In 1962 Lawrence of Arabia scooped another seven Oscars for David Lean and crew after his previous epic, The Bridge on the River Kwai, had performed exactly the same feat a few years earlier. Supported in this Great War desert adventure by a superb cast including Alex Guinness, Jack Hawkins and Omar Sharif, Peter O'Toole gives a complex, star-making performance as the enigmatic TE Lawrence. The magnificent action and vast desert panoramas were captured in luminous 70mm by Cinematographer Freddie Young, here beginning a partnership with Lean that continued through Dr Zhivago (1965) and Ryan's Daughter (1970). Yet what made the film truly outstanding was Robert (A Man For All Seasons) Bolt's literate screenplay, marking the beginning of yet another ongoing collaboration with Lean. The final partnership established was between director and French composer Maurice Jarre, who won one of the Oscars and scored all Lean's remaining films, up to and including A Passage to India in 1984. Fully restored in 1989, this complete version of Lean's masterpiece remains one of cinema's all-time classic visions. --Gary S Dalkin
On the DVD: This vast movie is spread leisurely across two discs, with Maurice Jarre's overture standing in as intermission music for the first track of disc two. But the clarity of the anamorphic widescreen picture and Dolby 5.1 soundtrack justify the decision not to cram the whole thing onto one side of a disc. The movie has never looked nor sounded better than here: the desert landscapes are incredibly detailed, with the tiny nomadic figures in the far distance clearly visible on the small screen; the remastered soundtrack, too, is a joy. Thanks are due to Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg who supervised (and financed) the restoration of the picture in 1989; on disc two Spielberg chats about why David Lean is his favourite director, and why Lawrence had such a profound influence on him both as a child and as a filmmaker (he regularly re-watches the movie before starting any new project). Other features include an excellent and exhaustive "making-of" documentary with contributions from surviving cast and crew (an avuncular Omar Sharif is particularly entertaining as he reminisces about meeting the hawk-like Lean for the first time), some contemporary featurettes designed to promote the movie and a DVD-ROM facility. The extra features are good--especially the documentary--but the breathtaking quality of both anamorphic picture and digital sound are what make this DVD package a triumph.