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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Untouchables

Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted June 24 2007 - 07:10 PM

Blu-ray Disc/DVD REVIEW

Special Collector’s Edition

Posted Image
Studio: Paramount
Film Year: 1987
Film Length: 1 hour 59 minutes
Genre: Action/Thriller

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

BD Resolution: 1080p
BD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC @ over 30MBPS
Colour/B&W: Colour

  • English EX Dolby Digital 5.1 640kps
  • English DTS 6.1 1.5 Mbps
  • French EX Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish EX Dolby Digital 5.1

    Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
    Film Rating: R

    Posted Image Posted Image

  • Release Date: July 3, 2007

    Film Rating: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image ½ / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    Starring: Kevin Costner, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Robert De Niro and Sean Connery

    Screenplay by: David Mamet
    Directed by: Brian De Palma

    The Untouchables hit the big screen in 1987, featuring the first major lead performance by Kevin Costner and a commercial comeback by Brian De Palma after the box office disappointments of Body Double and Wise Guys. I still remember seeing the trailer at the time, which promised one heck of a movie – an adaptation of the Robert Stack TV show by David Mamet and Brian De Palma with the onscreen mayhem led by Robert De Niro as Al Capone and Sean Connery as one of the good guys. Unfortunately, the film simply did not live up to the hype and the trailer. Instead of the 1930s replay of Scarface that audiences expected, the film was inexplicably stiff – featuring scenes of Mamet dialogue that varied in effectiveness, and a minimum of action set pieces. An LA Weekly review from the time correctly noted that this was not the bloody epic hoped for from the author of American Buffalo and the director of Scarface. Nevertheless, the film became a modest hit, rejuvenating De Palma’s directorial career and winning Sean Connery an Academy Award.

    Seen today, 20 years later, The Untouchables holds up fairly well as a solid adaptation of the television series, mostly through the strength of the Mamet dialogue and the glorious De Palma camera flourishes. The climactic set piece lifted from Eisenstein’s Potemkin still feels like a pretty wild choice, but the film is undeniably entertaining. Robert De Niro still steals the movie with an effective cameo as Capone, and Sean Connery radiates star power as the veteran policeman who tutors Elliot Ness to greatness.

    This is the third time The Untouchables has been released on DVD. A bare bones standard definition was released in 2001, followed by a “Special Collector’s Edition” in 2004 which included nearly an hour of new featurettes assembled by Laurent Bouzereau and a 5 minute promotional featurette from 1987, along with the original theatrical trailer. The new Blu-Ray release of the film essentially ports over the 2004 edition, including the menu screen, with a new 1080p transfer of the film and the trailer.

    As an added bonus, the Blu-Ray DVD includes a 1.5 Mbps 6.1 DTS sound mix that adds a lot of punch to the package.

    Posted ImageVIDEO QUALITY: 4 ½ /5 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image ½

    The Untouchables is presented in a solid 1080p MPEG-4 AVC transfer that is a pleasure to watch. The opulence of Al Capone’s hotel suite really comes across here, as does the detail of the wardrobe designed primarily by Giorgio Armani. The detail is clear enough to reveal the edits made by De Palma in the opening scene with Capone (the shaving cream on his face and eyelashes noticeably shifts from one shot to another) and the texture of the wardrobe worn by the various characters. (The closing courtroom scenes are a lovely display of finely patterned suit jackets that would not come across very well on a standard definition transfer). The Canadian border shootout comes across particularly well in this transfer, with the detail of the Montana location really coming off the screen. There are some moments where the picture is a little less crisp, but this is clearly a matter of the source print, which has been restored about as well as anyone could ask.

    Posted ImageAUDIO QUALITY: 4 ½ /5 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image ½

    The Untouchables is presented in English, French and Spanish in a 640k 5.1 EX surround mix, but the real treat here is the 1.5 Mb 6.1 DTS mix included on the disc. The DTS mix carries a lot more detail and punch, with the additional memory allotted to the sound. Multiple scenes are helped by the added clarity, including the Canadian border shootout (where effects and music lift the scene considerably). The biggest impact of this mix comes in the Potemkin train station shootout – the only words I can think to describe the mix here would be a bit non-technical: “Wheee!!!” or “Yee-ha!!!” would be a good place to start as the gunshots play out throughout the surround field and the music fills the theatre...

    Posted ImageSPECIAL FEATURES: 4/5 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    The Blu-Ray presentation of The Untouchables presents all of the special features from the 2004 “Special Collector’s Edition” release in standard definition, with the theatrical trailer getting an HD transfer.

  • The Script, The Cast (18:32) (480p full frame) – Laurent Bouzereau’s four part documentary from the 2004 release is included here, starting with this initial segment. As with the other segments, this is presented in standard definition, full frame. The first piece of the documentary starts with Brian De Palma acknowledging in a 2004 interview that he made the film as the result of needing a box office hit after the lower box office done by his recent work at the time. At the time, he saw the film as a way to finance the smaller, more personal films he wanted to make. The casting of the film is discussed in depth, especially the machinations involved in landing Robert De Niro as Capone, even after Bob Hoskins had already been cast in the part. It is important to note that the only actor interview from 2004 is that of Charles Martin Smith. The interview segments with Kevin Costner, Andy Garcia and Sean Connery all clearly come from footage taken for the 1987 featurette “The Men”, also included on this disc.

  • Production Stories (17:19) (480p full frame) – This part of Bouzereau’s documentary features discussion of the various Chicago locations, along with some interesting comments by both De Palma and his cameraman, Stephen Burum. Burum discusses the filming of the church “blood oath” scene between Connery and Costner, describing the difficulty of lighting a location that large with a limited amount of equipment. De Palma acknowledges that he wanted to film the opening moment with De Niro in a single shot but could never get a take that would work all the way through. After almost 20 takes, he decided to film several cutaways of the reporters and Capone’s barber to allow him to cut between the takes he had already filmed.

  • Reinventing the Genre (14:24) (480p full frame) – The third part of the featurette series discusses the major set pieces of the film, from the Canadian border shootout through the deaths of two major characters and the climactic train station shootout. De Palma discusses the difficulty of shooting a major sequence with Sean Connery, particularly after debris from a squib hit flew into Connery’s eye and shut down filming. For the climax, De Palma discusses the Potemkin steps sequence as coming almost off the top of his head, when the scripted train shootout by David Mamet was deemed to be too expensive.

  • The Classic (5:41) (480p full frame) – This final featurette from Laurent Bouzereau briefly discusses the end of filming and the scoring of the picture. An alternate ending is mentioned by Stephen Burum, which would have shown Capone being shaved in prison in the same manner as he does at the beginning of the film. As a printable take of this was never achieved, the footage has not been included here – a shame, as this would have been an interesting piece of footage. A very brief discussion of Ennio Morricone’s score is also included, but the 5 minute limit on this piece prevents the discussion from getting into any kind of depth.

  • The Men (1987 Featurette) (5:26) (480p full frame) – The original promotional piece for the film is included here along with Laurent Bouzereau’s work. This piece doesn’t say much, but it does show where the vintage footage of Costner, Garcia and Connery seen in the modern documentary comes from. There really isn’t much here – it’s effectively a long commercial for the movie.

  • Original Theatrical Trailer (2:50) (1080p MPEG-2) – A high definition transfer of the film’s original trailer has been included, of a lower video quality than the feature itself. The trailer still holds up today as an entertainment piece, showing the allure that brought many audiences in to see the film in 1987.

    Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French and Spanish for the film itself as well as for the special features. The usual Blu-Ray pop-up menu is accessible during the film.

    IN THE END...

    The Untouchables comes across better today in 2007 than it did when it premiered in 1987. 20 years of time to think about the film definitely helps one’s appreciation for the work done here by Brian De Palma and his cast from the David Mamet script. The 1080p AVC transfer is also a big help in reminding the viewer how good this film can look. But beyond that, it’s the full-throated 1.5 Mbps DTS mix that makes this a must-see for fans of this film, as well as those of De Palma and De Niro.

    Kevin Koster
    June 24, 2007.

  • #2 of 12 OFFLINE   Jim_K


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    Posted June 24 2007 - 10:46 PM

    Thanks for the review. Glad to see Paramount come through again. Posted Image This is one of my favorite films from the 80's so there's no way I wouldn't be picking it up.
    Death before Streaming!

    #3 of 12 OFFLINE   Jordan_E



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    Posted June 25 2007 - 05:36 AM

    Can't wait. Love the music, the look, and Sean Connery. Sold!
    And you believe, at heart, everyone's a killer...

    #4 of 12 OFFLINE   Harpozep


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    Posted June 25 2007 - 05:56 AM

    A favorite of mine from the '80's! Glad to hear it has been transfered well.

    I always thought Billy Drago as Frank Niti stole the show. I really wanted him to play the Joker in Keaton's Batman . Jack was fine, but Drago had the look and the cruelness in him to make me cringe as a Joker. Oh well...

    Posted ImagePosted Image

    Looks like another Blu Ray purchase for the collection!Posted Image

    #5 of 12 OFFLINE   Paul Arnette

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    Posted June 25 2007 - 06:10 AM

    You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That's* the *Chicago* way! And that's how you get Capone.

    I've absolutely loved this movie since the day I first saw it in the theaters. I'm very excited to own this in HD.

    One thing that gave me pause however, was the mention of edge enhancement in the High Def Digest review. This isn't going to keep me from purchasing it by any means, but I was curious if you saw any EE in the transfer?
    Universal Blu-ray Discs I will not be buying while they're offered only as Blu-ray + DVD 'flipper' discs:

    The Jackal
    , Out of Africa, and Traffic.

    #6 of 12 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted June 25 2007 - 07:01 AM

    I did notice some shimmer here and there. (The finely patterned Armani suits occasionally show this - but it was mild enough that I didn't find it annoying. It's far better than what you see on a standard def transfer.) The hi-def digest review also mentions a lot of edge halos, but I honestly wasn't seeing them.

    I'm viewing everything on a Sony 40" XBR2 with a full 1080p image, and I'm playing the Blu-Ray discs on a PS3 with an HDMI connection to the HDTV. Either that's giving me a pretty good picture, or I'm just not seeing the same things the reviewer at hi-def digest saw. I'm admittedly not an expert on the technology, but if I see something really jarring, you know I'll squawk about it...

    #7 of 12 OFFLINE   Rachael B

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    Posted June 26 2007 - 02:17 PM

    I have thi one on order,,,,I'll watch for edge enhancement. I think some folks take natural edge halos in high contrast shots as edge enhancing.
    Rachael, the big disc cat is in real life Dot Mongur, Champion of the International Pacman Federation. You better be ready to rumble if you play Jr. Pacman with me. This is full contact Pacman and I don't just play the game, I operate it!

    #8 of 12 OFFLINE   Andy_MT


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    Posted June 28 2007 - 11:25 AM

    has anyone seen this on a bigger display (i.e. 60+ or front projection) ? if so, what's the ee like ? i'm sure it's not as annoying on a 40" display, but the bigger you go, the more you notice the flaws. god bless 'em.

    having been recently subjected to some of universals HD-DVDs from their "halo enhanced, moudly old master" collection, i'm trying to cut back on upgrading if studios can't do the job right. particularly on non-necessary but nice to have purchases like this.


    #9 of 12 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist


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    Posted June 28 2007 - 02:35 PM

    I just posted my review of the HD-DVD. I'm watching on a 92" screen, and the EE was noticeable, but not intrusive. It tee's me off we're still getting this in a HD age...
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    #10 of 12 OFFLINE   BrettB



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    Posted June 28 2007 - 02:43 PM

    Never got this on dvd so definite possible purchase.

    I'd like to commend you on giving the codec, rez, etc info on the extras. Thank you.

    #11 of 12 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted June 29 2007 - 06:08 AM

    Thank you, Brett. One nice feature of the PS3 is that I can check the memory and codecs - and the TV itself has a feature that lets me monitor the resolution. I've noticed as a rule that the upgraded trailers on pretty much every one of these catalogue releases is usually MPEG-2 rather than AVC. I've also noticed discs where some extra features are presented in 1080i.

    Pat, did you just say NINETY-TWO INCH SCREEN?!!!! Holy Toledo!

    #12 of 12 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott


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    Posted June 29 2007 - 07:50 AM

    Originally Posted by PatWahlquist
    I just posted my review of the HD-DVD. I'm watching on a 92" screen, and the EE was noticeable, but not intrusive. It tee's me off we're still getting this in a HD age...

    is the EE introduced when a film is telecined? Is it on the master or introduced after that?

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