Monday, November 25, 2013

Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich (1958)

Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian RadichI first saw this film when it was originally released.It was unforgettable on the giant Cinerama screen.I saw it many times and was lucky to get a video from the Christian Radich society when they sold copies for a brief time many years ago. The film is also a part of cinema history as it was the last time that the tragic Pamir training ship was photographed shortly before it capsised at sea in a storm.There were only a handful of survivors. The music of Windjammer is truly unforgettable. See the film on the biggest TV screen that you can and be enveloped into another world and experience how things were back in the fifties.It was truly the best of all the documentary films that were filmed in the 3 panel process. As there is almost no likelyhood of ever seeing the film restored to its former glory we can now at least,see it on bluray. It is probably the most wanted film in decades for home viewers and now we finally have that chance to once again relive the memories of a bygone era.If you don't already know, the dvd and bluray are region free.

I experienced the spectacular screening of "Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich" as a teenager at the Cinerama Theatre in Denver, Colorado in 1959. I still have the original program booklet and the stereo music recording. The start of the film is especially surprising, starting with a small 35 mm screen, black and white image then suddenly the curtains expand to the huge 137-degree curved CineMiracle screen with the panoramic image of the Christian Radich high masted tall ship under full sail. Renowned composer Morton Gould's Windjammer musical theme that accompanies this amazing opening adds immensity to the spine-tingling imagery, transforming you onto the deck of the Christian Radich.

The Windjammer oddysey takes a crew of teenage sailing cadets from Norway on a nine-month voyage across the Atlantic aboard a tall sailing ship with the ever present risks of severe storms, followed by colorful stops in Madeira, then on to the Carribean and Puerto Rico for a concert with renowned cellist, Pablo Casals, followed by a great beach party. Then Cadets experience sailing with a U.S. Navy guided missile frigate. The next stop lands them in New York City where the Christian Radich sails past the Statue of Liberty into the New York harbor, saluted by fireboat water streams. Special effects cinematographer Weegee added unprecedented multi-image kaleidoscope optical effects to the exciting NYC activities of the Cadets.

Sven-Erik Libaek, one of the 16-year-old cadets who starred in the film and was featured playing the renowned Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg's A-Minor Piano Concerto with Arthur Fiedler, Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. Sven-Erik has written a remembrance of his experiences during the production of the film: [Sven's memoirs can be seen on the "in70mm" website which features history of widescreen films; search under "Windjammer" and "Sven Libaek."]

David Strohmaier, Thomas Hauerslev and many others teamed up to create this amazing restoration from a rare 35 mm anamorphic print that was found in good condition in Sweden. The original Windjammer film negatives and three strip prints had deteriorated beyond salvageability, and most of the prints still in circulation had faded badly, though they were still being shown in remaining Cinerama Theatres such as Bradford Film Festival in England, and Seattle Cinerama. The restoration required thousands of hours of painstaking digital image enhancement, color restoration and balancing. The seven channel original stereophonic sound track was located and added to the blue-ray digital restoration in 5.1 and 7.1 While the image quality cannot be as clean as the digital How the West Was Won restoration [since HTWWW original three strip prints were still in good condition] seeing "Windjammer" on Blue Ray will still be an amazing experience for all who can finally view this great masterpiece after more than 50 years since it was released. The Smilebox® version will simulate the curved screen effect of CineMiracle on HDTV screens for even greater depth and realism.

[To further enjoy the magic of Cinerama wide screen films, be sure to order "This is Cinerama" also newly restored in Blue Ray].

Windjammer is truly a classic and not to be missed. Enjoy!

Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich [Blu-ray]

Buy Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich (1958) Now

I was a teenager when I saw "Windjammer" in Cinemiracle at the Warner Cinerama Theater in Washington, D.C., in the late 1959. I had a seat in the balcony (which cost about $1.50 in those days) and remember the film vividly, especially the transition from 35mm and mono sound to widescreen. The stereophonic sound of wind started up on the surround speaker system (one speaker was right behind me!) as the the three-projection system started and curtains fully opened revealing the full screen. It put goosebumps on the spine and was a movie thrill I remember 50 years later.

There were no surviving Cinemiracle prints of "Windjammer" in good shape for this restoration, as there were for "How the West Was Won." One reason the Eastmancolor stock on which it was filmed has not held up at well as Technicolor. Considering the only print found capable of restoration on a modest budget was 35mm, squeezing all three panel on one film strip, the results are surprising good. Smilebox is nice but I wish, as with "How the West Was Won," a non Smilebox version had been included as well, especially since ALL of the 2nd disc in the set is just a DVD of the Blu-Ray edition. Finally, it would be gratifying to know a part of the profits (if any) from this set will go to a full-scale restoration of the original three-strip elements. The supplementary materials really don't make clear if such a restoration is a possibility. All that's said is that such a restoration would have exceed the budget for this project.

Some have mentioned the film's hokiness. More than 50 years later the film DOES seem hokier than I remembered it but no more so than most films of the period. The film IS a little choppier than I remembered and seems more amatuerishly directed. I am somewhat bothered by what's "staged" and was isn't. We learn a number of scenes of the young men in their "clubhouse" (including the scene of them learning of the fate of the Pamir) were staged on a set after the rest of the filming done. But I suppose it's a minor quibble.

One thing that has definitely stood the test of time is Morton Gould's sweeping symphonic score. Such a pity he didn't do more film work. I've had two copies of the soundtrack LP (one mono, one stereo) and listened to them often over the decades. Gould's music kept the voyage of the Christian Radich fresh in my mind. It's so good it probably led me to recall the film being somewhat better than it really is.

Read Best Reviews of Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich (1958) Here


In April of 1958, I traveled via subway from Brooklyn, New York to Manhattan to view a motion picture that was playing at the Roxy theater. No other theaters in New York had the special projection equipment required. This film required three projectors for viewing and three cameras to film it. The process was named Cinemiracle. This was at a time when the motion picture industry was trying to do everything possible to regain the huge audience lost to television. Cinemiracle was a wide-screen technology that came and left within but a few years to be replaced by better and simpler wide-screen methods such as Cinemascope.

The motion picture that I viewed that day would become one of my all time favorites, one that I hardly ever expected to see again due to its complex technology, but one that I did see again, at home, on my own video equipment. And that film was and is "Windjammer, the Voyage of the Christian Radich," produced by Louis de Rochemont. Though basically a travelogue, the stars of this presentation are: the Christian Radich, the full-rigged three-mast Norwegian sail training ship home-ported in Oslo, the Norwegian crew and trainees, and Norway itself. Amazingly restored by David Strohmaier, a resident of the Los Angeles area, it has taken 58 years for this to happen. David did not do all the work on this but he was the principal technician. The instrumental music is by Morton Gould and the vocals are by several popular songwriters of those days before rock and roll.

Packaging consists of a well-built plastic container containing two DVD's and a copy of a booklet from the Odeon Theatre in London, one of the rare locations where the movie was shown in the more recent past. The 28-page booklet contains scenes from the movie, explains the Cinemiracle process, provides information about the music and lists not only the stars of Windjammer but also lists the names of all of the Norwegian boys that were aboard the Christian Radich and the town or city in Norway from which they came to take part in this 238 day 17,500 mile journey. One disc is the Blu-Ray disc, beautifully labeled. The second disc, with little in the way of labeling contains the movie feature on one side, special features on the opposite side. The special features go on for 1.5 hours and are outstanding, especially the tracks containing the techniques related to the restoration and the present day interviews with some of the surviving grown up cadets who were aboard in 1958.

Windjammer is wonderful family motion picture for everyone, whether or not you are of Norwegian descent.

Want Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich (1958) Discount?

As a youngster I never did get to see this or any 3-strip Cinerama film. Being able to view this after reading so much about it is delightful. Hats off to David Strohmaier and all those who worked so hard to bring this film back for public viewing. It is a shame that Hollywood would not step in with their deep pockets and contribute to the restoration. According to David Strohmaier it would have taken upwards to one million dollars to restore the 3-strip negatives and since they did not have such a benefactor they had to work within the budget that was available to them. That being said it is unbelievable what they were able to do with a 35mm anamorphic print that included all three panels intact. The film lacks the sparkle and clarity of the restoration of How The West Was Won but one has to remember that they had to do the restoration within a certain budget. As others have pointed out the join lines in This Is Cinerama and Windjammer create certain problems inherit with the process. This was noted in the making of Windjammer documentary. So even back then they were aware of such issues. The upside is that the 3-strip process outshines 70mm in sharpness and clarity. Due to the fact that a 35mm anamorphic print was used in the restoration a lot of the crisp and sharp imagery does not exist. Even with the painstaking restoration done to the film there are flaws in the picture as one would expect but this is not a critical's a salute to the hard work of the staff that restored this print making it available for a new generation to view...I for one enjoyed the entire disc with the trailer, the documentary and still shots. It was a sad not to hear of the sinking of the Pamir training vessel losing almost all hands. This made the film all the more endearing. I will say that compared to This Is Cinerama the join lines seem to blend better for the most part. Over all both restored films deserve a place in your library as a tribute to movie making and their contribution to film history.

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