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Blu-ray Reviews


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#1 of 6 Richard Gallagher

Richard Gallagher


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Posted September 12 2009 - 06:09 PM




Studio: Sony/Columbia

Year: 1985

Rated: PG-13

Program Length: 132 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p

Languages: English, French, Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish 5.1

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish


The Program


In 1984 film director Lawrence Kasdan, fresh off the box office success of Body Heat and The Big Chill, was given the opportunity to do something which had not been accomplished for many years – make a big budget Hollywood western. He and his brother Mark wrote the screenplay, and an impressive ensemble cast was assembled. The production was filmed entirely on location in New Mexico, and the result was Silverado, an impressive-looking and traditional western which won over many fans but failed to inspire a large-scale revival of the genre.


Silverado opens with Emmett (Scott Glenn), a cowboy who recently completed a prison stretch, sleeping in a non-descript cabin located in the middle of nowhere. For no apparent reason, he is beset upon by a gang of gunmen who are determined to murder him. He manages to kill a couple of his attackers and fend off the remainder, but when the survivors of the attack flee they leave behind a pinto horse. Emmett then sets off with the pinto to meet up with his brother, Jake (Kevin Costner), in the town of Turley. While crossing the desert he comes across Paden (Kevin Kline), a philosophical type who was robbed and left to die by some treacherous companions. Emmett gives Paden food and water and the use of the pinto, and they head off together to a cavalry outpost. There Paden runs into a couple of acquaintances. First, he spots one of the men who robbed him, so he kills that man and recovers his horse. Then he meets Cobb (Brian Dennehy), a gunman with whom Paden had ridden in years past. Cobb offers Paden a job, but Paden tells him that he is not interested in that sort of life any longer.


Emmett and Paden then make their way to Turley. They stop for a drink in the saloon, where they meet Mal (Danny Glover), a black cowboy who gets into a fight with some cowboys who don’t like the idea of black man drinking at the bar. This altercation leads to an introduction to Sheriff Langston (John Cleese), who tells Mal to get out of town. The sheriff then informs Emmett that Jake has been convicted of murder and is scheduled to be hanged the next day. Jake insists that all he did was kiss a girl, but Sheriff Langston explains that the girl’s male friend ended up dead and a jury found Jake guilty. Emmett decides that he will have to break his brother out of jail, but Paden doesn’t want to get involved. However, Paden’s fortunes take a turn when he returns to the saloon and spots one of the other men who left him for dead in the desert. A gunfight ensues, and Paden reclaims his hat and guns but finds himself behind bars with Jake.


Following the inevitable jailbreak, Emmett, Jake and Paden head for Silverado, and along they way they meet up with the exiled Mal. The four men then come across a wagon train of homesteaders, also bound for Silverado. The wagon train has been robbed, and the four men decided to help out. This gives Paden an opportunity to introduce himself to Hannah (Rosanna Arquette), who has plans to be a farmer in Silverado. When the men arrive in Silverado, they discover that the sheriff and owner of the saloon is none other than Paden’s old friend Cobb. It appears that a war between Ethan McKendrick (Ray Baker), a wealthy and powerful rancher, and the homesteaders is about to erupt. Paden accepts a job in the saloon, where he befriends saloon manager Stella (Linda Hunt). A gambler named Slick (Jeff Goldblum) arrives in town and plays a pivotal role in ensuing events, which include as many spectacular gunfights as one could hope for.


Silverado does not break any new ground, but the exceptional cast and superb location photography caused it to be warmly received by fans of westerns. Kasdan keeps the action moving at a rapid pace, which is for the best because some of the plot developments are poorly constructed. The love interest between Paden and Hannah fizzles out when she makes it clear that she wants a farmer for a husband, but she abruptly (and without any exposition) develops a relationship with Emmett which ends almost immediately. We never see Hannah again until the last scene of the film. As noted, the gambler Slick plays an important role in the struggle between McKendrick and the four protagonists, but his motivation is never adequately explained. Nevertheless, Silverado has enough exciting action to make it a pleasurable way to while away a couple of hours.


The Video


The 2.40:1 1080p widescreen transfer of this Technicolor film is gorgeous. The image is consistently sharp and the spectacular vistas of New Mexico are a wonder to behold. The color palette is solid and accurate, with realistic flesh tones. The blues skies of the west are represented exactly as I remember them from my years in Colorado. A moderate amount of film grain gives Silverado a pleasing and film-like appearance. Black levels are solid and shadow detail is very good. This is another excellent Blu-ray transfer from Sony, and I am certain that it looks every bit as good as when I first saw the film in a theater back in 1985.


The Audio


The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is expansive and satisfying. The evocative and traditional score by Bruce Broughton is beautifully reproduced. Dialogue is always clear and understandable. The surround channels do not engage enough to create the effect of bullets whistling by, which one would expect from a more recent production, but that is at most a minor quibble.


The Supplements


The extras include a “making-of” featurette, letterboxed in standard definition, which has been ported over from the previous DVD release. A 16x9 interview with Kevin Costner appears to be of more recent vintage and includes high-definition clips from the film. A commentary track by three western historians helps to put Silverado in historical perspective, both in terms of the real west and the film’s place in the long line of Hollywood westerns.


The biggest disappointment is that this Blu-ray release does not include any deleted scenes, which presumably would have helped to fill in some of the gaps in the plot. During the “making of” featurette director Kasdan concedes that the sub-plot involving Rosanna Arquette’s character was trimmed (almost to irrelevance) because of time considerations.


Also included are trailers for The Da Vinci Code, Casino Royale, Ghostbusters, A River Runs Through It, and Damages Season One. Alas, the trailer for Silverado is not included.   


The Packaging


The single disc comes in a Sony “Blu-ray book,” similar to the packaging for Midnight Express, A River Runs Through It, and other recent Sony Blu-ray releases. The booklet contains still photos, reproductions of theatrical posters, and biographies of the principal actors.


The Final Analysis


Silverado is fondly remembered by many aficionados of westerns, and they should be very pleased by the way Sony has transferred it to Blu-ray. While the plot is somewhat routine, the excellent acting and realistic on-location photography gives it undeniable appeal.


Equipment used for this review:


Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player

Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 THX Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen

Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver

BIC Acoustech speakers

Interconnects: Monster Cable


Release Date: Available Now (released Rich Gallagher

#2 of 6 Robert Crawford

Robert Crawford

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Posted September 12 2009 - 10:58 PM

I wouldn't exactly call "Silverado" a recent western since in another three months or so, it will be 25 years since it's release year.  A recent western like "Open Range" would more likely have that sound effect you're looking for.  Besides that minor difference in opinion, thanks for the review as I'm looking forward to buying this BRD.




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#3 of 6 Michael Reuben

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Posted September 13 2009 - 01:37 AM

You know how it is, Crawdaddy. For folks of our vintage (Rich and me, maybe even you), 1985 just doesn't feel that long ago. /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif

Thanks, Rich! I've been looking forward to this one, and although I had faith that Sony would do a good job, I'm happy to have confirmation. (I wonder how many people here remember the very first DVD with its botched AR.)
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#4 of 6 TonyD


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Posted September 13 2009 - 05:10 AM

I remember it and have that and the fixed version.

25 years sure doesn't seem like so long ago to me but i see Robert's point.
This and Open Range are my 2 favorite recent westerns.


#5 of 6 Richard Gallagher

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Posted September 13 2009 - 06:42 AM

Originally Posted by Robert Crawford 

I wouldn't exactly call "Silverado" a recent western since in another three months or so, it will be 25 years since it's release year.  A recent western like "Open Range" would more likely have that sound effect you're looking for.  Besides that minor difference in opinion, thanks for the review as I'm looking forward to buying this BRD.

I guess I didn't phrase that very well. I meant to say that one would expect to hear "whistling bullets" in a more recent western, but not necessarily from one made in 1985. Your point is well taken.

Rich Gallagher

#6 of 6 ManW_TheUncool



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Posted September 13 2009 - 06:49 PM

Good to hear this one got the right treatment though it would've been nice to have all the previous extras ported -- guess I might just keep the old DVD for that.  Will probably pick this up at some point.


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