Silverado: 2-Disc Superbit Gift Set
US Theatrical Release: July 10, 1985 (Columbia Pictures)
US DVD Release: April 5, 2005
Running Time: 2:12:29 (28 chapter stops)
Rating: PG-13 (Lots of bloodless Western shootouts and some language)
Video: 2.40:1 Anamorphic (Extra Features: AR varies)
Audio: English DTS5.1, English DD5.1, French DD2.0 (Extra Features: English DD2.0)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai (Extra Features: none)
TV-Generated Closed Captions: English
Menus: Background animation only
Packaging: Standard dual-disc keepcase inside a neat cardboard box that has a slot for the keepcase and included booklet, plus saloon doors that swing open to reveal a bonus deck of playing cards; single-sheet insert within the keepcase has cover images for other Western titles on one side and a promo picture for Silverado on the other.
THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 4/5
By the early 1980s, the Western genre, as most people knew it, was practically dead. New entries were few and far between, and those that did appear tended to be dark, revisionist tales that often seemed to have as much in common with noir as with the old favorites that starred John Wayne and Gene Autry. “Western” and “crowd-pleasing hit” were two phrases that didn’t have much in common anymore.
However, director Lawrence Kasdan and his brother Mark had other ideas. Drawing on the cowboy epics of their youth, they decided to bring the fun and adventure of the Old West back to life. The result: Silverado, a rip-roarin’, rootin’-tootin’ throwback to classic frontier mythology. And while it didn’t exactly spark a major revival, it did meet with some success, and in the process made a star of Kevin Costner.
Anonymous assassins burst into an isolated cabin. . .a stranger lies alone and unconscious – in his long johns -- in the middle of the desert. . .a man faces down the thief who took his horse in a midday duel. . .a wagon train sets out for greener pastures. . .and this is just during the first few minutes. Silverado serves up a heapin’ helpin’ of shootouts and barfights, and even a cattle stampede or two. There’s no shortage of action.
Emmett (Scott Glenn), Jake (Kevin Costner), Paden (Kevin Kline) and Malachi (Danny Glover) are four Western archetypes who meet cute and embark on an adventure in the frontier town of Silverado. Emmett has just been released from jail after serving five years for killing the father of the local evil cattle baron. He and his happy-go-lucky brother Jake are planning to look for new adventures in the exotic, far-away land of California. Paden is just looking for a little peace after a long and distinguished career as an outlaw. Malachi has returned home after receiving a letter from his mother that help is needed on the family farm. If only it were that easy!
There’s a new sheriff in town (natch!), and as a lawman, he’s a walking bundle of irony. A former partner-in-crime (literally) of Paden’s, Cobb (Brian Dennehy) only knows one law: the jingle of coins in his own pocket. At first, this seems like it could be a sweet deal for his old buddy, but the look in Paden’s eyes foreshadows nuthin’ but trouble.
The plot does a nice job of threading together the myriad genre conventions and plentiful violence, which, in the best Western tradition, is full of death but almost entirely bloodless (keeping in mind that “The A-Team” was at the height of its popularity in '85 when Silverado came out). The actors have their characters down pat, although few, if any, of them are very well developed. The female characters are especially flat – Rosanna Arquette pops up now and then in a love triangle subplot that goes nowhere, and of the womenfolk, only Linda Hunt, as Stella the Bartender (you just knew there was going to be a Stella the Bartender), has more than a handful of lines. And don’t forget the dozens of dastardly desperadoes, who might as well be wearing red Star Trek uniforms (or, considering that Rambo was also released that year, NVA army fatigues).
The film occasionally touches on darker issues, such as racism and prostitution, but McCabe And Mrs. Miller it ain’t. For the most part it’s very good-natured. It certainly has its share of comedy, and the bad guys are bad enough that nobody’s going to shed a tear when the heroes mow ‘em down. The vast majority of the flying bullets are aimed at nasty varmints who (in the context of the genre at least) deserve them. Most folks will sport a grin from ear to ear by the time the credits roll.
Silverado is a great throwback to some of the finest entertainment ever to come out of the old studios. It gallops along like a wild mustang careening through the Hollywood Western Museum. Although it’s not a terribly deep film, it has no pretensions of being anything more than an afternoon of good old-fashioned fun, and at that it succeeds admirably.
THE WAY I SEE IT: 4/5
While this is technically a Superbit title, the bitrate only averages around 6.5-7.0 Mbps for the most part. Still, the picture is mostly quite nice. It sports a warm, natural grain and very little digital noise. The print is clean, with only the occasional speck or scratch. Colors are fairly rich, faithfully recreating that old west look, with good deep blacks. The one big negative regarding the image is the amount of edge enhancement, which comes and goes. Some scenes are crawling with it, even showing a bit of purple fringing on exceptionally high-contrast edges. Other scenes seem completely devoid of that sort of filtering.
THE WAY I HEAR IT: 4/5
The DTS track is very solid. Dialogue and effects are crisp and clear. The surrounds are musically very active, but there is almost no rear-channel activity aside from the score. There's not much there beyond the occasional gunshot echo. There are a number of scenes that could have used some more effects ambience, which is only highlighted each time the music swells in the back. Other than the music, it’s probably very faithful to the original theatrical presentation.
I gave the Dolby Digital track a listen, and it’s very similar to the DTS track. I couldn’t discern any substantive difference.
THE SWAG: 4/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)
Along The Silverado Trail: A Western Historians’ Commentary
Film Historian Frank Thompson, University of New Mexico professor Paul Hutton (Executive Director of the Western History Association), and UCLA history professor Steve Aaron (Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of the American West at the Autry National Center) provide a spirited group commentary track. They cover a lot of ground -- scene-specific conversation about the film, comparison of its themes with other genre entries, discussion of different aspects of its historical accuracy (and lack thereof), and occasional sidetracks about their other projects. It’s very informative and good-natured, including some interesting back-and-forth between the film historian and the old west historians about the choices made in period movies.
A Return To Silverado With Kevin Costner (21:00) (1.78:1 anamorphic)
A brand-new interview with Costner about his experience on the film. He covers a good range of topics, from how he got involved in this project, to general ideas on filmmaking and acting, to specific ideas about Silverado and his character.
The Making Of Silverado (36:59) (1.33:1 non-anamorphic)
A solid making-of that combines 1998 interviews with some vintage behind-the-scenes material, outtakes, and EPK interviews. Director Lawrence Kasdan and his brother Mark, who co-wrote the film, provide most of the commentary, but several members of the crew participate as well. It's definitely worth watching.
A History Of Western Shootouts (7:39) (AR varies; non-anamorphic)
A promo piece for ten Columbia Westerns, narrated by John Cleese. Basically an extended multi-film trailer, and the only real disappointment in this set.
Three trailers are included. The two multi-film trailers are nearly identical, although Classic Westerns features the Columbia/ Tri-Star logo and Columbia’s Top Westerns (which is on the Special Features menu, not the Previews menu) features the Sony Pictures logo. Go figure.
- Silverado (2:02) (DD2.0; 1.33:1 non-anamorphic)
- Classic Westerns (2:11) (DD2.0; AR varies; non-anamorphic)
- Columbia’s Top Westerns Trailer (2:26) (DD2.0; AR varies; non-anamorphic)
Original Movie Scrapbook
This 20-page booklet includes a 7-page essay by film historian Frank Thompson and a collection of promo stills. The essay, on the history of the Western genre and how Silverado fits into it, is the sort of thing usually only included in Criterion titles these days and is a pretty good read.
Silverado Playing Cards
A standard deck of 55 cards (including a title card and two Jokers). The backs have the same image that appears on the outer DVD case (and slipcover), minus the text. The thin, waxy cards are off-white with oversized symbols, which, along with the themed Ace of Spades and Jokers, creates an appropriate old west feel.
SUMMING IT ALL UP
The Way I Feel About It: 4/5
The Way I See It: 4/5
The Way I Hear It: 4/5
The Swag: 4/5
Silverado is a much-beloved film that has now received a worthy DVD release. The Superbit picture and sound, while not quite reference quality, are very nice. A good selection of in-depth special features round out an excellent package. And, especially considering the inclusion of premium goodies like playing cards, the sub-$15 street price makes this set an easy purchase. It’s great fun for anyone in the mood for a vintage-style Western adventure, and easily earns my RECOMMENDATION.