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  Directed by
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  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Production notes
  • Photo gallery

The Deer Hunter

Studio Canal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 183 mins . R . PAL

  Feature
Contract

The 1970s and early '80s was a period to rejoice if one was a Robert De Niro admirer. The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull all showcased the amazing talent and versatility that this actor possesses. The Deer Hunter, made in 1978, is yet another example, with De Niro helping make it one of the most exceptional films of all time. The film is an epic in every sense of the word. Over three hours in length, it can leave you feeling mentally exhausted after watching it, due more to the confrontational nature and raw power of the film than the length. It was only director/producer Michael Cimino’s second film and was his only real success to date, but what a success.

The film’s story spans several years, as it follows a group of three friends and their families before, during, and after their tour of duty in Vietnam. The first section of the film takes the viewer into the lives of Michael (De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken), and Steven (John Savage). We see what life for them is like in small-town USA, and the audience truly gets to know the central characters of the film in this time. Many have criticised the hour long time period it takes for the film to get to Vietnam, but this time helps the viewer to experience the hell that the friends go through later on in the film much more deeply.

"One shot is what it's all about."

The second act begins with a startling change of location. The scenes in Vietnam are gripping and full of suspense, as Michael and his two companions are captured by the Vietcong and forced to endure a hellish Russian Roulette torture where they are pitted against each other. Eventually they escape, but it is obvious that after their wartime experiences, all three are changed men.

The third segment deals with the emotional aftermath of the war on both the three men and their friends and family. The bond between the friends has changed, but is stronger than ever. There are some particularly superb performances by Walken and De Niro in the final act.

  Video
Contract

The video transfer performs favourably when compared to other film transfers from the same era. It is 16x9 enhanced, and presented in an aspect of 2.30:1.

There is only a small number of film artefacts on the print; quite impressive for a film of this vintage. The one exception to this is a section of newsreel footage of Saigon, which is very grainy. It is entirely possible, however, that it was designed to be shown this way, as along with the grainy look it was shot using a different method than the rest of the film.

The disc is dual layered, with the layer change occurring at a change of scene, and is not very distracting.

For a film from this time period, the sharpness of the print is exceptional. One minor complaint concerns the contrast and shadow detail. In some scenes, particularly the night scenes in Saigon and in the dim bar scenes in Pennsylvania, details sometimes become murky and hidden. The faces of the characters can at times become concealed or obscured.

There are no subtitles available on the disc.

  Audio
Contract

There is one soundtrack available, and it is in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. Overall, the audio is somewhat disappointing, especially in regards to the dialogue mixing. Sometimes the speech is prominent and loud, at other times it seems to be severely understated and subdued. In some scenes the sound effects drown out the dialogue, and this can become frustrating.

On a positive note, there are zero audio synch problems, and the musical score by Stanley Myers is of top quality and very suited to the theme of the film. The use of surround is very limited, and there is no use of the subwoofer.

  Extras
Contract

There is a minimal set of extras and they are:

Cast Biographies: Contains details on the five leading actors, but surprisingly not on the director.

Photo Gallery: The now almost standard selection of photographs of the cast and crew on location and behind the scenes.

Production Notes: Information and commentary from director Michael Cimino regarding his vision for the film.

Theatrical Trailer: This should only be viewed after watching the movie, as it gives away a great deal of the plot.

  Overall  
Contract

There is no doubt that The Deer Hunter is one of the great films of the 1970s, and the ideas and portrayals contained in it are superb. Its examination of the physical and in particular mental trauma associated with the Vietnam War is unparalleled. The audience is dragged through a draining three hours, and the impact of the film is undeniable. At times it is hard to watch, as the suspense and brutality can become overwhelming. However, if you are looking for the quintessential film that studies the catastrophic affects of war on the common person, this is definitely a film that you should see.


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      And I quote...
    "A brilliant film depicting both the physical and mental impact of the Vietnam War. Pity about the audio transfer though."
    - Robert Mack
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DE475
    • Speakers:
          Sony
    • Centre Speaker:
          Sony
    • Surrounds:
          Sony
    • Subwoofer:
          Sony Active Superwoofer
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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