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The Sting: Universal Legacy Collection (Recommended)

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#1 of 47 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted September 08 2005 - 05:44 PM

Posted Image
The Sting: Universal Legacy Collection

Studio: Universal Studios Home Video
Year: 1973 (2005 Release)
Rated: PG
Aspect Ratio: 1.85x1, enhanced for 16x9 displays
Audio: English DD 5.1, 2.0 (mono), DTS 5.1; Spanish DD 5.1; French DD 2.0
Captions/Subtitles: English SDH; French and Spanish Subtitles
Time: 130 minutes
Disc Format: Disc 1: SS/DL; Disc 2: SS:SL
Layer Switch on Disc 1: 1:06:13
Case Style: Sturdy, Book-Style, Snap-Together Digipak

The Feature:
Robert Redford is Johnny Hooker, a Depression-era small-time grifter from Joliet, Illinois. Hooker and his two associates, including friend and mentor Luther, unintentionally con a numbers runner out of $11,000. As fate would have it, the money was intended for big-time New York Crime Boss Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). The Boss does not want to appear soft on those who steal from him, so he marks the grifters for death. The mentor is murdered, and Hooker runs for cover to Chicago.

To avenge Luther's death, Hooker enlists the assistance of the legendary Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), a down (but not out) expert at the type of "Big Con" that is needed to take Lonnegan down without him even knowing it. To complicate matters, Hooker is being followed by Joliet detective Lieutenant Snyder (Charles Durning) on a counterfeiting rap. Gondorff is being tailed by the feds, who enlist the help of Snyder to ensnare Hooker. Hooker is coerced to turn on Gondorff. And there is still someone who wants Hooker's head on a plate. Ya follow?

While all this is going on, a team of the best confidence men and women in town all line up for their chance at avenging the death of one of their own. The "big con" this time is a Western Union wire tied to a fake bookie joint with the goal to sucker Lonnegan into placing a huge bet. What gets tricky is being able to keep the money without Lonnegan getting wise to the con.

Set during the Depression, The Sting features a wonderful ensemble cast; Redford and Newman have the same chemistry that made Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid a hit; Robert Shaw is so menacing, it's funny. The movie includes great sets, locations, and costumes indicative of that era, and the wonderful ragtime music of Scott Joplin, which was arranged (and essentially rediscovered) by Marvin Hamlish (note: for the purist who recognizes that ragtime music originates from the turn-of-the-century instead of the Great Depression, tune into the making-of documentary on disc 2).

In the end, the movie won seven well-deserved Academy Awards, including those for Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design, Editing, and Score.

The Sting is one of the few movies that was so good that my family went out to see it twice when it was in theaters over 30 years ago. The second viewing was warranted, not only because of the plot complexities, but also because the movie was just plain fun. To this day, I love this movie.

The Feature: 5 / 5
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The Sting is, finally, 1.85x1 and enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The anamorphic enhancement alone lends itself to a vast improvement over the dreary full-frame DVD released in the 1990's. There is only a touch of grain and the occasional fleck of dirt to remind us that this was not originally shot on a digital medium. There were a only a couple of minor video nasties, (like that jarring bit of aliasing when the lined board is carried across a horizontal pole). The video is not perfect. It is very good, however, and the best we'll ever see on standard definition DVD.

The color palate tends to the browns and maroons; according to the DVD's production notes this was the intent of director George Roy Hill and cinematographer Robert Surtees after they viewed dozens of features made in that era. Thus, the 1930's Universal logo is a sepia tone; the streets of Joliet tend to be brown; the colors spike when we visit the gambling parlor in New York; Chicago has better color even still, at least as far as carousels, cars, and fake betting parlors are concerned. Add to that the suits of brown, tweed, black, blacker-than-black (i.e., tuxedos), even charcoal represented faithfully on the screen, and I'm happy.

Video: 4.5 / 5
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There are enough sound choices to appease almost every dialect in region 1, without compromising the video quality. Apart from the DD 2.0 (original) mono mixes in both English and French, there is a new 5.1 mix in English and Spanish. The English 5.1 mix is available in Dolby Digital and DTS. It was very difficult to do an on-the-fly comparison of DD to DTS because anytime the DTS track was engaged, the player was forced into the DTS piano chord intro, and the movie started over.

I did notice that the 5.1 mix included some new sound effects--a train pan across the front and some gunshots--but this was secondary to the clear and focused dialogue on the center channel, and Marvin Hamlish's lovely Oscar-winning score of Scott Joplin ragtime music--now in stereo. If you are a purist like I am, you will probably play that monophonic track occasionally. But there is nothing so jarring in the 5.1 mix to make it undesirable.

Sound: 4 / 5
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Disc 1 is sans extras, most likely to permit all those audio tracks.

Disc 2 includes a current documentary "The Art of The Sting" in three parts that total 0:56:17. There are movie clips galore--spoilers included--and talking-heads interviews with Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Charles Durning, Marvin Hamlish, Eileen Brennan, Ray Walston, and David Ward. It did not do much for me, but that's probably due to the hour of this writing. I'll put this on in the background one afternoon and it will be great.

Disc 2 also includes a vintage, post-Oscars trailer, and a few pages of production notes.

Considering the stature of this film, I find the extras to be a little too thin.

Extras: 3 / 5
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In Conclusion:
The Sting is a favorite film, and a fine choice for inclusion in the first wave of the Universal Legacy Series. While I would have liked more extras (maybe a commentary track) the fact that the movie got a long-overdue makeover is a cause to celebrate.

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5
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Release Date: September 6, 2005

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#2 of 47 OFFLINE   Dave>h


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Posted September 09 2005 - 01:27 AM

The Sting in DTS - are you kidding me!! I have this on order with Amazon and I am SO looking forward to it arriving. This is one of my top 10 favorite films of all time and the prior DVD release was a tragedy of epic proportions. This release hopefully (finally) does justice to one of the best films in cinematic history (IMHO). I was 6 or 7 when my Mom took me to this. It took me years to figure out what was happening in this film - I think I saw it again on TV when I was 12 or so (ah the days before VHS) and the lights finally went on, the "Sting" came into focus. Ever since then I have loved this film. It is just so layered, so well acted, so well set up, it is just amazing. And the music!! All those Scott Joplin tunes are so great. Made me fall in love with the piano too! Who knew an instrument could reflect the feelings of joy and sadness so powerfully (at 6, I certainly didn't!). Thanks for the review! Dave

#3 of 47 OFFLINE   Jeff Bamberger

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Posted September 09 2005 - 03:34 AM

Steve......any thoughts related to the other threads regarding what some people are theorizing could be some misframing? Didn't stop me from buying one of my favorites of all time....I was just curious what you thought on the topic?

#4 of 47 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted September 09 2005 - 03:36 AM

Nice review, Steve. Finally, we can purchase the DVD.

#5 of 47 OFFLINE   Doug Wallen

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Posted September 09 2005 - 05:25 AM

Watched this one the other day and it brought back all the memories I had when I first watched this back in the 70's. My 12 year old son had a blast verifying what I already knew, this is one great movie. Glad I was able to get this.

#6 of 47 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted September 09 2005 - 09:37 AM

I'd be interested too to hear about the framing. However I will probably buy this one blind (gasp! I haven't seen it yet!) as it's gotten great reviews and I like the principals in this movie.

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#7 of 47 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx


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Posted September 09 2005 - 10:17 AM

Thanks for the great review Love this film
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#8 of 47 OFFLINE   Erik_H


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Posted September 09 2005 - 12:08 PM

I just watched the making-of documentary, which I enjoyed but was startled by the passage of time between the interviews and this week's release of the interview footage on the special edition DVD. An elderly Ray Walston is interviewed, and according to IMDB.com, he passed away on January 1, 2001. The interview footage with Paul Newman also appears to have been filmed some time ago---having seen him on Broadway several years ago in the revival of "Our Town," he looks noticeably younger in the interview footage than when I saw him on stage from the third row of the orchestra at the Booth Theater. In other words, the Newman and Walston interviews appear to date from either the late 1990s or no later than 2000/2001. Makes me wonder if Universal planned to release the special edition of "The Sting" on DVD at a much earlier date.

#9 of 47 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted September 09 2005 - 12:50 PM

I don't think Newman's interview was done until after George Roy Hill's death in 2002. I think other than Walston, the rest of the interviews were done recently over the last couple of years too. Crawdaddy

#10 of 47 OFFLINE   Bill>Moore


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Posted September 09 2005 - 02:39 PM

I didn't know this was coming out until I saw it in the store today. Great, great movie and I'll have to pick it up.

#11 of 47 OFFLINE   JoshB


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Posted September 09 2005 - 08:54 PM

Would anyone recommend this as a blind buy, and does it have any repeat value?

I like both Redford and Newman's work, and have heard a great deal about this film and saw it in the store the past few days, but I picked up Deer Hunter and To Kill a Mockingbird: Legacy Series first before getting this one.

Anyone have some thoughts and comments? Posted Image
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#12 of 47 OFFLINE   Alan_H


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Posted September 09 2005 - 08:57 PM

Carlo, no need to fear, you will definitely enjoy this movie! If there's such a thing as a 'safe' blind buy - this is it. Like Dave h, it is one of my top ten favorite movies of all-time also!

EDIT: Josh B, I just saw your post. I guess you know what my opinion is. And yes, it's still a fun film even after many viewings.

#13 of 47 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted September 10 2005 - 03:00 AM

Josh, the movie definitely holds up to multiple viewings, as my friends and I were commenting last night (and yes, I was seeing it for the second time in as many days). Subsequent viewings reveal some of the subtleties of the plot that, in one case, I did not even notice until Thursday. And I've seen the movie numerous times since 1973. As for the framing...it doesn't lend itself to an apples-to-apples comparison, but the Oscar-vintage 4x3 trailer on disc 2 has a hard matted image. Since it has been established that the movie was projected in theaters originally hard-matted, I figured this was a semi-basis for comparison. When compared to the image on the current disc, there are some differences on the top and right sides--the old trailer reveals more, but not enough to be distracting--and probably not enough to even be noticed on TV's with typical amounts of overscan. There is a negligible difference on the bottom of the image. But again, since I am comparing the DVD transfer to a trailer, it's not really very valid. Who knows how the DVD looks compared a proper 35mm presentation? Maybe Peter could conduct another screening, and we could attend with our micrometers. Bottom line: I do not find the DVD framing to be distracting. - Steve

#14 of 47 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 10 2005 - 04:02 AM

This film is a classic!

Prior to this week's DVD release I watched it
only once on VHS almost 20 years ago. I didn't
really enjoy the film but decided to give it
another shot on DVD.

Just viewed it again a few nights ago and I
loved it! I think a lot has to do with the
quality of the presentation and the fact that
my taste in film has dramatically changed from
where I was 20 years ago. Back then, this was
a rather boring film for me to get through since
most of it is a "setup" to the ending.

Today, I look at The Sting as a brilliantly
played film. In fact, what I really noticed was
its clever cinematography. I loved the usage of
shots taken through windows and under stairs. A
really well-made film with an excellent screenplay,
all accented by Scott Joplin and Marvin Hamlish's

Right up there with Butch and Sundance!


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#15 of 47 OFFLINE   Haggai



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Posted September 10 2005 - 04:24 AM

Ron, have you seen the trailer, on disc 2? It ends with a funny reference: the narrator says something like, "Paul Newman, and Robert Redford...maybe this time they'll get away with it!"

#16 of 47 OFFLINE   george kaplan

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Posted September 10 2005 - 04:41 AM

I never blind buy, and never recommend it to others, but if there was ever an exception, it would be this film. I saw this on it's initial release when I was 11, and loved it. This won best oscar at a time when that meant something, sandwiched between wins for The Godfather 1 & 2. A great film on lots of levels, and if you were ever going to take a chance on a blind buy, this would be the film to do it on.
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#17 of 47 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 10 2005 - 05:30 AM

Agreed, George! Well said!

Haggai, I haven't had time to watch the
extras. I am going to try to get to the
documentary next week.

I remember a big deal was made about this
film on a '70s show called That's Hollywood
where they discussed the Matte paintings used
in this film and the way it was tied in with
the usage of overhead train. I am very interested
in revisiting that.


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#18 of 47 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted September 10 2005 - 09:25 AM

I love THE STING. It's in my Top Ten list of all-time great movies. I think it's a film you can watch over and over and enjoy more and more as you do. For me, at least, the more I watched this film the more I caught onto little details. I don't say it's the same way for everyone, but the first time I saw the film I was a kid and a lot of the stuff went over my head. Even later on I had to watch it a couple of times and once it clicked, it clicked big.

#19 of 47 OFFLINE   Al (alweho)

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Posted September 10 2005 - 10:37 AM

This is a reference to their previous pairing in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."
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#20 of 47 OFFLINE   Haggai



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Posted September 10 2005 - 10:55 AM

Well, yes, of course it is. I meant "funny" as in "funny ha-ha," not "funny, I wonder what they're talking about." I mentioned it because Ron had just referred to Butch and Sundance.

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