Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 23rd, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: Italy / France / West Germany, 1973
Director: Luchino Visconti
Writers: Luchino Visconti, Enrico Medioli, Suso Cecchi D’Amico
Cast: Helmut Berger, Trevor Howard, Silvana Mangano, Gert Fröbe, Helmut Griem, John Moulder-Brown, Sonia Petrovna, Adriana Asti, Romy Schneider, Gérard Herter
BluRay released: March 27th, 2017 (UK), April 11th, 2017 (USA)
Approximate running times: 238 minutes (Theatrical Version), 249 minutes (Television Version)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 12 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English, English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy USA
Region Coding: Region Free / Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $49.95 (USA) / £24.99 (UK)
Ludwig co-written and directed by Luchino Visconti, who along with Vittorio De Sica or Roberto Rossellini were the main driving forces behind Italian neo-realism cinema. Some of his more notable films include The Leopard, The Damned, Death in Venice and Conversation Piece. Key collaborators on Ludwig include, include screenwriters Suso Cecchi D’Amico (Bicycle Thieves, Violent Summer) and Enrico Medioli (Rocco and His Brothers, Girl with a Suitcase), cinematographer Armando Nannuzzi (Adua and Her Friends, Wake Up and Die) and editor Ruggero Mastroianni (The 10th Victim, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion).
Trying to encapsulate one’s life or a large portion of their life into one feature film is a daunting task and more often than not biography based films try to glamorize the story at hand. Fortunately, with Ludwig, Luchino Visconti manages to avoid the all too familiar trappings and by letting moments evolve naturally.
At just under four hours a lot of ground is covered in Ludwig and the narrative is perfectly paced, with key moments given an ample amount of time to resonate. The film’s protagonist is superbly realized and Helmut Berger (The Secret of Dorian Grey, The Bloodstained Butterfly) delivers a tour de force performance in the role of Ludwig. This is a complicated character who often eccentric behavior is reinforced by his decadent lifestyle.
Performance wise though all the entire are overshadow by Helmut Berger’s aforementioned portrayal of Ludwig. There are a few other notable performances that leave a lasting impression. With the most notable of these being Romy Schneider (Sissi, The Trial) in the role of Elisabeth of Austria.
From a production standpoint, there is not a single area where this film does not deliver and then some. The production design for this historical period drama will leave you breathless. Visually this film does not miss an opportunity to accentuate the opulence on display throughout. And the score for the film does a pitch perfectly job reinforcing the mood.
This release comes with two versions of the film, the full-length theatrical cut and the television cut which is presented five individual parts. These two versions are presented on two 50 GB dual layer BluRay’s and both films are presented on in a 1080 progressive widescreen.
The transfers used for this release are sourced from a 4K restoration from the original film negative. Colors look vibrant, flesh tones look healthy, black levels look strong throughout and details look crisp. Grain remains intact and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in Italian and a LPCM mono mix in English. It should be noted that there are some scenes where the English audio no longer exits and these dialog exchanges are in Italian with English subtitles. Both audio options are in great shape, dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. Range wise the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented and the film’s score sounds robust throughout. Subtitle options for this release include, English subtitles for the Italian language track and English SDH subtitles for the English language track (and the aforementioned English subtitles for all non-English language dialog).
Extras for this release are spread over two discs.
Extras on disc one include, a trailer for the film (3 minutes 49 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), two English language extracts with text information about these extracts (1 minute 28 seconds and 20 seconds), an interview with actor Helmut Berger titled The Mad King (16 minutes 5 seconds, in English) and a made for Italian television documentary titled Luchino Visconti (60 minutes 35 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles).
Extras on disc two include, an interview with producer Dieter Giessler titled Producing Ludwig (14 minutes 21 seconds, in German with English subtitles) and two made for Italian television documentaries’ – the first documentary titled Speaking with Suso Cecchi d’Amico (48 minutes 11 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles) and the second documentary titled Silvana Mangano: The Scent of a Primrose (31 minutes 11 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles).
Topics discussed in the interview with Helmut Berger include, his relationship with Luchino Visconti, how the role of Ludwig was written for him and how the prepared for the role, Luchino Visconti’s process as a director, Romy Schneider, The Damned and Conversation Piece.
Topics discussed in the interview with Dieter Giessler include, Pim de la Parra’s Obsessions, how he got involved in producing Ludwig, how Ludwig was one of the most expensive European films ever made, how he got permission to shoot in authentic locations, Helmet Berger and his thoughts about his performance, the friction that arose between Romy Schneider and Luchino Visconti, how the film was shot in English and information about the different versions of the film.
The trio of Italian made for television documentaries, Luchino Visconti, Speaking with Suso Cecchi d’Amico and Silvana Mangano: The Scent of a Primrose are well rounded career retrospectives.
Rounding out the extras is a fifty-eight-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled The Last Eccentric in a Family of Eccentrics written by Peter Cowie, contemporary Reviews, Writing for Visconti: An Interview with Suso Cecchi D’Amico conducted by Peter Brunette, A Note on the English Soundtrack and information about the restoration. Included with this release are two DVD’s that contain the same content included on the Blu-Ray counterparts included as part of this combo release. Overall Ludwig gets a spectacular release from Arrow Academy, highly recommended.