Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Glory

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Richard Gallagher, May 24, 2009.

  1. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    [​IMG]

    Glory




    Studio: Sony/Tri-Star

    Year: 1989

    Rated: R

    Length: 122 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p

    Languages: English, French, Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

    Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese



    The Program

    In the lead was a Massachusetts regiment, all-Negro except for its officers, who were mostly Boston bluebloods, including its young colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, whose mother had wept for joy at the sight of her boy leading black men forth to war…Here in the East, on Morris Island just outside Charleston harbor, as formerly in the West, at Milliken’s Bend and Port Hudson, Negro troops proved that they could stop bullets and shell fragments was well as white men. - Civil War historian Shelby Foote

    Let me state this as plainly as possible - Glory is one of the great Civil War films. Superbly directed by Edward Zwick, Glory emphasizes the bravery of the black soldiers of the Union Army’s 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment without sanitizing the horrors of war. Indeed, the film opens with Captain Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) witnessing human slaughter up close and personal at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single-day battle in American History. After recovering from a neck wound, Shaw returns to his home in Boston, where he is introduced to the famous black abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Unbeknownst to Shaw, his father’s friend, Massachusetts Governor John Andrew, had decided to offer Shaw the command of the state’s first all-black regiment. The Shaw family reveres Ralph Waldo Emerson and is fervently abolitionist, so the young (26 years old) Captain apparently feels that he has to accept the assignment.

    Whatever reservations Shaw may have about the suitability of black soldiers is soon dwarfed by the indifference of the Union Army. The Battle of Antietam, which was nominally a Union victory, gave President Abraham Lincoln the political cover that he needed to emancipate all slaves in the Confederate states. The immediate effect was mostly symbolic, but a decision was made to recruit black soldiers into the Union Army. However, as the 54th begins training, it becomes evident to Gould that the Army has no plans to send his regiment into combat. Gould has difficulty getting basic supplies for his soldiers. They have to drill and train in civilian clothes and many of the recruits have no shoes. However, Gould, who has been promoted to Colonel, is no fool, and he has influence through his father’s relationship with Governor Andrew. Before long Gould procures uniforms, shoes and weapons for his men.

    As portrayed in the film, Gould’s sympathy for the plight of blacks is more practical than academic. In his youth he had befriended Thomas Searles (Andre Braugher), who had demonstrated to him that black men were capable of being intelligent and well-educated. Most of the 54th’s recruits, however, are former slaves who have had little education. Gould and his second-in-command, Major Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes), learn to rely upon recruit John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman) to understand the feelings and needs of the troops. Among the soldiers is the volatile Private Trip (Denzel Washington, in an Academy Award-winning performance), a former slave who leads a protest when it is announced that the black soldiers will be paid less than their white counterparts.

    Gould and his regiment are deployed to South Carolina, where they encounter more resistance to the idea of sending them into combat. During an encounter with the racist Colonel Montgomery (Cliff De Young), Gould recognizes that the Union Army has decided that black soldiers are useful only as common laborers. He writes to his father, asking him to intercede with Governor Andrew and President Lincoln, but before he gets a response he is able to use his cunning and guile to get his regiment sent into action. At long last, the black soldiers of the 54th will get the opportunity to prove that they are the equals of the white soldiers on both sides of the conflict.

    Although technically this Blu-ray release is not a 20th Anniversary edition, it has been two decades since Glory was made and it holds up extremely well. It is a riveting war film with several intense and realistic battle scenes. The exceptional cast includes unbilled cameos by Jane Alexander as Shaw’s mother and Raymond St. Jacques as Frederick Douglass. The contributions of black soldiers to the Union cause have been largely overlooked by historians over the years, so Glory performed a valuable service by making the public aware of this fascinating story.

    The Video

    The 1.85:1 1080p transfer is very pleasing and is a distinct improvement over the Special Edition DVD which was released in 2001. This is not to say that it is perfect. The image is a bit soft at times, but I have seen this film enough times to know that the softness is present in the original film elements and is not a reflection on the transfer. However, Sony has retained an appropriate level of film grain, there is no hint of excessive DNR, and the result is satisfyingly film-like. Colors and flesh tones are solid and accurate. Black levels are strong and shadow detail is excellent, important factors considering that much of the action (including the climactic battle scene) takes place at night or under less-than-optimum lighting conditions. The print is clean and free of damage. Overall I am very content with the way that Glory is presented in this Blu-ray disc.

    The Audio

    The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is outstanding. Fans of Glory have always been enthusiastic about James Horner’s wonderful score and the superb contributions of The Boys Choir of Harlem. The musical soundstage is expansive and moving. The surround channels are used effectively, not only during the battle scenes but also in providing ambient sound in quieter scenes. Your subwoofer will get a workout delivering the thunderous sounds of exploding shells. Dialogue is mostly delivered via the center channel, and every word is clear and entirely intelligible.

    The Supplements

    The Blu-ray release of Glory contains only one exclusive supplement, a “virtual battlefield” which is actually an interactive map that highlights most of the significant battles of the Civil War. The most important battles, such as Gettysburg, include video segments in which two Civil War historians provide some exposition. This supplement also includes brief biographies of Shaw and Robert E. Lee.

    The remaining supplements have been carried over from the standard-definition Special Edition:

    Director Edward Zwick provides a generally insightful commentary track.

    “The Voices of Glory” is an interesting featurette in which actors reads excerpts from letters written by soldiers of the 54th.

    “The True Story of Glory Continues” is a featurette narrated by Morgan Freeman. It goes over some of the ground covered by the film and then goes into some detail about the exploits of the 54th through the end of the Civil War.

    There also is a worthwhile “making of” featurette.

    Finally, there are two deleted scenes which can be viewed alone or with commentary by director Zwick. One scene, which involves Denzel Washington’s character killing a Confederate soldier, is well-done but Zwick ultimately concluded that it was superfluous. Another scene, of a conversation between Shaw and Major Forbes, did not please Zwick at all and he made a quick decision to cut it. Zwick makes the interesting observation that cutting a weak scene only serves to make the preceding and succeeding scenes stronger.

    The Packaging

    The disc is secured in a standard Blu-ray keepcase.

    The Final Analysis

    Glory is considered by many to be the best Civil War film ever made. It certainly is a must-see for anyone interested in the Civil War, but also for anyone who simply wants to see great actors perform their craft. Finally, it is an important chapter in the history of race relations in our country. Watch this film and then reflect upon the fact that two world wars and nearly 100 years passed before the armed forces of the United States were integrated. That is an amazing and disturbing fact, and Glory is a wonderful and powerful motion picture.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
    Sharp LC-42D62U LCD display
    Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
    BIC Acoustech speakers
    Interconnects: Monster Cable

    Release Date: June 2, 2009
     
  2. Nicholas Martin

    Nicholas Martin Cinematographer

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    In bit of unintentional racial irony, because I have the "Dark" skin on for this forum, I couldn't see the text because the text is black, and had to switch to "white" skin to read this review....
     
  3. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    My top 5 favorite film of all time comes to Blu-ray!

    Looking greatly forward to watching this and in advance I thank
    Sony for giving it ample treatment on this format.
     
  4. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    I am so getting this. Can't wait.
     
  5. David Coleman

    David Coleman Supporting Actor

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    Wow, what an unexpected surprise to see this early review.

    GLORY is one of those films that i've been praying (in a sense) for on BD. It's one of those great films that deserves a great presentation. While this was never a great "looking" film, I'm glad to hear that Sony has extracted all they could from this title and given us a fine presentation.

    I'm most excited about the audio. This IS James Horner's greatest score and i'm so looking forward to hearing this in TRUEHD as the DVD sound has always been stellar and I know the TRUEHD will really show off this magnificent soundtrack.

    I can't wait till next week!
     
  6. Nicholas Martin

    Nicholas Martin Cinematographer

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    It's a shame the UK's DVD isolated score was never possible here.
     
  7. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    Looking forward to watching the BD when it arrives!
     
  8. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    A lot of Region 2 discs have isolated scores not on Region 1 DVDs. It may have something to do with legal issues (it usually is) that may not exist in Europe. Here's a list:

    kqek.com/isolated_scores/Isolated_Scores.htm
     
  9. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I just finished watching my BD copy a few minutes ago.

    Let me begin by saying again that this is probably ranks as my
    first or second favorite film ever. Whenever a new format appears
    I actively go after Sony to put this on their priority release list. Saw
    it once on VHS, again on LASERDISC and DVD and now for the first
    time on Blu-ray.

    Rich Gallagher is spot on with his review of this disc.

    The transfer is indeed very soft and very grainy. However, never
    argue the filmmakers intent, and give credit to Sony who I know from
    speaking to them personally will never apply DNR to their transfers.
    Fortunately, as Mr. Gallagher pointed out, the film has been
    cleaned of any debris. This Blu-ray presentation is superb.

    Another fortunate aspect of this transfer is that the audio packs punch.
    This is very important because GLORY is one of those films that rides
    upon its soundtrack.

    I still get multiple chills listening to the Harlem Boys Choir alongside
    James Horners rising score as regiment company 54 begins its march
    on the South Carolina beach. From that moment till the end of the film's
    credits, be sure to have your audio cranked high. It's not very often
    that a film's score will literally give you goosebumps.

    One of the greatest film scores ever recorded. For those upset there
    was no isolated score, buy the CD. It's incredible.

    The only negative comment I can make about this Blu-ray lies in
    the menu. I wish Sony would copy Warner's style of menu operation
    where the menu comes up over the film. I needed to bring up subtitles
    (I am somewhat hard of hearing) and in doing so I had to interrupt the
    film, go to a static menu, and then go back again. I don't know if
    producing menu overlays are more expensive, but I do find them easier
    to navigate and the technology behind Blu-ray has advanced the way
    menus are designed.

    Have not had the opportunity to watch the extras yet. Looking
    forward to watching them tomorrow.
     
  10. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    I ordered this BD almost before it was possible. [​IMG]
    (One of those very rare orders Amazon asked me to confirm a few weeks later.)

    It still isn't here, could be any day now, hopefully tomorrow. Can hardly wait.
    Thanks for the clear reviews. I know what to expect now.


    Cees
     
  11. David Coleman

    David Coleman Supporting Actor

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    I'm a James Horner fan. There have been so many scores of his that have moved me: Titanic, Field of Dreams, Apollo 13, Mask of Zorro and countless others. While Legends of the Fall is a personal favorite, still his greatest score is GLORY. It's rare when a score captures all the emotions of the characters, the drama, the action and the essence of a film but Horner's score captures all these elements. It was genius on his part to recruit the Boy's choir of Harlem as the fit seamlessly with the rest of the score.

    I am really anxious to buy this BD, not only cause I love the film, but I want to bask in the beauty of Horner's score, along with the on screen action. I'm very excited!
     
  12. Nicholas Martin

    Nicholas Martin Cinematographer

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    David,

    I'm one of the biggest Horner nuts around (I also co-administrate a fan forum) and I'd suggest you pick this up:

    James Horner - Glory Soundtrack - Classic Records

    This is a high resolution Digital Audio Disc, playable on any modern DVD player. It's designed to recreate the original master recording quality, something the LP release preserved but the standard CD release failed to.

    It's a fantastic listen and will compliment the Blu-ray nicely.

    I do have the region 2 DVD (and yes, it's a royalties issue that prevents isolated scores from being available throughout several region's DVDs, as they can interfere with the record company's album earnings, along with the re-use fees the musicians require in the U.S.) and I made my own expanded version of the album with it, even fixing the PAL incorrect pitch without adding artifacts to the sound quality.

    Like I said, big Horner nut.

    I'm looking forward to seeing - that's most important to me - the upgrade in the image on this Blu-ray.
     
  13. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Day 1 for me!
     
  14. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    GREATEST. MOVIE. EVAR.

    EVAR!!!

    Nicholas, is that "DAD" disc different from the DVD-Audio edition of the soundtrack?
     
  15. Nicholas Martin

    Nicholas Martin Cinematographer

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    There was no DVD-Audio version. That 24/96 DAD is it.

    It's confusing, I know.

    The disc itself is a DVD, but is not a DVD-Audio disc in the sense that you need a DVD-Audio player to enjoy it, with the special MLP audio format and so on.

    The disc is a 96 kHz, 24-bit PCM stereo recording with a generic title screen showing the name of the track and other credits:

    [​IMG]

    It's under 2GB or so and because it works like a typical DVD-Video disc, you don't need a special player for it.

    Also, there is no menu or anything so it plays like a CD, meaning you don't have to turn on your television unless you want to see those static track title screens.
     
  16. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    I forgot to mention that the BD of Glory includes an e-Movie cash offer (good for up to $10) toward a ticket to The Taking of Pelham 123. It can be redeemed by mail or via BD-Live.
     
  17. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    Nicholas - I am a nut for Horner as well - As I was listening to the score for Glory on my iPod while mowing my lawn this weekend (inspired by Richard's review and the comments on this thread), I decided to see just how many Horner scores I had on my iPod...62 of them was the count (I have more that are not on my iPod) [​IMG]

    Nice to know of a fellow Horner fan around here...
     
  18. David Coleman

    David Coleman Supporting Actor

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    Thank you soooooooooooo much!! I've always considered the DAD but it's always been priced outrageously. That's by far the best price i've seen so I jumped on it!

    Now I can't wait to get the film and the soundtrack!! Thanks for pointing the disc out to me.
     
  19. Nicholas Martin

    Nicholas Martin Cinematographer

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    I bought it from the site last year, and I remember 10 years ago I saw it in a Tower Records (a couple of years before it closed up shop here in Canada) and it was a shocking $62.99 in store!

    Until last year I kind of forgot about it, seeing its high price (though not as high as that) on various online sites over the years but that direct site ended up having the best price now.
     
  20. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Thanks. That's the first I've seen the disc for under $20. Some places (including Amazon) have it listed as DVD-Audio.

    Of course, now I'm thinking that I don't really need it since any time I put it in the DVD player I'd just want to run the movie anyway. [​IMG]
     

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