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  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
  • German: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Mono
  Subtitles
    English, French, German, Czech, Polish, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 4 Cast/crew biographies
  • Production notes

The Sting

Universal/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 124 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Plink plink plink plink plink plink, plink plink plink plink plink plink, plink plink plink plink plink plink plink plink - plonk!

OK, so piano notes donít translate too well into the written word. But hey, it introduces the film, so it's good enough a start to this review as any I guess.

The Sting basically cleaned up at the 1973 Academy Awards, It garnered seven of those little Oscar guys in all, including those for Best Picture and Best Director. Set in depression-era Chicago, it is essentially the tale of two grifters out to avenge the death of one of their friends.

Meet Johnny Hooker (blue-eyed boy Robert Redford), conman, and his buddy, Luther (Robert Earl Jones) - also a conman. After what essentially amounts to picking t-h-e w-r-o-n-g mark, a runner for The Big Mick Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), the latter is murdered. Hence the main peg is clipped onto the what-is-the-main-plot-motivation clothesline of the film. And Luther was just about to retire, too...

Incensed at the loss of his pal, Hooker meets up with the rather renowned Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), who - surprise, surprise - is also a conman. Luther was well-known and well loved in underworld circles it would seem, and the two team up to plot revenge on the apparently vindictive as hell Lonnegan. On hearing of the Mick's regular poker game, they hatch a plan to infiltrate it and take him for as much as they can.

Meanwhile, flatfoot Lieutenant Snyder (Charles Durning) is hot on the trail of Hooker, who's been a naughty little boy and has been passing off counterfeit loot. However, our two "heroes" are able to stay one step ahead (at least for now), and their infiltration of the big game goes pretty much according to plan. This is only the tip of the iceberg though, as they have bigger plans for our Mr Donnegan.

Thus 'the sting' is plotted. Involving quite the elaborate set-up, ranging from hiring innumerable malleable underworld types to creating what is essentially their own TAB in a matter of days. The hook is baited to lure The Mick in, and he grabs it, along with the line and sinker as well. Naturally more goes on, but this is the basic synopsis, I guess I could add that there are quite the number of assumed unpredictable twists, although most of them tended to flash "OI! THIS IS A TWIST!" in mile-high neon letters...

  Video
Contract

Uh-oh. It often surprises me how shabbily some supposed classic films end up on their journey to DVD. Many regard The Sting as an absolute theatrical milestone, and as mentioned previously it did win seven Academy Awards (this isn't to say they always know what they're talking about, but still). Regardless, from the outset the print used here is speckle-ridden, with scarcely seconds able to go by without a white spot of some sort popping up to stick its tongue out and shriek "BOO!". The worst and most regular occurrences of shimmering and moire patterning I have ever witnessed on a single disc abound throughout the film, and there is quite often an annoying graininess in evidence as well. Add to this mix quite the dose of regularly noticeable edge enhancement and no anamorphic treatment and things arenít very pretty at all.

This being said, colour-wise much appears to have been done where possible. Whilst mostly quite almost unnaturally dark, the film's rare exploits out of the sepia-esque ghettos and into the world of colour have been handled quite nicely. The film is at least presented in its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, and the layer change whilst definitely noticeable isnít particularly clunky. It would appear that WAMO have done the best they can with an obviously rather trashed source print.

  Audio
Contract

Oh dear, you have to be kidding me?! No, it's true, The Sting comes to us digitally in glorious mono. Now "duh", of course I know this is how it was made, but when lesser films of similar or greater vintage get treated to stereo remixes you have to wonder why nobody could seemingly be bothered here.

And it pays the price sonically. Without any directionality at all, and featuring many busy scenes with much background blah-blah-blah-ing, at times it is difficult to catch what is being said without grabbing the remote and jumping back for a second listen.

The soundtrack is essentially a tinkly-plop best of Scott Joplin. Marvin Hamlisch was responsible for the score, which lovers of ragtime will have a blast with. Those such as myself who can't stand this style of music however will be in for one hell of a torrid time. Admittedly though it does set the '30s tone of the film quite well - I'm just thankful I wasn't alive back then. The film actually spawned a super-giant mega-hit in the form of The Entertainer, which if you donít know by name you would almost certainly recognise from hearing it, in fact if any of you work in an office with more than a few people you probably know some utter loser who has it programmed as their mobile phone ring.

  Extras
Contract

Ooh, hold on to those fedoras folks! There's a veritable smorgasbord of not much at all in store here, commencing with entirely static and silent menus.

From there you can delve into fifteen pages of vaguely interesting production notes, brief bios and filmographies of actors Newman, Redford and Shaw, plus director Hill. Then as the icing on the cake there's the just-over-two-minutes trailer, from a later theatrical release no less, and one of the grittiest examples of video you're ever likely to see on DVD.

And that's it. Woo! Oh, you do get those irritating little Universal symbols all over the shop, which they appear to steadfastly refuse to drop.

  Overall  
Contract

I'll be honest, I have been wishing to see this film for years, especially after reading producer Julia Phillips' fabulous (and phenomenally thick) tome You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again some years back, and learning of much of the behind the scenes dramas that went on. However, whilst I didnít expect to be floored in a frenzy of hitherto unwitnessed magical entertainment, I did expect more excitement than this. At just on two hours and a bit it is overlong, and appears to have been born more as a vehicle for Butch and Sundance to (hopefully) do their stuff again, rather than for any purpose more worthy. It is mildly charming though, and the supporting cast has some notable inclusions, the wonderful Ray Walston as JJ, Eileen Brennan as Billie and Harold Gould as Kid Twist for starters, however it all comes across as very set-bound and in all rather cheesy. Perhaps 28 years ago people weren't so fussy, as I do know that many treasure this film.

Whilst not entirely bare bones, this disc does skate rather close. The extras are perfunctory at best, the video transfer is incredibly average and the sound is barely adequate. Whilst I believe it is still preferable to release a movie to DVD in the best possible form available at the time rather than not at all, I'm starting to become rather more dubious of the practice as more and more announcements seem to arrive daily of bare bones discs I already own being about to be re-released in magically remastered form, with shed loads of extras they apparently couldnít dig up the first time. Owners of the original release of The Mummy will no doubt understand what I'm talking about. I daresay this may be a contestant for such future treatment.

I guess in the end the skinny is that if you love The Sting then you'll want this. But if you are a casual observer I find it a difficult prospect to come up with much to recommend it, and in the end the actual sting is that this is a full price release.


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      And I quote...
    "For absolute diehard fans of the film only..."
    - Amy Flower
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    • Audio Cables:
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    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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