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As religious themed movies go, Otto Premingerís THE CARDINAL ($27) is pure soap opera. Sure, it is a sprawling three hour soap opera, but it is also a genuinely entertaining film that I happen to like a whole heck of a lot. Actor turned author Tom Tryon portrays Stephen Fermoyle, an Irish Catholic priest, who begins his vocation humbly in first in a Boston parish, in an even smaller parish in the middle of nowhere. The film follows Fermoyleís career over a period of several decades, as he ascends through the religious hierarchy to become of one of the princes of the Catholic Church.

Of course, there are struggles and hardships along the way, including his sisterís desire to marry a non-catholic, the issues of abortion and civil rights, the rise of Nazism in Austria, and finally Fermoyleís very own personal crisis of faith. THE CARDINAL is well paced by Preminger and the performances of the supporting players are thoroughly enjoyable. THE CARDINAL also features the talents of Carol Lynley, Dorothy Gish, Maggie McNamara, Bill Hayes, Cecil Kellaway, John Saxon, John Huston, Robert Morse, Burgess Meredith, Jill Haworth, Raf Vallone, Ossie Davis Chill Wills, Patrick O'Neal, Murray Hamilton and Romy Schneider.

Warner Home Video has made THE CARDINAL available on DVD in a truly terrific 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. The film element used for the transfer is in great shape and maintains the Technicolor luster of this 1963 film release. Everything appears nicely crisp and very well defined. As I stated, the Technicolor hues are in full bloom, offering very nicely saturated colors throughout. The Technicolor reds of the Cardinalís robes are especially well rendered. Colors appear stable throughout, although the flesh tones occasionally take on the naturalness of a makeup manís kit. Blacks are velvety and the whites appear clean. Contrast is quite good, although shadow detail doesnít go all the way down into the darkest levels, as it would in a new film, it is more than respectable. Despite the nearly three hour running time, digital compression artifacts are always well camouflaged.

THE CARDINAL comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtrack that decodes to standard surround. Fidelity is quite good for a four-decade-old feature, with the filmís score producing a strong musical presence when amplification is applied. Usage of the outlying channels isnít up to modern standards, but it is good for a film of this vintage. The filmís music tends to dominate the mix, in both the forward stereo and surround areas and creates a nice stereo image across the front. Dialogue is always completely understandable, although voices can occasionally sound a bit canned. A tiny bit of background hiss becomes audible during the dialogue passages, but it isn't particularly bothersome. No other language tracks are included on the DVD, although subtitles are provided in English, French and Spanish.

Music underscore the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and setup features, as well a nice supplemental section. THE CARDINAL comes as a two disc set, with the second disc offering the feature length documentary Otto Preminger: Anatomy of a Filmmaker. Hosted by Burgess Meredith, the two-hour documentary covers Premingerís career in great detail. Also includes amongst the supplements is an original 1963 "making of" featurette, theatrical trailer, cast listing and Otto Preminger filmography.

THE CARDINAL is an enjoyable three hour soap opera that features terrific performances by a solid cast. While the movie isnít perfect, director Otto Preminger makes the material work better than it might have in other hands. Warner has produced a beautiful looking edition of the film for DVD, which should please the movie buffs who will be the primary audience for THE CARDINAL.



The Cardinal (1963)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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