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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Muhammad Ali: The Greatest Collection
Muhammad Ali: The Greatest Collection
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Review by Chris Hughes | posted January 22, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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Features: Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1, Audio: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Subtitles: English, Spanish, Contains 3 of Ali's Greatest Fights: I Shook Up the World: Clay vs. Liston (1964), Rumble in the Jungle: Ali vs. Forman (1974) & Thrilla in Manila: Ali vs. Frazier III (1975), Featurette: Muhammad Ali: Boxing's Best, Bonus CD-ROM Disc Containing: The Ali Influence, a look at Ali's impact on the great fighters of today, including Oscar de la Hoya, Prince Naseen Hamed, Roy Jones and Lennox Lewis; A fight-by-fight look at the professional record of Muhammad Ali; Timeline of Ali's life and career; Essay on why Ali is the greatest heavyweight champion of them all; Miscellaneous facts, stats and trivia; Listing of the 10 most significant fights of Ali's career; Web Access.

The Movie:
Without question Muhammad Ali is one of the most remarkable figures in the history of sport. Ali revolutionized boxing and his unique personality transcended the ring making him a cultural icon beloved by people around the world. The Greatest Collection brings three of Ali's most important fights together on one very entertaining DVD. All three bouts (Clay/Liston, Ali/Foreman and Ali/Frazier 3) are presented in their entirety, accompanied by short HBO produced introductions. These were the contests that defined Ali's career and they paint a portrait of a man in complete control of his athletic ability and masterfully crafted public image.

The Picture:
The picture content on this disc is nothing short of extraordinary. The Clay/Liston segment is derived from black and white film elements and though the source is somewhat battered I've never seen it look better. The images are sharp, clear and exhibit good contrast; a great improvement over the dark and murky versions I've seen on TV. The Ali/Foreman and Ali/Frazier fights are transferred from almost pristine video elements that look as good now as they did when first broadcast. That fact is itself remarkable, as video tends to degrade much faster than film. I don't know where HBO found such well-preserved versions of these fights but I sure am glad that they did.

The Sound:
The sound tracks on The Greatest Collection are equally well produced. The blow-by-blow coverage comes from the original network broadcasts and it's apparent from their crisp clarity that a great deal of effort was expended restoring them to near perfect condition. There is no distortion, very little hiss and though the dynamic range is extremely limited the dialogue is always well defined and easy to understand.

The Extras:
The main extra on this disc is an HBO documentary on Ali featuring fight footage, interviews and analysis. The hour-long program produced in 1989 looks a little dated but is entertaining nonetheless. In terms of content the documentary is somewhat shallow but if you're unfamiliar with Ali's career this is a great introduction. The other extra is a separate CD ROM disc that contains an HTML based collection of Ali resources. There's a graphic timeline of his life, a trivia section, some interesting images, sound clips and an additional video program that addresses Ali's influence on contemporary boxers. Unfortunately I was unable to watch this footage due to a combination of unruly Java scripts embedded on the pages and slow server performance (annoyingly the QuickTime video is housed on a remote machine, not on the CD-ROM itself.) This odd combination of CD-ROM and DVD is a questionable choice on the part of HBO. They could have easily housed all of these elements on the main disc (as either DVD ROM or as video and simple text screens.) On the other hand the separation avoids potential problems with hybrid DVD and gives users without access to a DVD ROM drive an opportunity to enjoy the additional features. The CD is compatible with both Macintosh and Windows computers.

Conclusion:
If you're like me and grew up watching Ali fight this disc is a real treat. In prime form Ali was poetry in motion and a joy to watch. Those with an interest in learning about Ali should also enjoy this presentation. Of course it goes without saying that if you're not a boxing fan you simply won't get much out of The Greatest Collection.
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