ChiaroScuro presents

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

(Pandora und der fliegende Holländer | Pandora)

by Albert Lewin

UK 1951

(click to enlarge)

Albert Lewin
Albert Lewin, Joseph Kaufman
Production Companies:
Dorkay Productions / Romulus Films Ltd.
Albert Lewin (based on the version of the Flying Dutchman legend in the opera by Richard Wagner)
Jack Cardiff, B.S.C. (Technicolor, 1.37:1);
Ted Scaife
(second unit)
Ralph Kemplen
Music Score:
Alan Rawsthorne
Art Director:
John Bryan, Tim Hopewell-Ash
Set Designer:
John Hawkesworth
Alan Allen
James Mason (Hendrick van der Zee), Ava Gardner (Pandora Reynolds), Nigel Patrick (Stephen Cameron), Sheila Sim (Janet Fielding), Harold Warrender (Geoffrey Fielding), Marius Goring (Reggie Demarest), Mario Cabre (Juan Montalvo)
123 min
15 October 1951 (USA)
Budget: $1.5m;
Filming Studio Location: London Film Studio, Shepperton (UK)
Outdoor Location: Tossa de Mar (Costa Brava, Catalunya, España)

"The first time the Dutchman Hendrick van der Zee [James Mason] appears before us ... he is painting a portrait for which he has no model. ... Swimming nude out to his ship [anchored off the village of Esperanza], Pandora [Ava Gardner] arrives aboard to discover her own features delineated in the picture. ... she looks exactly like the woman to whom the artist was married, hundreds of years before."
— J.H. Matthews: Surrealism and American Feature Films

"Lewin's extraordinary film ... combines a script of exuberant literacy with a visual splendour often bordering on the surreal. Mason is his usual impeccable self, while Gardner is gloriously believable as a woman for whom any man would be prepared to suffer eternal damnation. Occasionally absurd, always bold, the film tells a lushly romantic story so skillfully that it possesses the inevitability of myth."
— Richard Rayner, Time Out

"Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, about a woman unable to love and a man unable to die—a baroque synthesis of classical myth and Germanic legend set in Spain around 1930—met with mixed reviews. Few critics could deny its visual splendor (glorious Technicolor photography by Jack Cardiff of the Costa Brava, and of Ava Gardner), but most of the English-speaking critics could not accept its script, which they described as "confused and pretentious" and "turgid." Many French critics, on the other hand, generally more catholic in their tastes, loved Pandora, not only for its sensual beauty but also for its eccentric and literate blend of poetry and myth, tragedy and spectacle. Critics in the surrealist circuit and those of Cahiers du Cinéma were most rapturous. ... in fact, Pandora was "annexed to the surrealist pantheon"—and to the New Wave pantheon—in France, where Ava Gardner as Pandora was described in deliriously surrealist prose under "G" in the Cahiers du Cinéma’s dictionary, "F comme femme," in its special number "La femme et le cinéma" (1953) ... Ado Kyrou, France’s most prolific late-surrealist film critic, also adored the film, characterizing Gardner’s Pandora as, with Lya Lys (the star of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s L’Age d’or), "the only fiercely surrealist woman in all cinema." ... Pandora was, in fact, deliberately, and pointedly, surrealist, according to Lewin himself, who had become friendly with a number of surrealist artists, including Man Ray and Max Ernst, during the Second World War and who had, through them, begun collecting surrealist art."
— Susan Felleman: Botticelli in Hollywood: the films of Albert Lewin. New York: Twayne [u.a.], 1997, p. 20-22

Film Reviews | DVD Reviews

Editions Montparnasse / Buena Vista Home Entertainement
Region 2 (France)
117:46 min (+ 4% PAL Speedup = 122 min)
1.30:1/4:3 FullScreen
Average Bitrate: 7.51 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Français Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Français, English
• Documentary "Un rêve de cinéma" (1.33:1, 06:15 min, Français DD 2.0 Mono)
• Original Theatrical Trailer (1.33:1, 02:56 min)
DVD Release Date: 17 May 2000
Keep Case
Chapters: 20
DVD Encoding: PAL Region 2
SS-DL/DVD-9 (7.15 GB)

Like the R1 DVD from Kino International, the print for this version came from the Rohauer Collection. It is unfortunately rather worn, colours look faded, there are several distracting colour shifts, and in many instances one can only guess the carefully arranged Technicolor compositions. Night shots show little definition and contrast. There are a handful of scenes that are so dark it's hard to distinguish what is happening on the screen. This film cries out for a Criterion-like restauration.
The transfer is a mixed bag, too. Inspite of the high bitrate, there is some distracting noise reduction throughout the film, as this is often the case with Editions Montparnasse DVDs. However, artifacts are not a problem. The sound is unimpressive, and the English track has several cuts and loud scratches. The short documentary "Un rêve de cinéma" describes Pandora's making-of and is in French only (no subtitles).
N.B. The production crew reunites many members of the Powell-Pressburger "family".

Film: ***** out of *****
**1/2 out of *****


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Average Bitrate :
7.51 mb/s

The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes

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Last update: 14 November 2002