The Longest Yard: Lockdown Edition Studio: Paramount Year: 1974 Rated: R Length: 121 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Anamorphically enhanced Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono) English Subtitles Closed Captioned Special Features: Commentary, 2 featurettes, theatrical trailer, teaser for the remake Suggested Retail Price, $14.99 USD Release Date: May 10, 2005 1974’s The Longest Yard made sports films a viable option for studios. At the same time, it set the stage for the particularly raucous breed of sports films that would follow (in films such as 1977’s Slap Shot, among others). Robert Aldrich (The Dirty Dozen, The Flight of the Phoenix) directed this drama-comedy with Burt Reynolds leading the cast as Paul Crewe, a one-time pro quarterback behind bars for grand theft auto. Eddie Albert is the sadistic, self-serving warden who “encourages” Crewe to form a team of convicts that would go up against the semi-pro team of prison guards as practice fodder. Crewe has little choice but to go along, and his team, the “Mean Machine” becomes interested in ways to get back at the prison guards for past mistreatment. The two teams end up going head to head in a very public, high-stakes game of strategy and outright survival as Crewe and his team defy the warden’s orders to throw the game. The film is firmly rooted in the 70’s, with the cinematic style of the period, the incredible beehive hairdo of the warden’s secretary (Bernadette Peters), and the decidedly non-PC characteristics of the hero in the opening scene. Jim Hampton has the role of his lifetime as “Caretaker.” Michael Conrad is aging ex-football player Nate Scarboro. Ed Lauter is well cast as the sadistic leader of the guards. Those familiar with football of the seventies will recognize some real players among the cast, as well. The film is perfectly cast... and it is the casting that is, in a big way, the reason for the film’s success. The final act of the film is the big game itself, and it’s one of the most memorable sports events in cinema history. It will manage to entertain even if you know nothing about the game, in much the same way as the hockey games entertain in the later film, Slap Shot. The Video The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and it is anamorphically enhanced. One of the first things I noticed about the transfer is some slight cropping all around. You notice it when the Paramount logo is displayed before the opening credits, and during some scenes when it seems as if items on the periphery are cut off - most notably name plates on a desk, and the like, which are not entirely visible in this transfer. This is minor cropping, but noticeable - and I have no idea if the print used for the transfer was already this way, or if the cropping took place during the transfer. The source print is in pretty good condition for its age, though there are occasional scratches and dust specks present. Additionally, in some outdoor scenes where you expect a bright blue sky, the sky takes on a bit of a brownish haze. It’s a minor problem, and not completely unexpected for a source print of this age. The picture enjoys acceptable sharpness, with a very slight ringing only occasionally visible. Contrast is good, with solid black levels that retain detail. Whites are clean and restrained, for the most part. Color seems accurate and well rendered. Overall, this is a good transfer of an old print, with the imperfections that one usually expects to find on films of this vintage. It isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough for its age. The Sound The soundtrack is presented in its original mono. It seems slightly restrained - dynamically compressed. Bass response is less than nominal, and highs never reach the levels you expect to hear. Occasional mild distortion can be heard - but it was probably present on the original recordings. Not perfect, but not bad either. Both audio and video get an average or slightly above grade for a film of this vintage. While age artifacts are too few to warrant a serious restoration, there are enough to notice. Special Features Commentary by Burt Reynolds and writer/producer Albert S. Ruddy There is as much reminiscence in this film as there is actual commentary, but that’s fine with me. Reynolds and Ruddy recall many factoids about the cast, and of the days shooting on location. There is discussion of the script, and of ad-libs that added so much to the film. Stunts are also discussed when appropriate. Most of the commentary is very scene specific. There are also some specific comments pertaining to the remake, so you know this was recorded recently. The commentary is very active, with some breaks late in the film as it seems the two begin to run out of things to say. This is, overall, a good commentary and well worth a listen. Except where noted, featurettes are not anamorphically enhanced. Doing Time on The Longest Yard (11:37) Burt Reynolds, Albert Ruddy, Jim Hampton and several sports writers discuss the film, its casting and its impact on sports. Unleashing the Mean Machine (11:01) This could have been a continuation of the first featurette. This one describes the makeup of the teams on the screen, and talks about the use of real players to increase realism. Interviews with some current pro players reveal that some of the dirty tricks used in the film really happen on the field, as well. The film also touches on some of the casting for the remake. Original Theatrical Trailer (4:08) And, it’s anamorphic, too. Exclusive Look: The Longest Yard (2005) This is standard fare - a three and a half minute fluff piece featuring snippets of interviews with the cast of the new film, combined with some brief clips and behind the scenes footage. It’s too short to have any substance - but one assumes the substance will be included on the DVD of the remake. Previews The Longest Yard (2005) Coach Carter MacGyver, The Complete First Season Tommy Boy - Holy Schnike Edition Unfortunately, Paramount’s trend of forced trailers continues. Not only is the menu button disabled, but if you want to watch the previews, the reverse button is disabled as well - making it impossible to repeat a missed line of dialog. So they want you to watch it... but only once? You can chapter-skip through the previews, but not through the warnings and disclaimers. It continues to be my opinion that DVD authors should never disable my control of the DVD player. The previews are also available via the menu. Final Thoughts This “Lockdown Edition” is obviously being released to promote the remake of the film. I have not seen the original release on DVD, so I can’t compare the two. In terms of special features, there isn’t much here to warrant a double dip, except for the commentary (commentary fans may want to pick this up at its bargain price). For those who don’t own the previous release, this new release is probably the way to go.