- Burt Lancaster
- Lee Marvin
- Robert Ryan
- Jack Palance
- Ralph Bellamy
- Woody Strode
- Claudia Cardinale
- Marie Gomez
I'm always asked by others what's my favorite film? I never give them a definitive answer of just one film because I can't. Because so many films have touched me in a special way, I can never be sure myself which one is my favorite so I just list a group of films that stand out in my mind. The film "The Professionals" is one of those films. There are many reasons why that's the case, some involving the film itself and another reason was due to my first theater experience with the film. This film will always have a personal place in my heart because it was the only time that my father and I were alone together in a movie theater.
Anyhow, I digress because I really want to talk about what a wonderful job Columbia/Sony did with this latest dvd release of a film that I consider the best written western/action film ever made. What a beautiful video presentation and kudos to them for improving the audio presentation. This film had a previous dvd release back in July of 1999. At that time, I thought the dvd presentation was good. However, this latest SE release surpasses that dvd by leaps and bounds in both the video and audio presentations.
The color on the first dvd release is somewhat muted in comparison and it has a brownish color tone to it. This latest release, the color is much more vibrant and it properly displays Conrad Hall's beautiful cinematography. I spent a good hour or so comparing the two dvds during specific scenes and you really can tell the difference. While the first dvd release was a flipper with the widescreen on one side and a pan and scan version on the other. The SE has just the Panavision presentation on it.
The SE has a 5.1 audio track along with the original 3.0 audio track. It's stated on the dvd case that the 5.1 audio track was newly created from the original theatrical elements. When I watched the dvd yesterday, I played it with the 5.1 audio track and Maurice Jarre's excellent film score really stood out. I didn't do any comparison between the two different audio tracks on the SE. However, during my switching back and forth between the two dvds, I did notice a more expansive and robust field of sound with the 5.1 track of the SE versus the audio from the previously released dvd.
The SE dvd has three featurettes that were produced by Laurent Bouzereau. Two of the featurettes deal with the film itself. One is called "The Professionals - A Classic" which is slightly less than 7 minutes in length. The featurette includes some vintage video and commentary from director Martin Campbell, Burt Lancaster biographer Kate Buford, Burt's daughter Joanna Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale. The second film featurette called "Memories from The Professionals" runs 23 minutes. The feaurette has some excellent memories from Kate Buford, Claudia Cardinale, the late Conrad Hall and Marie Gomez. The third featurette was specifically about Burt Lancaster, it runs about 12 minutes or so and features Joanna Lancaster and Kate Buford.
At this time, I want to talk a little about the film itself. This film had some of the strongest actors ever to grace the screen. I mean actors that command your attention, whenever, they appeared on screen. Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Jack Palance. Man, what a cast. Again, I think this film has some of the best written dialogue I've ever heard. The personal exchanges between the characters were not only engaging, but cleverly written. I consider Hall's cinematography of "The Professionals" among his best work. It's on equal ground with "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", "In Cold Blood" and "Road to Perdition". Over the years, it's Maurice Jarre's rousing soundtrack of the film that always stayed vividly in my memories of the film. Also, I think this is among his best work. As far as Richard Brooks is concern. I always thought he was one of most underrated film directors there was. He was not only a great director, but I don't think there was a director that ever matched his writing ability. If you take a look at his screen credits then you will understand why I think so highly of him.
In closing, my only regret I have about "The Professionals" SE is that it doesn't have a commentary. I thought there was a LD commentary by Richard Brooks? If not then it's too bad that Columbia/Sony couldn't at least get a film historian or current director to comment about this influential and at that time, unique film because over the years, many films have copied the blueprint from this film.