Stanley Kubrick: Visionary Filmmaker Collection

Does this mammoth Blu-ray boxset do justice to Kubrick's cinematic legacy?

Stanley Kubrick: Visionary Filmmaker Collection is quite a lofty title for a Blu-ray boxset. But then again, it’s one that is wholly justified by the career of this methodical and meticulous filmmaker who only completed 13 feature films in his 46-year career.

Seven of the best known of those film are collected here – Lolita, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. It’s a remarkable set of cinematic landmarks, each of which truly benefits from being available to watch again and again, as Kubrick crams so much into every movie that they often don’t begun revealing their true colours until a third or fourth viewing.

Picture: As this set repackages the old 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut Blu-ray, fans will undoubtedly be familiar with the quality of their VC-1 1080p encodes (which pretty much goes great, great, not bad, disappointing). Of much more interest this time around are the new two-disc edition of A Clockwork Orange and the first hi-def versions of Lolita and Barry Lyndon.

Unfortunately, anybody expecting an improvement in A Clockwork Orange’s problematic VC-1 1.66:1 1080p encode will be disappointed as this second incarnation looks exactly the same, right down to the digital noise and crushed blacks. Both Lolita and Barry Lyndon fare rather better. The film grain looks a bit mushy at times in Lolita’s AVC 1.66:1 1080p encode, but otherwise the black and white imagery holds up well, with accurate contrast and reasonable detailing for a film of this vintage. Barry Lyndon’s AVC 1.78:1 1080p encode has its work cut out thanks to the film’s diffuse visual style, but copes fairly well, with no obvious noise in the dark interiors. Grain structure is heavy but consistent, and the entire image has a filmic authenticity.
Picture rating: 3/5

Audio: The four previously available discs retain their perfectly decent LPCM 5.1 soundtracks, while the three new discs get spiffy new DTS-HD Master Audio mixes. Well, I say new, but it’s hard to detect any real difference between A Clockwork Orange’s new DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and the old version’s LPCM surround mix. That said, it’s no bad thing as it gives priority to the clear, precise dialogue, while also providing plenty of range for the marvellous score. Just do go expecting much from the surrounds and you should be okay.

Lolita sticks with a DTS-HD MA presentation of the original mono mix, and sounds about as good as you’d hope. The mix is technically proficient and free from audio glitches, while dialogue and music come through loud and clear. Barry Lyndon’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix isn’t particularly dynamic (with the rears barely getting into the action beyond crowd noises in battle scenes and the odd roll of thunder), but on a purely technical basis fans should be quite happy with this respectful surround sound upgrade.
Audio rating: 3/5

Extras: The biggest disappointment here is that the two films making their Blu-ray debut come with nothing beyond their respective trailers (in 480p). The two-disc upgrade of A Clockwork Orange adds two new featurettes to the film disc (Turning Like Clockwork and Malcolm Looks Back) alongside the commentary, trailer and two previous featurettes, and moves the marvellous Malcolm McDowell career retrospective O Lucky Malcolm to a second disc alongside the brilliant 142min documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. The other discs are the same as they ever were, serving up some brilliant extras including audio commentaries, interviews, documentaries and more.
Extras rating: 4/5

We say: Great films and good extras, but several of these classics could still do with more TLC in HD.

Warner Home Video, All-region BD, £60 approx, on sale now