Ridley Scott’s Film on Christopher Columbus Gets a 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Release Without Much new Discovery.

Director: Ridley Scott/1992

Street Date: June 6, 2017/Kino Lorber Studio Classics

In 1992, Ridley Scott directed the tale of Columbus with 1492: Conquest of Paradise.  Wrangling a typical strong cast, he also utilized a wonderful musical score by Vangelis, the 1982 Academy Award winner for Best Original Score with Chariots of Fire.  The film stars Gérard Depardieu as Columbus, Sigourney Weaver as Queen Isabella (King Ferdinand is not featured), Armand Assante, Frank Langella, and Ángela Molina.  With the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage, Scott’s 1492 wasn’t the only Coumbus themed film that year as it competed with Christopher Columbus: The Discovery from director John Glen.

The film could have done with more narrative that explored the effect on his family, but the screenplay seeks to give brief attention to that, and more to the journeys themselves.

Using Adrian Biddle’s cinematography (Aliens, V for Vendetta), 1492: Conquest of Paradise provides a beautiful look at the new world, even as Columbus’ paradise descends into chaos.  Depardieu plays Columbus as a man driven by what he can dare to imagine about what lies beyond the great sea to the west as Columbus tries to find a faster route to the east.  While the Queen’s council rejects the science Columbus brings to his argument in terms of how long it would take and how far he would be at sea, he is able to find a more willing backer in the Queen herself.  Columbus is seen to be a man willing to compromise his integrity in pursuit of his greater ambitions.

Ridley Scott, with a screenplay from Rose Bosch, spends the majority of the film on Columbus’ first two journeys.  The first covers the long and doubt-filled initial journey as Columbus leaves his family and faces mutiny on the high seas before land is spotted.  The initial journey is one of discovery and awe as Columbus first encounters the island’s native inhabitants and demonstrates a respect and admiration for this culture.  This may fly in the face of the way he is viewed historically today, but Scott tries to show the difference between new discovery and  maintaining that discovery for the royal crown.

By the time of his second journey, Columbus has arranged for he and his friends to be Governor and leaders of the new Spanish colony despite more qualified men having applied.  His ambition to sail the high seas gives way to an obsession to maintain the beauty he discovered that comes in conflict with the more ruthless Spaniards who have accompanied him on his second journey.  By the time it is all over, the progress has been burned to the ground and the Spanish crown has lost their confidence in Columbus.

The film is told from the perspective of Columbus’ son, Fernando, who writes the biography of his father.  The film shows that he barely knew his father in his early years given how long Christopher was away from his wife Beatrix (Ángela Molina) and his children, but it is Ferdinand who accompanies his father by his third and fourth journeys.  The film could have done with more narrative that explored the effect on his family, but the screenplay seeks to give brief attention to that, and more to the journeys themselves.

Kino Lorber Studio Classics has released this Blu-ray for the 25th anniversary of the film and it contains a few extras.  First, there is an audio commentary with film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathanial Thompson.  There are also a number of deleted scenes and a trailer gallery of other Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases.  Given the fact that it was the 25th Anniversary, a featurette, or interview with Ridley Scott or the cast would have been a nice extra.

The film is in color with a running time of 154 minutes.  It is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio and 1920x1080P.  There are subtitles in English.


The images and promotional material used in the review are present only as a reference to the film and are not meant to reflect the actual image quality or content of the Blu-ray.