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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Pale Rider



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#1 of 7 ONLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted August 31 2008 - 12:00 PM

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Release Date: Available now (original release date August 26, 2008)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case
Year: 1985
Rating: R
Running Time: 1h56m
Video: 1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1 / Special Features 480p standard definition
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1: English; Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 1.0, Spanish (Castillian 2S, Latin 2.0), German 1.0, Italian 1.0, Japanese 1.0 / Special Features stereo and mono
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish / Special Features none
MSRP: $28.99

The Feature: 3.5/5
A humble, California mining camp is beset by the local strip mining baron and his thugs until a mysterious preacher (Clint Eastwood) shows up - at first to fight the miners' battles but ultimately to bolster their spirits. His presence does the most good for Hull Barrett (Michael Moriarty), who becomes the unofficial leader of the camp once he sees what a little faith and courage (not to mention a hickory ax handle) can do. The women in Hull's life - his fiancée Sarah (Carrie Snodgrass) and Sarah's daughter Megan (Sydney Penny) - are equally inspired by the preacher, though the ghosts in his past will keep him from ever being the type of man they need. Once he helps the miners and their families, the preacher plans to move on, as he's probably done in other places and at other times, but this time, fate has given him something extra - a chance to settle an old score and silence some of those voices from his past.

"Pale Rider" marked Eastwood's return to the Western after nine years; years that included a few Dirty Harry and a couple "Any Which Way..." movies. After such a long time away from a career-making genre, Eastwood relied on the familiar - the iconic "Man with No Name" - but gave him a few more things to say this time, mostly about love, justice and bravery. In some respects the film feels like an early attempt at expressing some of the ideas and themes that ultimately came out fully formed in "Unforgiven." Of course the aesthetics of the Western (and Japanese samurai films) are fully embraced, rather than deconstructed, in this film, making it a decent genre entry but nothing on the level of what Eastwood would give us seven years later. The Pale Rider's introduction in particular feels heavy handed and melodramatic, unnecessary embellishments given the inherent weight and power of the nameless character. Nevertheless, it's hard to deny the thrill one feels seeing Eastwood sporting a duster and six-shooters - the strength of that iconic image overpowering any missteps in storytelling.


Video Quality: 4/5
The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1, encoded in VC-1 and mostly free of physical blemishes. Taking a naturalistic approach to the cinematography, the production's interior environments are often engulfed in shadow, as they would be with only kerosene lamps (or no lamps at all) for illumination. Black levels are stable and deep throughout and though shadow detail and delineation are lacking, by all indications this was an intentional effect by the filmmakers. Things seem like less of a struggle outdoors, the sunlit, mountainous vistas coming across beautifully, though the lower end of the contrast range continues to seem a bit crushed. Fine object detail is excellent, with visible texture in felt hats and a nice three-dimensionality in clouds of dust and smoke. Grain structure seems to have been preserved, though in the early part of the film, there is also some visible noise in the expanse of pine trees and the wood siding of the town buildings. There is some slight edge enhancement at times, but only during the most high contrast situations. The opening titles also show a bit of horizontal jitter.


Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Though offering a 5.1 mix in both Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital formats, surround and front channel activity consists mostly of support for the soundtrack, with some minor - and largely unremarkable - dynamic effects. Consequently things sound predominantly front-focused, with dialogue being the principal material, though the jangle of the Preacher's spurs also seem to be its own form of communication. Overall the Dolby TrueHD option sounds smoother and more detailed than the compressed Dolby Digital track, though most will require some aggressive A-B comparison to really pick up on it. In either case dialogue is clear and intelligible.


Special Features: 1/5

Trailers: Pale Rider and Unforgiven.


Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 1/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

Though not the best of Eastwood's Westerns, there's still a lot to appreciate about his return to a familiar character type and genre. The lack of special features might seem to say otherwise, but for those who don't get much out of extras, the good high definition video and audio treatment should serve as sufficient endorsement.
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#2 of 7 OFFLINE   jeffreybehr

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Posted September 01 2008 - 05:08 AM

I sure enjoyed it on BD, and I had never seen it.

#3 of 7 OFFLINE   Lou Sytsma

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Posted September 01 2008 - 08:00 AM

One of favourites - a great bookend to High Plains Drifter.
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#4 of 7 OFFLINE   Stephen_J_H

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Posted September 01 2008 - 02:07 PM

I've always been a fan of this sideways remake of Shane. One of Clint's best performances.
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#5 of 7 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

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Posted September 02 2008 - 02:48 AM

too bad there are no special features for this one.

Always thought this was a truly outstanding CE Picture
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#6 of 7 OFFLINE   Dave Moritz

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Posted September 02 2008 - 05:09 AM

This may not be one of Eastwood best but I am very much looking forward to upgrading my DVD disc to the new Blu-ray. It will still be enjoyed just as much as High Plains Drifter or Unforgiven, both are top notch Eastwood. I am also looking foward to getting other Eastwood westerns on Blu-ray.
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#7 of 7 OFFLINE   Terry Hickey

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Posted July 15 2009 - 03:43 PM

Picked this up at Walmart for $10.00 and am pleased with the audio & video quality.