I watched the new Criterion blu-ray last night on my projection system. What a pleasure! The image quality is marvelous; I felt like I could step right into the picture and spend the weekend.
It is wonderful to see so much detail that I had never seen before. I saw it only once on the big screen, when it came out in 1983. I was only 19, but I loved it; I didn't necessarily "get it" like I do now, but I was living far from home for the first time and it made me feel like I had friends. After that, I recorded it from HBO and watched that VHS many times. I never bought the laserdisc because, at the time, the laserdiscs coming from what was then RCA/Columbia Home Video were among the worst and I simply wasn't going to spend the money and be disappointed again (which is ironic since these days the Columbia catalog is looking so terrific thanks to Sony). I am not sure why I never picked up the Criterion laserdisc, but the VHS served me until the 15th anniversary DVD.
One thing I noticed in particular is that nuances in facial expressions are, to me, so much more apparent in hi-def. As an example, there is a moment between William Hurt and Tom Berenger that I had actually never noticed before, and it is an important moment for their characters. It takes place on the extreme left of the frame, and I am wondering if it was actually cropped in the pan-and-scan version I watched for so many years. (The conversation is actually going on more to the right of the frame and for pan and scan there may have been a compromise there. Thank goodness we have most new releases in OAR now.) I reviewed the DVD and William Hurt's face is so dark you can't see the intensity of his expression, but on the blu-ray it reads beautifully. In case there are those who haven't seen this film, I will say more about this moment in a spoiler.
I am so pleased with this blu-ray. The only thing that could have made it even better is if they had included the flashback sequence in the extras, but I suspect they would have to pay Costner a hefty sum for that since he was eliminated from the film.