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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Bonfire of the Vanities -- in Blu-ray (1 Viewer)

Robert Harris

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Brian De Palma's 1990 Bonfire of the Vanities, is a big budget film for the time, that seems to work and make its point in small ways, but never makes the big picture.

To me, the best performance in the film is by Morgan Freeman, but that might seem a natural, as Mr. Freeman may be the finest American film actor.

As a recent offering from Warner Bros., this is a catalog title that should be seen. Don't just read the old reviews. There's something here, which based upon the novel by Tom Wolfe (The Right Stuff) still works.

There are other positives. Among them the cinematograpy by Vilmos Zsigmond, which deserves to be seen.

This isn't a great film, but is good one. Bonfire is one of those films that isn't nearly as good as the book, but is worthwhile nonetheless.

Currently $14.99 at Amazon (No, I don't get a piece of the action), but absolutely worth a rental. I'd not suggest a download, as Mr. Zsigmond's work may get lost in compression.

Image - 4.25

Audio - 5

RAH
 

Moe Dickstein

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As a DePalma fan I've always liked a lot of parts of this one. The big problem is that Bruce Willis is pretty mis-cast, and the score doesn't work.
If anyone is interested in the film, there's an amazing book about the production called "The Devil's Candy". The author had complete access to the production and lucked out.
One fun fact - Alan Arkin was supposed to play the Morgan Freeman part originally after Walter Matthau turned them down...
 

Trentrunner

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Another fun fact is that mid-shoot Melanie Griffith had breast augmentation surgery.
Continuity nightmare.
 

Vincent_P

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Moe Dickstein said:
...
One fun fact - Alan Arkin was supposed to play the Morgan Freeman part originally after Walter Matthau turned them down...
A related fun fact (also taken from THE DEVIL'S CANDY, the brilliant book that you mention)- Arkin was originally cast because Matthau's fee was too expensive, but when they dropped Arkin at the eleventh hour (because they decided they needed a sympathetic African-American character in the film instead of the acerbic Jewish judge as the role had been written) they still had to pay him his fee, and his fee combined with Freeman's fee was more than it would have cost to cast Matthau to being with, and above and beyond that they had to shoot around Morgan Freeman's theater schedule which limited where they could film Freeman's scenes. They had built an expensive set in Los Angeles for the court scenes, but Freeman couldn't shoot in LA so they had to junk those sets and find real locations to rent on the East Coast to film in instead!
I'd really like to see some of the deleted scenes from this film, such as the infamous slow-motion scene of Sherman exiting the courthouse at the end which apparently cost a fortune to film, as well as the coda of Henry Lamb waking up in his hospital bed.
Vincent
 

Moe Dickstein

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Not only that, but remember how they had to get special cranes to light the real courthouse from outside?
It's a great book and a really enjoyable film I feel. If John Hurt had played Bruce Willis' role...
 

AdrianTurner

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Trentrunner said:
Another fun fact is that mid-shoot Melanie Griffith had breast augmentation surgery.
Continuity nightmare.
Two continuity nightmares, in fact.
I just love the opening credits - one of the finest title designs since the heyday of Saul Bass.
 

Malcolm Bmoor

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It's a long time since I've seen Bonfire but will certainly buy this Blu-ray. I'd be interested in other people's opinion on whether there's a concealed edit (maybe during a tilt down to the ground) before the amazingly l o n g single shot opening sequence cuts on the lift door.
 

jauritt

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Guess I'm a lone voice of total negativity here, but I (and hundred of critics throughout the world) thought Bonfire of the Vanities was atrocious. Perhaps if I hadn't read the book I might feel slightly different, but it's hard to believe that the miscasting of Tom Hanks, the terrible acting of Kim Cattrall, the moronic decision to turn a British tabloid writer into Bruce Willis, etc. etc. etc., would ever make up a film that was even close to good.
 

Moe Dickstein

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There's no edit in that opening shot. But there are many in the even longer opening of DePalma's Snake Eyes...
I don't think anyone would call this a masterpiece or great film, but I think at the time people had their knives out for it. I personally love what Kim Cattral did with her character, and I think Tom Hanks is not miscast, I wouldn't say that if you read the book you might think William Hurt was better casting, but Hanks pulls his part off fine, it's really only Bruce Willis who is totally miscast, and I think that the score is all wrong, but I generally don't think that Dave Grusin scores work so it could be a personal bias.
If you're a fan of DePalma there's lots to like, and if you haven't seen this film since it came out, it's worth another look
 

TheVid

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jauritt said:
Guess I'm a lone voice of total negativity here, but I (and hundred of critics throughout the world) thought Bonfire of the Vanities was atrocious. Perhaps if I hadn't read the book I might feel slightly different, but it's hard to believe that the miscasting of Tom Hanks, the terrible acting of Kim Cattrall, the moronic decision to turn a British tabloid writer into Bruce Willis, etc. etc. etc., would ever make up a film that was even close to good.
I'm with you on this one. The astoundingly crass feelgood ending alone makes this one of the great misfires of the 90's. The craftsmenship is good, but the movie is a complete mess.
 

Christian Preischl

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I watched this when it came out and found some weird problems with the transfer. Starting with the scene where Tom Hanks comes home to find there's a huge party going on until the middle of the scene with Bruce Willis in the photocopier room (you know which one I'm talking about) parts of the pictures start wobbling and shaking uncontrollably. You can best see it in the set walls (e.g. the book case behind Hanks or the wall behind Willis).
Then, just as suddenly as it started it stops again and all is back to normal. I will check the exact chapters and timecodes when I get home later (it was somewhere between chapters 20-25 if I remember correctly).
 

Christian Preischl

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Christian Preischl said:
I watched this when it came out and found some weird problems with the transfer. Starting with the scene where Tom Hanks comes home to find there's a huge party going on until the middle of the scene with Bruce Willis in the photocopier room (you know which one I'm talking about) parts of the pictures start wobbling and shaking uncontrollably. You can best see it in the set walls (e.g. the book case behind Hanks or the wall behind Willis).
Then, just as suddenly as it started it stops again and all is back to normal. I will check the exact chapters and timecodes when I get home later (it was somewhere between chapters 20-25 if I remember correctly).
Okay, I just checked the exact spots (sorry for the delay). It happens in chapters 24 and 25. Best bet would be to directly enter chapter 25 and fast forward to the 90 minute mark. That's the beginning of the office room scene and the wobbling and shaking of the image can't be missed.
 

Christian Preischl

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Anybody have a chance to check the scene(s) I mentioned above? I'd be interested to find out what went wrong there.
 

Nick*Z

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Yep. I checked out that scene too. There is something definitely wrong with the transfer. The instability of the image is disturbing to say the least as is the sudden loss of overall image integrity. Can't understand it. Don't even want to try.
Another backlog title bites the dust. Honestly, is there anyone awake at the controls any more?
Also, I have to disagree with the assessment that Bonfires is a "good" film. It didn't work for me then or last week when I had a chance to screen it at a friend's house. The performances are cartoonish at best.
I will concur that Mr. Freeman's is the standout.
 

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