DVD Review HTF REVIEW: On Golden Pond

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Dec 12, 2003.

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  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]


    On Golden Pond


    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]/[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]




    Studio: Artisan
    Year: 1981
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 109 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
    Subtitles: English
    Retail Price: $19.95





    On Golden Pond is a somewhat legendary film that has become legendary due to many things. For one, Henry Fonda won his only Best Actor Oscar for his performance, which teamed him up with his daughter Jane. Katharine Hepburn also won her fourth Academy Award for this film, which is a record she still holds to this very day. Finally on a sad note, this was the last theatrical film that the legendary Henry Fonda would ever appear in and as swan songs go, there isn’t a sweeter one out there.

    Norman and Ethyl Thayer (Fonda/Hepburn) are an elderly couple who are going to spend the summer at their house down by the pond. They’ve been coming here for years but Norman feels that this could be his last trip to one of his favorite places on Earth. Norman was always a bitter man but over the past few years he has become even more bitter now that he is starting to think about death. His wife Ethyl on the other hand rarely thinks about death and is becoming quite angry at Norman for only thinking about it.

    On his eightieth birthday their daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) comes by for a visit and brings her new boyfriend (Dabney Coleman) as well as his 13-year-old son Billy (Doug McKeon). For Chelsea this is a return to hell because she has never gotten along with her father and Norman does his best to throw insults her way. Since Chelsea and her boyfriend want to travel to Europe, Norman and Ethyl agree to look after Billy for a month. At first the young kid isn’t too happy about spending time with an older couple but soon he and Norman become friends and the two start learning from one another.

    From the opening credits of On Golden Pond the viewer should know every step this movie is going to take. They should expect the feisty old man to have a change of heart and they should expect a bunch of tender moments to go with the laughs. I really can’t say there’s anything new with On Golden Pond but from those opening credits to the close, this is without a doubt one of the sweetest and most enlightening films ever made. Everyone has their own ideas of beauty but I think this film captures all the spirits of life and rolls them together for one incredible movie that won’t be easy to forget.

    Although the story is pretty predictable that really isn’t a negative comment because this is a showcase for its stars Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn. These two legendary actors turn in some of the finest work in their careers, which is one of the most charming things about the picture. Fonda, in pretty much his swan song, turns in a performance that ranks right up there with classics like 12 Angry Men and Once Upon a Time in the West. There isn’t a false step to be spotted anywhere. From the opening scenes of him complaining about life to his rather mean spirited sense of humor, everything comes off without a hitch. This is a role an actor can really sink their teeth into and Fonda simply shines in one of his most unforgettable characters. The scenes with his character and Hepburn are wonderfully touching but most important they feel all too real. The stuff with the younger kid makes for some wonderful laughs because you’ve got a feisty old man and a feisty younger kid finding that they have something in common. Then there’s Fonda’s relationship with his daughter, which is the most predictable aspect of the film yet it’s also the most heartwarming. We see the ending coming from a mile away but because Fonda has created a full dimensional person we can’t wait until that ending comes and when it does tears will fill your eyes.

    Hepburn on the other hand is the perfect companion and also gives her character a full dimension to her, which makes us know every little thing about her. Whenever she’s upset with her husband that anger shows through but instead of a boring monologue we can see exactly what she’s feeling just by looking at her eyes and her body movement. There’s a brilliant scene between her and Jane Fonda at the end of the film, which shows exactly why Hepburn was loved by so many. Jane Fonda also turns in a nice performance, although her character’s basically just here for the ending with her father. Seeing the real life father and daughter working together just makes the film seem all the more real. Doug McKeon also adds wonderful support and makes a perfect buddy to Henry Fonda.

    On Golden Pond might not be the greatest film ever made but as I said earlier it’s one of the sweetest films and most of the most touching. What I enjoyed most about the film, other than the performances, was how natural the movie felt. There isn’t a single false moment in the film, which is something very rare especially in today’s world. The movie has a little bit of everything, which is exactly what life offers and that’s exactly what the film is about. There are tears, serious speeches, heartache, pain, laughs, good times and most importantly there are friends. On Golden Pond is wonderfully entertaining and most importantly it’s a movie that will keep a smile on your face throughout. Not too many movies can offer so much emotions yet they are all captured in this one little film about an old couple spending time at a cherished pond.


    VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The picture quality here is a slight step up from the previous release although there are still a few problems. The biggest problem is some dirt, which appears during a few of the brighter moments. Most of this is noticeable whenever the sky is shown. The darker scenes in the film look very good and the natural lighting makes for some solid blacks. The outdoor scenes also look wonderful with rich colors. There are a few speckles and a couple scenes have a few lines running down the frame but there’s no major damage to report.

    AUDIO---We get the original Dolby Digital Surround (sounds like a pure Mono) plus a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 track. I must admit that I’m not a huge fan of remixing everything ever created but Artisan has done a wonderful job with this 5.1 track. Right from the opening credits you fans will be in for a pleasant shock because the music score sounds wonderful coming from the speakers and the Surrounds perfectly show off some of the smaller noises like the birds. The dialogue is upfront and packs a nice little punch.

    EXTRAS---First up is an audio commentary with director Mark Rydell, which was also on the previous release. The director is very soft spoken but he comments on all sorts of good things. The most interesting talk of course is when he speaks of Fonda and Hepburn. Up next is a second audio commentary with writer Ernest Thompson, which is also a fun listen. He talks a lot about the original script and his thoughts when all the talent was gathered. Up next is “Reflections on Golden Pond”, which is a thirty minute piece about cinematographer Billy Williams. This is a rather boring piece but there are a few interesting comments made about the filming of the movie. Finally we get “A Woman of Substance: Katharine Hepburn”, which runs fifteen minutes and is a nice little tribute. We get interviews with several directors that worked with her as well as film critic Richard Schickel.

    The documentary that was on the previous disc isn’t included here for some reason, which is a shame considering it was one of the best out there. Another interesting note is that the theatrical trailer from the previous release wasn’t carried over to this. On the back of the cover they don’t list the director’s commentary but it is here. The press release I got didn’t have it listed either so who knows what was going on at Artisan. Hopefully there were right issues with the documentary and the studio didn’t just forget to add it.

    OVERALL---This is easily one of the most memorable and heartwarming films ever made so on that level this is a must buy. Those with the old disc will want the upgrade due to the new and better anamorphic transfer and the wonderful 5.1 track. The new extras are nice but I would have preferred the documentary that was on the original release.


    Release Date: December 16, 2003
     
  2. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I am VERY MUCH looking forward to this release. This is my parents' favorite movie. And, they are now the elder statesmen of the lake where they vacation every summer.

    Disappointed about the confirmation of the missing documentary. It seems unanimous that it was quite good. But, the anamorphic transfer and 5.1 will make this the release for me.

    Re: the movie itself, I never thought much of Jane Fonda's portrayal of the daughter. She somehow made me disbelieve she was Henry Fonda's daughter. Maybe it was strained off-the-screen relations. Or, maybe it was just bad acting. [​IMG]

    Thanks for the excellent review, Michael! [​IMG] Nice to hear about good use of surrounds in a movie that doesn't have stuff exploding every few minutes!
     
  3. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    The original documentary, "Loving Against Time", is indeed excellent (IMO), with the intense remembrances of Jane Fonda making it almost a "Second Feature" on that DVD.

    Very odd that a "Special Edition" would leave this out. AND the Trailer. Weird.

    And doubly weird because that documentary is definitely listed as being included (via some online e-tailers). [​IMG]

    (Now you don't suppose they'd do something silly like "burying" this fine bonus feature as an Easter Egg, do ya?) [​IMG]
     
  4. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    The new SE's audio isn't just a DD 5.1 either. It's a 5.1 EX track! ....

    >> Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX)

    [​IMG]

    5.1 EX track for this mainly dialogue-driven film seems a tad excessive (er...wasteful?), eh? Nice though. [​IMG]
     
  5. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Johnny Pesky

    Oooops! Wrong thread.

     
  6. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Sorry but there are no easter eggs, which means no documentary. [​IMG]

    The 5.1 track doesn't have EX so the listing at the website was wrong. What's on the back of the case is all there is on the disc, except for the not mentioned director's commentary.
     
  7. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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  8. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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  9. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    another great movie from Fonda.

    A must buy

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Jeff D Han

    Jeff D Han Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review Michael. I guess I'll have
    to get this new release and keep the old one for
    the documentary.
     
  11. Brian PB

    Brian PB Supporting Actor

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    A minority dissenting opinion:

    Nice review, though I'm with Pauline Kael on this film, which she called "uplifting twaddle." One of my least favorite films of all time.
     
  12. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    Good review Michael. Too bad about the documentary. I guess I'll keep the older disc & put both DVDs in a double alpha keepcase.
     
  13. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Great review.

    Never seen this film but always meant to. Now I'll buy it sight-unseen.

    dave [​IMG]
     
  14. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Great review Michael, of a great film. I'll be picking up this version.

    Herb.
     
  15. greg_t

    greg_t Screenwriter

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    So did anyone actually pick this one up? I'm tempted to, but would like to get some more opinions on if it's video is considerably better than the original release, which I already have. The non-anamaphoric looks pretty darn good scaled via my Panasonic RP91. I'm just wondering if the new anamaphoric transfer is worth the upgrade price.
     
  16. greg_t

    greg_t Screenwriter

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    To follow up my own post, I picked up the SE yesterday and already had the non-anamaphoric original. I noticed that in some scenes, the two dvd's look quite different. One example is the opening credits with the view of the pond with the "On Golden pond" title is much darker on the SE. Also, the scene where they are fishing at Purgatory cove has very different color on the SE. Did anyone else notice these differences, and if so , which version is correct?
     
  17. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Greg,

    I'd love to hear an answer to your question as well.
     
  18. greg_t

    greg_t Screenwriter

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    I still haven't been able to find out anything. I'm leaning towards the original release being more accurate, but that's still just a guess.
     

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