HTF HD-DVD Review: Reds 25th Anniversary Edition


Supporting Actor
Jun 13, 2002

Reds 25th Anniversary Edition (HD-DVD)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: PG
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus, French and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Subtitles: English; Spanish; English SDH
Time: 192 minutes
Disc Format: 2 SS/DL HD-DVD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date:1981
DVD Release Date: November 7, 2006

Note: Since I recently reviewed the SD DVD, I am porting over my comments on the film itself and the extras, making a couple changes that are specific to the HD-DVD. I have also added new comments and comparisons between the SD and HD-DVD’s.

Warren Beatty’s Reds finally makes its DVD debut in a two disc special edition. Set in the time period around World War I, John (Jack) Reed (Warren Beatty) is a revolutionary and political writer/ activist who seems to attract the attention of beautiful women quite easily. When he meets Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton), he is instantly transfixed with her and her somewhat unimportant (according to him, at least) writing. The two, who are in competition for each others professional and emotional respect, begin an affair that sends Louise to Greenwich Village in New York to live with Jack. Once there, she finds her writing is not what its cracked up to be, nor is the lifestyle she envisioned with Jack. Jack introduces her to his friend, poet and play write Eugene O’Neill (Jack Nicholson). Due to John’s frequent trips where he is becoming more consumed with his politics, and her increasing frustration with her writing, she turns to Eugene for emotional and physical support. Once John finds out about the affair, and unbeknownst to Louise, he promptly asks her to marry him. Eugene is persistent and leaves Louise with a note declaring his feelings to her, and as John finds it, so ends the marriage. The end of the relationship is the impetus Louise needs to strengthen her writing and chart her course as part of the feminist movement. Over the intervening months, she becomes quite popular, and a chance encounter with John gives the two of them the chance to establish a writing partnership and they head off to Europe to witness the Russian Revolution.

The rest of the picture transitions from the relationship being in the forefront to the politics leading the charge. While it is not forgotten, we are given a concise history lesson on the American politics of the time, and how the U. S. Communists rose. We are also shown how the Russians reacted to and dealt with the American support. Beatty and Keaton do an excellent job of bringing these powerful historical characters to life by showing us no matter how much we may philosophically believe in something, the heart often takes over to set us on our way. Beatty, as a director, is able to define Louise by her budding political interest that is often sidetracked by her inability to penetrate the predominantly male field of the time. Beatty presents his main characters as slaves to their emotions, and this flaw often leads to violent outbursts that set Jack and Louise off to the next part of their lives.

Reds was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won three, including Beatty for best director. It lost out to Chariots of Fire for best picture that year, which seemed to come as a blow to Beatty’s usually hefty ego. Regardless, watching the picture today, I was struck with the parallels to today’s political climate and maybe Paramount did a wise thing in waiting to release the DVD until now. Beatty uses a framing sequence of elderly “witnesses” who knew of Reed or were around at the time the story takes place. It is a fascinating way to interject the real world people into the story while giving you another perspective besides Beatty’s on whom Reed and Bryant were.

Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units.

This is what I had to say about the video on the SD-DVD:

“The picture is in its correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is an anamorphic transfer. The picture displays a washed out color palate, unfortunately, as this presentation would have looked great with richer colors. There are some instances of more vibrant colors, specifically during a couple of the scenes set during sunsets or when the characters were on the beach. Due to this, I believe it was Beatty and Director of Photography Vittorio Storaro’s intent to wash out the film to keep the viewer placed in the time frame of the story and enhance its sometimes dour story. Black levels are good and show a fair amount of detail. Detail itself fluctuates from scene to scene, sometimes it is quite good, but then it degrades into haziness and mild smearing. The picture looks like Paramount upped the DVNR to make the picture sharper than it should be, so this also spotlights the edge enhancement. Grain does make a couple of appearances, as does an instance of some print damage: the first scene on the beach shows some lines in the background.”

The HD-DVD improves on the issues I had with the colors by presenting a richer, more saturated picture. The picture still looks a bit washed out, but not quite as much as the SD-DVD. Strangely, the black levels are not quite as deep in the HD version, appearing a bit greyer than the ones on the SD version. Detail is improved, but not to the point of bringing out edge enhancement, thanks to the HD encoding.

The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is attained by a 5.1 analog connection

This is what I had to say about the audio on the SD-DVD

“I watched the feature with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track engaged. Since this is a strong character piece acted out by some spectacular performers, we are given many scenes of dialogue. Therefore, the mix stays primarily in the fronts, with the center channel getting the most work. When the surrounds are utilized, primarily for atmospheric effects, they provide a good surround stage and pleasing ambience. LFE’s are minimal, but they are smooth and natural sounding when they do come up. Voices are clear and natural, as is the rest of the soundtrack.”

The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is very similar to the SD-DVD’s DD track, but the HD seems to have a little more presence and richer ambience. The LFE’s also showed increased presence.

Bonus Material:
With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. For this release, the extras are in MPEG 2 unless otherwise noted.

All of the SD-DVD extras have been ported over to the HD-DVD.

Beatty leads us through a multi-part documentary detailing the history and production of Reds with Witness to Reds. Laurent Bouzerau should get mass amounts of applause for the work he did on these docs, getting all the participants together and drawing such great stories out of them. While I would have loved a director’s commentary, these docs more than make up for it (and Beatty doesn’t like them). The doc is broken down into the following parts:

The Rising (6:30): Beatty discusses how the picture was conceived and some historical background of the time. Paramount’s Barry Diller talks about how and why Paramount took a chance on such a non-commercial project.
Comrades (13:29): Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Paul Sorvino discuss the characters and Diane Keaton and Maureen Stapleton, in particular. Nicholson is an exciting and unexpected bonus to this doc that gives us some interesting insight into O’Neill. Kosinski’s widow talks about Jerzy Kosinski as well.
Testimonials (11:57): A discussion on how Beatty came up with the idea of using the witnesses to frame the story. Storaro comments on the set up of the interviews and how this aspect of the picture developed. We get to see some of the behind the scenes shots of the interviews where Beatty is giving direction to coax the stories out of the subjects. I would have liked to have seen some of the uncut interviews as part of the documentaries since the participants were all engaging and informative.
The March (9:07): Beatty discusses the production of the picture and he makes light of the scope of such a production at times. Various participants on the production discuss their roles as well.
Revolution-Part 1 (10:18): This doc again goes into the production but highlights Beatty’s obsession in making pictures. It is a discussion of art vs. politics vs. commerce, and an explanation on how there were numerous different and conflicting ideas on how it should be done. It seems Storaro and Beatty had very different ideas on how the picture was going to be shot, so this makes for excellent viewing.
Revolution-Part 2 (6:54): We go back into the politics vs. art discussion with Beatty drawing parallels between his life and that of Reed’s. There is a discussion of the location shoot as well.
Propaganda (9:13): Beatty starts out with a cute story of his kids first experience with Reds, then he goes into a discussion of the editing accompanied by the pictures editor. The rest of the doc details the scoring, promotional material (including the incredible shot of Beatty hugging Keaton), the Oscar nominations (garnering Beatty his only Oscar for directing), and Beatty sums it up with a historical perspective.

New DVD trailer (1:24): An interesting way to put Reds in a context today’s audiences can relate to without really dealing with the true subject of the story.

A long wait has provided us with a great set of extras to accompany this epic picture. Reds seems to have been neglected by the public over the years, so I’m happy to see this DVD’s release coming with a wave of publicity. This HD version slightly improves upon the SD-DVD's picture, and this will probably be the best we will ever see Reds. For those of you who have not purchased the SD version, and you are HD-DVD equipped, I recommend this version over its SD sibling.


Second Unit
Jul 11, 2006
Real Name
Aaron Schneiderman
Well, I was hoping that Paramount was gonna deliver a knock-out presentation. It has been many years since I have seen "Reds." This film, though a bit shakey on its history, is one of the last great epics and Beatty's finest work. I still plan on picking it up come Tuesday.

Ed St. Clair

Senior HTF Member
May 7, 2001
Thanks, and very well stated.
The HD DVD is a single 35GB release & the BD will be a dual 25GB release, correct?


Supporting Actor
Oct 16, 2005
I just got done watching the HD DVD version. Considering the age of the film, I thought it looked pretty damn great. Softness, grain and print damage was apparent on occasion, but overall this was a beautiful presentation.

And Diane, now I remember why I had the biggest crush on her when I was 12. It was because of this film.

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