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A short review of "The Professionals" SE


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#1 of 36 Robert Crawford

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Posted April 03 2005 - 12:40 AM

The Professionals
  • Burt Lancaster
  • Lee Marvin
  • Robert Ryan
  • Jack Palance
  • Ralph Bellamy
  • Woody Strode
  • Claudia Cardinale
  • Marie Gomez
"The Professionals" is a film about four men hired by a rich railroad mogul to rescue his kipnapped wife being held in Mexico around 1917. The four men have expertise in military tactics, weapons, explosives, tracking and horses. The wife was kidnapped by a Mexican revolutionary leader with prior ties to two of the men hired to bring the wife back. Sounds familiar, it should be, since it's been copied more than a few times over the last 40 years with slightly different plot changes. Actually, it's probably one of the first real buddy films.

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.






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#2 of 36 John Hodson

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Posted April 03 2005 - 12:47 AM

Thanks Robert; I half expected Columbia to give us the same transfer, so looking froward to this even more.
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#3 of 36 Steve Christou

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Posted April 03 2005 - 02:48 AM

"You bastard!"
"Yes sir. In my case an accident of birth. But you, you're a self-made man."


Classic western. Forgot this was out, thanks Robert.Posted Image

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#4 of 36 Robert Crawford

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Posted April 03 2005 - 06:04 AM

For those interested, Best Buy and Target are selling this SE for $14.99 while Circuit City priced it at $15.99






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#5 of 36 James Pfann

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Posted April 03 2005 - 07:43 AM

This is a favorite of mine as well. I have a question about a scene in both versions. There is a point where Claudia Cardinale tries to seduce Burt Lancaster to win her freedom. In the initial dvd release they shadow out her ample assets when she opens her blouse. Is the SE version the same? Were all the releases the same? I have only seen this movie on edited on tv and my copy of the early release DVD.

I know this makes look like a perv, but these questions have to be asked. :b

#6 of 36 dpippel

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Posted April 03 2005 - 08:37 AM

I'm really glad that this film has received a new and improved transfer. The previous release was the very definition of *bad* edge enhancement. Almost unwatchable. Can't wait to check it out!

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#7 of 36 Robert Crawford

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Posted April 03 2005 - 08:48 AM

There is a point where Claudia Cardinale tries to seduce Burt Lancaster to win her freedom. In the initial dvd release they shadow out her ample assets when she opens her blouse. Is the SE version the same? Were all the releases the same? I have only seen this movie on edited on tv and my copy of the early release DVD.

Actually, Cardinale addresses that scene in the 23 minute featurette in which she refused to show her breasts and wouldn't relent to Brooks wishes. So the camera suggest that she bared her breasts to Lancaster, but the camera angles in such a way that you couldn't see them, even if she didn't have them covered up like she did.





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#8 of 36 James Pfann

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Posted April 03 2005 - 09:52 AM

Thanks Crawdaddy.

I'll definitely be grabbing the new version. Posted Image

#9 of 36 Todd Robertson

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Posted April 03 2005 - 10:02 AM

Thanks Crawdaddy!! I can't wait to add this to the library first thing Tuesday morning!!!Posted Image
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#10 of 36 Aaron Silverman

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Posted April 04 2005 - 07:38 AM

Nice writeup, Crawdaddy. I was going to review it over the weekend, but due to spousal preferences, hit Spanglish and the soon-to-be-posted Silverado Superbit first. I hope to watch it in the next couple of days.
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#11 of 36 Dillon*G

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Posted April 04 2005 - 08:55 AM

Is the theatrical trailer on this?On the original dvd in the trailer you could very briefly see Cardinale's assets.

#12 of 36 Paul_Scott

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Posted April 04 2005 - 10:02 AM

yeah, the story about the breats seems a little suspect.
i could always tell that the nipples were rotoscoped out with black (just like the black slug seen on Ian McDirmids face in some shots of ROTJ).
i think the magazine Celebrity Sleuth or Celeb Skin has stills taken from the internation cut which doesn't have optical censoring and the nipples are present (though its dark anyway.
much ado about nothing, but being a (relatively healthy/horny)guy i sure wouldn't have minded seeing the non censored print.

anyways- thanks for highlighting this film with a review Robert.
its easily one of my favorites of all time, and its another title that amazes me that more people don't know about it or utter it before the usual suspects when talking about great westerns.

i am very suprised when you say the earlier transfer is 'good' though.
for my money its GREAT.
on my first pj, it was one of the few film transfers that i found no issue with at all. in fact it had a 3 dimensional quality to it that i found startling (like in the scene when Lancaster is hung up and being threated with a throat slitting).
i haven't watched it again since getting my new pj but assume it will still look great.
the extras didn't really sound all that compelling -pretty triffling actually- so this was going to be relatively easy to pass up (especially when a blu ray release should be relatively soon after that formats release i would expect).

i dunno, if other people chime in about a trmendous difference i will probably bite.
i suppose i could justify it as insurance against my original disc going bad.
this is a title i will always want to have access to even though it may be a while before i pull it out again.

#13 of 36 Robert Crawford

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Posted April 04 2005 - 09:13 PM

Is the theatrical trailer on this?On the original dvd in the trailer you could very briefly see Cardinale's assets.

Last night, I freeze frame that part of the trailer several times and I don't think that's her bare breast. She states that before that scene was shot, she and Brooks came to an agreement that she didn't have to show her breasts. Also, the same trailer is on the SE.





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#14 of 36 Robert Crawford

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Posted April 04 2005 - 09:15 PM

i am very suprised when you say the earlier transfer is 'good' though.
for my money its GREAT.
on my first pj, it was one of the few film transfers that i found no issue with at all.

If you really want to see great then view this SE.





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#15 of 36 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted April 05 2005 - 01:28 AM

This is probably my favorite Columbia Western, edging out The Man from Laramie, 3:10 to Yuma, and a handful of the better Randolph Scott films. The original bare bones disc was a $30 MSRP title until last September, IIRC. The fact that you can now get an SE with a better presentation for an MSRP of $20 makes me feel like they are practically giving it away. Posted Image
Quote:
Actually, Cardinale addresses that scene in the 23 minute featurette in which she refused to show her breasts...
To be fair, it is fairly common for actresses to refuse to perform topless in retrospective interviews for DVD featurettes.

(Ain't I a stinker? Posted Image)

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#16 of 36 John Hodson

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Posted April 05 2005 - 03:56 AM

I wonder if the success - or not - of this title will encourage Sony to produce more SEs of their barebones classics? You've named a couple there that would benefit Ken, particularly The Man From Laramie which could do with a wash and brush up.
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#17 of 36 Jon Hertzberg

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Posted April 05 2005 - 05:05 AM

Thanks for the review, Crawdaddy. I nearly picked up the original release and I sure am glad I waited until this improved edition was released. I'm a big Lancaster fan and can't wait to see those retrospectives with his daughter Joanna and biographer Kate Buford. Buford's recent biography is one of the best written and most enlightening star biographies that I have read.

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.


I'm certainly a strong admirer of Brooks and he has a sparkling resume up until the latter part of his career. I think In Cold Blood might just be his finest effort. However, off the top of my head, when I think of enormously talented directors who also wrote, Preston Sturges is pretty hard to top.

#18 of 36 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted April 05 2005 - 05:33 AM

Quote:
However, off the top of my head, when I think of enormously talented directors who also wrote, Preston Sturges is pretty hard to top.
Billy Wilder, Ingmar Bergman, Stephen Sommers


.
.
.



Okay, that last one was just to see if you were paying attention. Posted Image
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#19 of 36 Jon Hertzberg

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Posted April 05 2005 - 05:39 AM

Sommers...you mean he writes too?! Posted Image

#20 of 36 Robert Crawford

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Posted April 05 2005 - 05:57 AM

I'm certainly a strong admirer of Brooks and he has a sparkling resume up until the latter part of his career. I think In Cold Blood might just be his finest effort. However, off the top of my head, when I think of enormously talented directors who also wrote, Preston Sturges is pretty hard to top.

Yes, Preston Sturges was a great writer, as well as some other directors, but Brooks dialogue just resonates with me in such a way that it's my opinion, he's the best. Also, regarding such a comment by me, it shouldn't be taken as any slight towards other directors because it's all about personal preference and opinion.





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