Werner Herzog's Invincible, Only On Blu In France

In 2001's Invincible, Werner Herzog tells the more or less true story of "the strongest man in the world," Zishe Breitbart (no relation to Andrew Breitbart or his conservative news oped site), whom Superman was actually inspired by, and his time with the infamous Nazi occultist Erik Jan Hanussen.  Body builder Jouko Ahola plays Breitbart... he's since gone on to appear in a number of films, but this was his acting debut.  Herzog recreates the most famous moments of Breitbart's life, including the tragic way he passed.  Tim Roth has the much more dramatic role of Hanussen, who yes, is the same man depicted in Istvan Szabo's Academy Award nominated Hanussen from 1988.  Naturally, Herzog extrapolates historical details and conversations we'd have no way validating today, but his biggest liberty is bumping Breitbart's experience forward in time about a decade, and amplifying his conflict with the Nazi party as Hitler was seizing power in the 1930s.  In real life, Breitbart died in 1925, and Hanussen's fall came many years after, rather than due to the strongman's noble influence.
So yes, this is the story of a Jewish folk hero, and they're pumping up the heroism.  Breitbart has a little brother who looks up to him with wide-eyed idealism, as much for his I-cannot-tell-a-lie purity of character as his physical strength.  He naively wanders into the employ of the most unambiguously evil Nazi ever to twirl a mustache and his incorruptible topples a corrupt institution.  But Herzog's artistic flourishes (yes, there are abstract dream sequences with hordes of crabs, and Roth's secret chamber is surrounded by angelic jellyfish that go well beyond the fish tanks the real Hanussen surrounded himself with) break this film out of Hollywood's typical trappings, and there's enough fascinating truth to the these men's stories to keep things touching and fascinating beyond conventional expectations.  Udo Kier has a perfectly nasty supporting role and Hans Zimmer provides the score.  This definitely isn't a film to casually write off.
New Line first put it out as a widescreen but barebones DVD in 2003.  Warner Brothers reissued it in their Archives line as a DV-R more recently, 2017, but of course still barebones.  In the meantime, there was a 2014 DVD with an audio commentary by Werner Herzog, which I'd be fascinated by, but I don't believe it's English friendly.  If any boutique labels are reading this, that sure would be an ideal thing to license and subtitle for a new blu-ray edition.  We know there's already a respectable HD master available, as it's already been released in France by Rimini Editions.
2003 US New Line DVD top; 2013 FR Rimini BD bottom.
Both aspect ratios are a little off, with the DVD at a slightly windowboxed 1.81:1 and the BD in a lazy 1.78:1.  The DVD's mattes would've basically been hidden by older televisions' overscan area, but the blu lifts them away revealing more picture mostly along the top and bottom.  It also removes some murky color casting and cleans up New Line's unfortunate compression smudging, giving us a distinctly sharper and cleaner HD image.  Grain's a little light; I won't say a fresh 4k scan wouldn't yield an even better picture, but this is an attractive blu and a substantial improvement over the DVD.

New Line's DVD gave us choices between the original English audio in stereo and DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, with optional English subtitles.  Rimini's blu isn't quite so replete, but thankfully, besides two French dubs (stereo and 5.1), it features the original English 5.1 audio; and its French subtitles are removable.  Those French dubs are lossy, but the original English mix is in DTS-HD, so unless you need English subs, this is pretty ideal.
Again, the DVD is barren apart from the trailer and some bonus ones.  Rimini's blu, however, isn't actually barebones; it has two interesting-sounding featurettes where three experts discuss the film and its historical roots.  I say "interesting-sounding," though, because disappointingly they're spoken in French with no subtitles.  D'oh!  Woulda been nice.  As far as English-friendly extras, all we get is the trailer, looking worse than the old DVD's, and with burnt in French subs.
So we've gone from no extras to no extras, but upgrading to this blu also takes us from a funky old SD transfer to a nice HD print with lossless audio.  You can't shake a stick at that.  I would've loved to see this in Shout or Arrow's Herzog boxed sets, with that German commentary translated.  But as things stand, I feel lucky we at least have this option.  Importers won't be disappointed.

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