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Midnight Cowboy

MGM/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 108 mins . M15+ . PAL


Another classic movie passed over and tossed my way by Steve. A triple Academy Award winner as well; can't say fairer than that!

Winner of Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay in 1970, Midnight Cowboy has barely aged a bit. It begins with a naive Texan (Jon Voight) who believes he can simply move to New York and make a living as a gigolo. When he finds it's really not that simple, he runs into a crippled and ill con artist, 'Ratso' Rizzo, played to perfection by Dustin Hoffman. Together they eke out a desperate existance, living in a condemned building and stealing what they can to live, until it becomes apparent that Rizzo cannot live for long in the cruel New York winter. Miami awaits.

I don't like revealing plots. Suffice to say the film's a classic and everybody should invite it home to get acquainted. Interestingly, the film was originally rated X on release, and though time has reduced the impact of the more 'provocative' aspects, it hasn't diluted the power of the characterisation, nor the Oscar-nominated performances by both leads.


Hmmm. Disappointing.

While the picture is generally pleasing, the transfer has been taken from a theatrical print and has very poor shadow detail in dark scenes (of which there are many). This is a pity, because the transfer otherwise has a lot going for it. MGM have delivered a gritty look, similar to Scorseses' Taxi Driver, with good detail (anamorphically-enhanced, too) and beautifully evocative and rich colours.

Grain is generally apparent, though I never found it a problem, and MPEG artifacting never intruded on my viewing. The print isn't pristine, and you will see dust and dirt here and there, but again, it's nothing you wouldn't expect from a film this old. I just wish MGM could have used the original negative.


I was surprised to find that this disc has a discrete 4.0 soundtrack, rather than a stereo matrix (2.0). I'm glad MGM took this decision though, as the use of discrete channels has made a marked improvement in the soundstage width. You'll notice no confused steering as an overtaxed Pro-Logic circuit throws a tantrum!

The use of four channels improves the sound quality of the Dolby Digital bitstream as well, as more bits are allocated to the soundtrack, making for a richer sound, without the thin quality I often notice with matrixed DD. While it is a little bright, requiring some cinema equalisation at high volume, I was pleased overall with the sound.

I do wonder - if MGM had the original 4-channel printmaster, what happened to the original negatives?


Nothing much to speak of, just an 8-page booklet and the theatrical trailer. It seems MGM couldn't even go to the trouble of a nice menu!


Good film. Damn good. With the decent transfer MGM have provided, fans should have few complaints.

Recommended. Really.

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      And I quote...
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