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Samuel Bronston's Epic "55 Days at Peking" on BluRay – it is really stunning!

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Gerhard Witte, Berlin Date: 11.05.2014
On the left the French Blu-Ray Edition (Studio: Filmédia) of the movie "55 Days at Peking" (Les 55 Jours de Pékin, USA, 1963) and on the right the U.K.-Version (Anchor Bay Entertainment).

I have never seen the movie in such a quality – with razor sharp images, superb contrast levels and impressive colors. The Blu-Ray is highly recommended. It is the Roadshow Version of the movie with Overture, Intermisson (Entr`acte) and Playout Music ("So little Time" sung by Andy Williams).

Watch this YouTube video which gives some information about the Blu-Ray:
More in 70mm reading:

Super Technirama 70

History of Technirama

Technirama Update

Technirama on Wheels

Internet link:


The French Version

For the new Blu-Ray Edition the movie had been restored from the original 8 perf Super Technirama 70 camera negative

The French Blu-Ray contains a plethora of extras (nearly all in French language and subtitles). Detailed information:

• "Nicholas Ray's gallant last stand " (47:00 minutes) by film historian Christophe Champclaux: Back on the movie`s production conditions and the filming. It was a great success at the time of its release but is underestimated by moviegoers.
• "The Boxer Rebellion" (12: 44 minutes) by Christophe Champclaux: What exactly was the Boxer Rebellion? What are the differences between the historical reality and Nicholas Ray´s film?
• "The Boxers in Films" (6:08 minutes) by Christophe Champclaux: "55 Days at Peking" was not the first movie about the Boxer Rebellion.
• "Ava Gardner Portrait" (19:21 minutes) by film historian Linda Tahir Meriau: A look at the career of an unforgettable actress - "The Barefoot Contessa".
• "Stories about China" (37:30 minutes): The filmmaker Olivier Assayas and the Chief Editor of the film magazine "Cahiers du Cinéma" Charles Tesson share their visions of "55 Days at Peking".
• The film's restoration (10:53 minutes)
• Trailer (3:20 minutes)
• Interviews (in English) recorded during the filming at the time (23:41 minutes) – Mr. Heston (5:53), Mrs. Heston (5:57), Mr. David Niven (5:31) and Mr. John Moore (Set Decorator and Costume Designer of the movie) (7:00)

This Blu-Ray movie version has a running time of 162 minutes, including Overture, Intermission (Entr`acte) and Playout Music. It is presented in its original aspect ratio of approximately 2.20:1 and is Code Free (1080P Dual-layered / Source: DVDBeaver). It has 12 chapters and removable only French subtitles.

Available languages:
• Dolby Digital Audio French 2.0
• DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0 Stereo
• DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1 (really impressive)

Read the test of the Blu-Ray from DVDBeaver.com

The U.K. Version

On this Blu-Ray is the identical restored movie version as on the French, but only one extra is available: The film's restoration (10:53 minutes). It also has 12 chapters and a running time of 162 minutes. No subtitles.

Available languages (only English):
• Audio 2.0 Stereo (DTS-HD Master ? no information)
• DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Concerning the Blu-Ray's content information you can read on the Blu-Ray covers, they are unfortunately both not correct.

• French Version : USA 1964 (1963 would be correct) / Dureé 145 min / Cinémascope 2.35
• U.K. Version: Feature Running Time 166 min approx. / Aspect Ratio 16:9

Here is the impressive German theme song of the movie sung by the Botho-Lucas-Chor.
A wonderful poster art - most likely designed by Reynold Brown (image from the author's collection)

The movie had its Royal World Premiere in the presence of His Royal Highness, the Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, on the 06th May 1963 at the London Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road.

"55 Days at Peking" recounts the infamous 1900 siege of foreign diplomatic compounds (11 nations) in Peking by zealous Boxer revolutionaries, whose violent and bloody actions against foreign interlopers (who planned to exploit China's rich resources for their own ends) had the tacit approval of the Chinese Royal Household. Art directors Veniero Colasanti and John Moore reconstructed turn-of-the-century Peking on a massive lot (60 acre / around 243.000 square metres) not far from Madrid (Spain). Hundreds of Chinese extras were flown from Hong Kong to equip the thousands of Spanish employed to portray the Boxer hordes. They used real gold leaf on the furniture and the trim of the Imperial Palace.

The film's nominal director, Nicholas Ray, fell ill by a heart attack during shooting in September 1962. When it was apparent that he could not return to work, producer Samuel Bronston brought in Guy Green to replace Ray, but Green shot only a few scenes before he in turn was replaced by the renowned Andrew Marton. Marton had been engaged (director: second-unit operations) to stage the film's ferocious battle scenes and was now promoted to complete principle filming. Neither Marton nor Green ever received any official credit for their work. (Sources: Amongst others, the booklets of the score CDs from Cloud Nine Records and La-La Land Records)
This is a huge premiere advert of the movie in Hamburg (Germany)

"55 Days at Peking" at the "Ufa-Palast am Gänsemarkt" on 20 September 1963 where it subsequently ran until 07 November 1963 – in 70mm Super Technirama Technicolor.

In this advert is written:

"A hot breath of thrilling adventure features this super color production. A 55 days lasting battle of a handful of people from 11 nations against the 10,000-fold superiority of the boxers, the fanatical, xenophobic Chinese. Finally they triumphed over hate and violence. Midst of the intensive fights comes alive the love of a mysterious woman. Director Nicholas Ray has produced a masterpiece of real adventure."
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Updated 07-01-23