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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Bullitt - Two Disc Special Edition (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).



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#1 of 60 Herb Kane

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Posted May 31 2005 - 12:59 AM

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Bullitt
Two Disc Special Edition





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1968
Rated: PG
Film Length: 114 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD Surround Stereo
Color/B&W: Color
Languages: English & French
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $26.99
Package: Two discs in a regular (hinged - double) Keepcase.





The Feature:
The next entry in Warner's wonderful boxed sets centers around screen-legend, Steve McQueen who defined "cool" like no other actor. The featured film, Bullitt is available individually or is included in The Essential Steve McQueen Collection and lists for $26.99 while the Collection consists of five other films including The Getaway and Papillon as well as new-to-DVD titles The Cincinnati Kid, Never So Few and Tom Horn and is a bargain listing at $68.92. The single disc titles list for $19.97.

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San Francisco police Lt. Frank Bullitt (played by Steve McQueen) has been tasked with a 48 hour assignment to protect a key witness who is scheduled to testify against organized crime members. Due to his hard-hitting reputation, Bullitt and his men have been hand picked for the important assignment. In an attempt to protect the witness, the police put the informant up in a sleazy pay-by-the-hour San Francisco hotel. However, things suddenly go wrong when two hitmen show up and wind up shooting his witness as well as his partner. Local District Attorney Walter Chalmers (played by Robert Vaughn) is heading-up the hearing and his personal and political ambitions soon become an obstacle to Bullitt and his men. Chalmers tries to bully his way into the investigation and he quickly learns his tactics aren't going to work on Lt. Bullitt.

Soon, Bullitt loses focus of his main objective and his plight turns personal as he zeroes in on those responsible for shooting his partner. His quest however, is about to conflict with the D.A.'s demand for full co-operation. As the investigation progresses, Bullitt spends as much time dodging Chalmers as he does searching for the killers. But Bullitt's dogged determination pays off as things aren't quite what they seem. Interestingly, look for youthful appearances from Robert Duvall and Jacqueline Bisset. Bullitt won the 1969 Academy Award for Best Film Editing.

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A review of Bullitt that didn't touch on the infamous car chase wouldn't be complete, in my opinion. In what has to be one of the most memorable car chase scenes in motion picture history and at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour, the astonishingly long 10 minute sequence was filmed with hand-held cameras up and down the narrow, hilly streets and busy intersections of San Francisco. Now, I'm not a big car guy but apparently, Bullitt's car was a Highland Green, 1968 four-speed Ford Mustang Fastback GT powered by a 390/4V big block engine that was chasing a black, 1968 four-speed Dodge Charger 440 R/T. One can only wonder if the Ford Mustang would be as popular in 2005 had the film never been produced...? If I've seen the chase once, I've seen it 50 times and each time that Charger - races through that chaotic intersection to turn left, I still get goose bumps. If that's not one of the most memorable scenes in film, I don't know what is.

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The Feature: 4.5/5
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Video:
Bullitt is a film I have seen many times and enjoy quite a bit, yet I never picked up the original barebones release. It's a disc I always thought would be forthcoming in an improved version and I think my patience has paid dividends. Considering this was an early entry into the DVD format, one has to assume that the video presentation with this new Special Edition is vastly improved, 'cause this new version looks mighty fine.

Remember, much of this film was shot indoors in dark and dingy environments. Black levels are fine and the image stays nicely defined regardless of how dark the scenes become. Shadow detail and contrast levels were fine. Whites were crisp and clean. Image definition was also pretty impressive. Many of the ultra close-ups were ultra sharp. Some of the mid range and longer shots were slightly soft but not transfer related.

From what I remember reading, vibrant colors are what the original version lacked. In this case, colors indeed appear quite vibrant and lush and nicely saturated. Skin tones were also accurate and real looking. There is a slight amount of film grain present (fine to medium) which is noticeable throughout the film and result is a pleasing film-like image with plenty of depth and dimension.

The image was mostly clean with only infrequent signs of dust and dirt. The image was also solid and free of any shimmer or jitter.

Video: 4/5
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Audio:
The DD Surround track is solid, though unremarkable. The track is absolutely clean and free of any hiss or other noisy distractions nor have the high frequencies been compromised as a result. Dialogue was crystal clear and always intelligible. The overall tonality of the track was natural and it never becomes edgy or fatiguing.

Regardless of the action and chase scenes (and there are plenty), there's not much to speak of in terms of dynamic range or depth. Breaking glass is rather lifeless and gunshots are somewhat anemic but I suppose limitations of a film almost 40 years old are to be expected.

The front soundstage was wider than I might have expected which helps to showcase Lalo Schifrin's perfect jazzy score - a score which sets the tone and the mood of the film perfectly.

There is no surround info to speak of.

Audio: 3.5/5
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Special Features:

Disc One:
[*] First up is a Commentary by Peter Yates who directed this, his first film outside of England. The emphasis of what is discussed throughout this commentary relates to the San Francisco shooting location and the various hurdles and obstacles that surfaced as a result. His comments are pretty much off the cuff and unrehearsed and occasionally veers off from being scene specific. Mr. Yates does an admirable job throughout the feature although there is a little bit of dead time here and there.
[*] The Theatrical Trailer is also included which is in pretty good shape. Duration: 2:51 minutes.


Disc Two:
[*] Steve McQueen: The Essence Of Cool is a new documentary which includes interviews from Neile Adams (McQueen's first wife), Sir Richard Attenborough, Norman Jewison, Chad McQueen (Steve's son), Peter Yates and McQueen’s widow, Barbara Minty, to name a few. The documentary is as thorough as you could imagine chronicling McQueen's complicated life and his legendary career. A number friends and co-stars reflect on their brush with McQueen's greatness throughout their careers. The feature also premieres June 1st on Turner Classic Movies. Essential viewing for fans of Steve McQueen. Duration: 86:56 minutes.
[*] Bullitt: Steve McQueen's Commitment To Reality is a documentary promo that was produced during the production. A number of individuals who were involved with the film are featured here. While the majority of this feature is behind the scenes footage, audio comments from those involved include Steve McQueen and director Peter Yates. Topics discussed are the inclusion of real doctors and nurses in the hospital scenes, the hurdles of some of the location shoots and obviously, the chase scene. A super little feature which offers up some terrific behind the scenes footage of the production. Duration: 10:13 minutes.
[*] The Cutting Edge: The Magic Of Movie Editing is a 2004 feature that focuses entirely on the issue of film editing - an inclusion that is apropos in light of the film's Best Film Editing Academy Award. Among those in attendance are Sean Penn, Walter Murch, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Rob Cohen, Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott just to name a few who make an appearance here. Many of these participants disclose the importance of editing and how editing played a key role (citing and showing examples) in the various successes of their films, a great example being Spielberg who discusses the masterful editing of Jaws. The feature is narrated by Kathy Bates. This is an incredibly detailed feature filled with a treasure trove of information relating to film editing. If you're interested in the film making process, this isn't to be missed. Duration: 99:15 minutes.

Special Features: 5/5
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**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



Final Thoughts:
The late 60's and early 70's is a period which isn't my favorite in terms of film, but without question, Bullitt is a film that is the exception - at least in my little world and the film stands as one of the best to come out of the decade. Aside from a text book example of film editing, Bullitt offers its fans two hours of wonderful entertainment in this taut crime drama with an interesting twist. Arguably, the film highlights one of Steve McQueen's finest performances and the car chase is legendary in scale.

Unfortunately, I can't offer members here a direct comparison to the original release, but I can't imagine this version not besting the original one by a long margin. For those who have held off, Warner’s has made the wait worthwhile as the presentation is superb and the special features are as impressive as the film itself - all of which make my decision to give this Special Edition my highest recommendation, an easy one.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
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Highly Recommended...!!




Release Date: May 31st, 2005






The Essential Steve McQueen Collection
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My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 60 Hal F

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Posted May 31 2005 - 01:38 AM

Thanks for the review. Nice screenshots. Looks like they did a great job on the transfer.
Just placed my order for this yesterday and really looking forward to seeing the whole thing. Only seen parts of it over the years its been shown on tv.

#3 of 60 Robert Crawford

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Posted May 31 2005 - 01:58 AM

I remember when I watched this film for the first time in a movie theater with my buddies and our countless silly arguments afterwards on whether a Mustang can take a Charger in such a race through the streets of San Francisco. Needless to say, this film is special for me and brings back a few memories from my youth. I can't wait until my boxset arrives. I think etailers are having trouble getting this box in because my source is late shipping my order.

Thanks for the great review!







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#4 of 60 John Hodson

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Posted May 31 2005 - 02:24 AM

Those grave robbers at Ford (with a TV ad that featured a digitally resurrected McQueen 'driving' a Puma - as if he would have lowered himself...) have done their best to ruin this film for me, but it still remains one of the tightest written, acted and directed action films ever.

And it's not only the chase that's iconic - how about the title sequence? And not a computer in sight...

Thanks Herb; my set is somewhere over the Atlantic and I cannot wait.
So many films, so little time...
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#5 of 60 TravisR

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Posted May 31 2005 - 02:32 AM

Awesome review! Now if Amazon would move thier ass and get my copy to me, I'd be a happy boyPosted Image

#6 of 60 Michael Osadciw

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Posted May 31 2005 - 03:09 AM

Absolutely hilarious!

I was just talking about this film the other day wondering if there was going to be a new edition of it on DVD. And here it is! I had no idea!

Thanks for the review, Herb! I'll be sure to pick this up!

Mike
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#7 of 60 Parker Clack

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Posted May 31 2005 - 03:43 AM

That chase scene is what every other chase scene in a movie since has based on.

I used to own a black '66 Stang and I had a guy drive up beside me in a brand new '70 Firebird 455HD. He flagged me over to a parking lot, got out of his car and walked over to me and said "What year model is this?" which I replied "A '66" to which he said "Yeah. It's just like the car that Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt. I will trade you my car for yours if you are interested." I passed on the deal as I really loved my Stang. 2 weeks later I threw a rod and had to sell it so I could have something to drive. I still miss that car to this day.

Great review as usual Herb.

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#8 of 60 oscar_merkx

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Posted May 31 2005 - 04:30 AM

great review and superb documentaries.

Sold
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#9 of 60 Randy B A

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Posted May 31 2005 - 04:42 AM

Nice review, I will be picking up the box set on july 11 at costco when the $10 coupon is active.

#10 of 60 Paul_Scott

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Posted May 31 2005 - 05:10 AM

i think you guys need to be careful- you're setting up first time viewers, espcially younger ones, with some big expectations for that car chase and i'm afraid there will be a backlash.
especially considering a lot of them will be 'sticking out the slow parts of the movie' to get to this great chase they keep hearing about.

i agree it great- but the reasons i think its great are probably in direct opposition to what someone else is probably looking for- after being weaned on James Cameron, Michael Bay, Friedkin, Frankenheimer, etc.

#11 of 60 John Hodson

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Posted May 31 2005 - 05:30 AM

Backlash away; tempering praise for classic movies based on the tastes and sensibilities of a supposedly less forgiving, more demanding younger generation? I think not...
So many films, so little time...
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#12 of 60 Robert Crawford

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Posted May 31 2005 - 05:58 AM

i think you guys need to be careful- you're setting up first time viewers, espcially younger ones, with some big expectations for that car chase and i'm afraid there will be a backlash.
especially considering a lot of them will be 'sticking out the slow parts of the movie' to get to this great chase they keep hearing about.

Life is tough even for those with youth on their side!







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#13 of 60 TravisR

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Posted May 31 2005 - 06:11 AM

The best thing about the chase is that it takes place in the realm of possibility. It's not like Fast And The Furious where the cars almost fly. I could see some people who have only seen junk like that being let down by something realisitic (for a movie car chase). Too bad for them though. Posted Image

#14 of 60 JohnMor

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Posted May 31 2005 - 06:46 AM

Quote:
Life is tough even for those with youth on their side!
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#15 of 60 Aaron Silverman

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Posted May 31 2005 - 08:29 AM

This was a must-buy anyway, but two full-length documentaries (both good)??? Zounds!!! Posted Image Posted Image

Great review as always, Herb!
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#16 of 60 Elijah Sullivan

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Posted May 31 2005 - 09:26 AM

I watched The Cutting Edge documentary last night and blown away. What an awesome documentary! For a real film buff, it's among the coolest ever. Tons of good clips, some really fascinating interviews, and some great stories. There's a lot of "what is editing?" stuff that might bore anyone in the know, but the rest of the time, it's wonderful.

My favorite parts were with Walter Murch -- a god among film editors -- who is intervewed extensively and we even see him at work editing Cold Mountain and choosing cuts right on camera!.

I geeked out so badly. That guy is just too cool.

Be sure to stick out the end credits for a bit where Robert Zemeckis tells a funny story about Steven Spielberg making a nuisance of himself.

#17 of 60 oscar_merkx

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Posted May 31 2005 - 10:39 AM

I have always thought that the car chase in Ronin comes pretty close
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#18 of 60 Robert Crawford

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Posted May 31 2005 - 10:43 AM

I have always thought that the car chase in Ronin comes pretty close

However, 30 years after the standard has been set.







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#19 of 60 oscar_merkx

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Posted May 31 2005 - 10:45 AM

true but then again it took 30 years to come that close
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#20 of 60 Robert Crawford

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Posted May 31 2005 - 10:47 AM

true but then again it took 30 years to come that close

Actually, I think the car chases in "The French Connection" and "The Seven-Ups" are just as good as the one in Ronin.

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