The original of this was the last film shot in Cinerama using 3 cameras and being projected onto 3 screens in the cinema to create a wrap-around effect. I must say that I was very impressed with the Cinerama effect, known as "SmileBox" for obvious reasons and this is the first time I've seen it.
Remembering seeing actual Cinerama pictures at a suitably equipped cinema here in Newcastle Upon Tyne as a young lad, I can honestly say that the effect is very like watching a real Cinerama film from up in the gods. It's really convincing watching in a dark room on a big flat-screen, though I haven't watched it on a smaller screen, and it adds something new to the home-cinema experience. I only wish that all the old Cinerama films like "Grand Prix" and "Ice Station Zebra" were treated to this option. You can of course watch the ordinary widescreen version if you wish.
The picture and colours are beautiful in typical early 60s fashion, benefiting from an excellent transfer. The audio is perfectly clear and though I can't comment on the 5.1 remix as I bought the BD version and my BD player isn't hooked up to my surround system yet, I imagine that it'll be mainly ambient as with most of the remixes for old films. Even so it'll be better than the plain old mono or stereo. Narration documentary-style is by Spencer Tracey.
The film is absolutely awash with 50s/60s stars, being more like a roll-call, including John Wayne, Lee J Cobb, Henry Fonda, Karl Malden, Gregory Peck, George Peppard, Richard Widmark, James Stewart and Debbie Reynolds.
For cinema buffs and anyone with even a passing interest, there is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen, It's 1.5 hours on Cinerama entitled "Cinerama Adventure". This is a must-watch item giving the history of the format and clips from various films.
Now for the bad news. At 2.45 the film is far too long, even though I usually prefer long cuts. Even if it were edited down to a standard 1:30, it would be boring. It's like watching paint dry (or a typical French film), there being far too much of nothing happening and very little action. A buffalo stampede and an on-train shoot-out are about it. Oh and a covered wagon rolls down a hill. Also I don't like the time wasted by the retention of the introductory overture of 4.25 of still-screen with music, 5 minutes more of it in the middle of the film and a similar 2.42 (not even over the credits) at the end. Then again I suppose that it's authentic as that's what used to happen with long films (indeed it's there on DVD in the likes of "Lawrence of Arabia" too).