrical release of ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH.’ Once again you get to hear the composed music for the Cinemiracle film.

Special Feature: Photo Gallery: Here we get to view the facsimile of the original film ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ Cinemiracle booklet. You have to press the ENTER button on your remote control to advance the images.

BONUS: Special 28 page Booklet reproduction of the original programme: A very stylish illustrated booklet with information about Cinemiracle history, the technical production history of the film, the cast, and much more.

Finally, though this is an entertaining period documentary, ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ is an amazing visual showcase for the giant “Cinemiracle” projection process. Encompassing, essentially three different screens, this gorgeously photographed chronicle of a Norwegian ship's trip around the world is a marvel of cinematic expansiveness. Full of beautiful scenery and lots of local colour from the various places where the boat docked, it's a wonderful travelogue, complete with music and some manufactured storylines. Flicker Alley's Blu-ray/DVD combo is an exceptional package, providing historical context for the movie and finding a way to show the film so as to emulate its original theatrical look. ‘WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH’ is a fabulous Blu-ray release, and well worth checking out, as it has been my all-time favourite “Cinemiracle” projection process when I first viewed it in a London Cinema and it has been a massive big favourite of mine and now I can view it whenever I want and when I view this brilliant Blu-ray disc, it brings back many a fond memories of this awesome film when I was sitting in a darken cinema and looking up at the gigantic “Cinemiracle” cinema screen. If you want to experience something truly special, then this is a MUST own Blu-ray disc and I am so proud to now have it in my ever increasing Cinerama Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado 
Le Cinema Paradiso 
United Kingdom

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