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"The Hellstrom Chronicle" - {Blu-Ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Olive
Genre:
Drama/Documentary
Release Date:
January 10, 2012
Special Features:

See Below

Review:

Nils Hellstrom the host of the 1972 Oscar winning documentary "The Hellstrom Chronicle" doesn't exist and never has. A documentary-thriller written by David Seltzer ("The Omen")and directed by Walon Green argues that bugs, plants and other small creatures will inherit the Earth and we, humanity, are but temporary passengers on our planet.***

Using fascinating microphotography (which was cutting edge at the time), "The Hellstrom Chronicle" allows the host (actor Lawrence Pressman who confides in us early on in the documentary that what he is about to tell us has cost him friends and faculty positions)to document with often stunning photography WHY we don't and won't deserve to inherit the Earth. Cleverly promoting the film as if it were science fiction thriller, producer David Wolper, Seltzer and Green created a fascinating film that used truth to lure in unsuspecting audiences like a venus flytrap to educate while entertaining.***

Image & Sound:

Olive films presents "The Hellstrom Chronicle" in, what it claims, is the original aspect ratio in 1.66:1 pillar boxed (with black bars on the side). The international Movie Database claims that the film was originally presented in 1.85:1 but it's possible that the film was matted in theaters after the film was shot. Olive films has often released films that were independently produced, have become public domain or were orphaned and not owned by a major studio.***

The visual presentation of the film is somewhat mixed ranging from stunning with bright, bold colors to clearly in need of restoration. For example, there's a scene early on where Hellstrom talks to us in a public park and the source print has clearly faded (and it's on one side of the frame). After the somewhat uneven presentation in the beginning the film (particularly the microphotography sequences) improves with bold colors and good detail.***

There's also speckling evident throughout although it's not bad it could easily have been digitally removed with a bit more careful restoration. I'm sure the film would look much worse if not for some of the adjustments done to the image during the transfer process to Blu-ray and DVD.***

No doubt the flaws I mentioned won't be quite as noticeable on DVD as they are on Blu-ray.***

Image quality varies from quite good to soft. On the whole the presentation is good for a 40 year old film that hasn't had extensive restoration. Surprisingly, the live action footage of the Hellstrom is the softest looking in this presentation. Film grain is visible throughout the presentation.***

Audio sounds quite good with a solid mono presentation. The music by Lalo Schifrin (the "Mission: Impossible" theme among his many credits) adds considerable to the mood of the film providing the narrative glue much like Pressman's narration.***

Special Features:

There aren't any special features which is a pity because director Walon Green is still alive (he is a producer/writer on "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" among other series)and even actor Pressman (still alive and performing in such as "Crossing Jordan", "The Mentalist" and other shows)as is writer David Seltzer and any one of the three could have been hired to provide a commentary track, appear in special features about the making of the film if contacted, etc.***

Although the visual presentation isn't anywhere near flawless, the film looks decent even if it could have used restoration and is a marked impovement over the previous "gray market" releases of the film on DVD. The lack of special features is disappointing as well but isn't a deal breaker for picking up the movie.***

Final Words:

I'd still recommend "The Hellstrom Chronicle" as it's a fascinating movie and a nice companion piece to the cult classic Phase IVwhich takes the next step from this film.***

The film: 5 stars*** Presentation: 3 stars*** Audio: 4 stars*** Special Features: 0 stars***

I'd recommend "The Hellstrom Chronicle" although viewers may want to adjust their expectations for the Blu-ray and DVD accordingly.***

 

 
 
 
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