DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Osterman Weekend

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Osadciw, Mar 11, 2004.

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  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    The Osterman Weekend
    Sam Peckinpah Commemorative 2-Disc Edition





    Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
    Film Release: 1984

    U.S. Rating: R

    Film Length: 102 minutes
    Genre: Suspense/Thriller

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, DTS-ES 6.1, DD2.0 Surround, DD2.0 mono
    Subtitles: None
    Closed Captioned: Yes
    Layer Change: 1.01.18
    SLP: US$29.98





    Release Date: March 23, 2004


    FILM RATING
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    This DVD release is a Commemorative Edition in memory of Director Sam Peckinpah, 1925-1984

    Imagine if the friends you trusted the most were not your friends at all and aren’t who they say they are. If a complete stranger gave you enough information and proof, would you believe him? From #1 best selling author Robert Ludlum (The Bourne Identity), and by controversial director Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs), The Osterman Weekend is a psychological thriller entangled in conspiracies, CIA surveillance, and media manipulation. Packaged nicely with a keep case in a red chrome looking slipcase, this 2-disc Sam Peckinpah commemorative edition from Anchor Bay Entertainment includes a DiviMax transfer, a new DTS-ES 6.1/DD 5.1 EX soundtrack, and excellent special features.

    John Tanner (Rutger Hauer) is a political television host who squares off with political elites to exploit the truth behind their actions on national television. Every year he gets together with three friends – Bernard Osterman (Craig T. Nelson), Richard Tremayne (Dennis Hopper), and Joseph Cardone (Chris Sarandon). They are accompanied with their wives (played by Meg Foster, Helen Shaver, and Cassie Yates) just to keep in touch. After all, life gets busy after university. Friends do drift apart because one’s job can take one to another state or province, and a family can keep your hands tied.

    But Tanner is disturbed when approached by CIA agent Lawrence Fassett (John Hurt) and head of CIA Maxwell Danforth (Burt Lancaster). He is convinced his weekend guests are with the KGB, a Russian agency implementing tasks such as working against foreign spies and agents, exposing and investigating political and economic crimes by citizens, protecting state borders, and protecting state secrets. Under a secret code named Omega, it is believed they could cause a bloody revolution in the U.S.A. and must be stopped. Thus Tanner’s entire home is equipped with video surveillance allowing no privacy to his so-called friends when they arrive. During the weekend visit, his friends suspect something isn’t right with John. The trust begins to deteriorate between them and eventually the truth is forced out in violent conflict and exploitation.

    The film’s effective opening sequence shocks the audience as it shows our vulnerability to being watched without knowing. This ties into the CIA actions later in this film. Immediately I was taken back by a very ‘television show’ approach to the story of this film, as we are literally explained who all the characters are in the film (by means of pictures in a slide projector), what they do, as well as being told the whole plot. I felt as if the movie was telling me I wouldn’t be able to figure this out on my own if the characters were introduced in another way. It’s a silly introduction and not very good for a movie, but at least I knew where the movie was going. The movie picks up with excellent performances from Hurt and Hauer and becomes a great little thriller with some good action sequences. Peckinpah pioneered slow motion action scenes that almost every Hollywood action film has adopted. Peckinpah is also notorious for his violent and bloody climaxes that gave him the nickname Bloody Sam. But this movie isn’t bloody at all; it’s very tame, as Sam didn’t want any more blood despite everyone on the project asking for it.

    Not a Ludlum fan, Sam was known to take crappy books and make them into decent movies. Since this film wasn’t Peckinpah’s screenplay, he didn’t have any control on what was to be filmed so he never took the project with great interest. The result is a good movie and shows the danger of television and government intrusion affecting our lives. I found it enjoyable all of the way through and I know you will too. My favorite line in the movie: ”The truth is a lie that hasn’t been found out.”


    VIDEO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    This is the latest entry to Anchor Bay’s DiviMax high-definition transfer process. The previous title was the fabulous looking DAWN OF THE DEAD that is almost flawless in every respect. Unfortunately the same thing cannot be said here. While I’m sure Anchor Bay set out to use the best available print known to them, the image quality suffers from excessive film grain. There is no escaping the grain in any scene and its most noticeable in darker parts of the film. The grain is problematic as it always reacts with the compressing because when decoded, compression artifacts swarm around each bit of grain giving the image a very digital look despite being encoded at an average high bitrate of 8.5Mbps. The digitization may not be noticeable on smaller screens. For those of you with larger displays, you may notice it more especially if the grain reacts negatively with lesser quality video scalers (such as those in many RPTVs) making the image looking twice as grainy. Grain aside, colours are well balanced and show the film’s age. Contrast can be excellent in outdoor scenes but interiors look dimmer and detail tends to be lacking. Much of it is lost in poor shadow detail and picture resolution just isn’t what I’d expect for a great transfer. Many foreground images don’t have fine detail and background images lack a sharp edge. By viewing it I can tell there was an effort to sharpen up the film because edge enhancement is noticeable in many scenes on this release. This DVD image still passes though for its ability to look 3-D despite its flaws. Being widescreen enhanced 1.85:1 and the first time on DVD, I will tell fans that this is the definitive version in SDTV until any HD format becomes available.


    AUDIO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    There are four soundtrack options on this disc and all are really good to listen too. My choice by far is the DTS-ES 6.1 soundtrack. Even though this is a re-purposed soundtrack of a mono film, it is pretty active in all channels during many instances. Helicopter sounds in chapter five move from left rear to center rear, and also plays a huge role during the chase scene in chapter 8. The POV from the helicopter in the sky utilizes all channels effectively and is a superb example of how superior DTS’s 6.1 discrete center-rear technology is over Dolby Digital’s 5.1 EX matrixed center-rear effort. Rear-channel sound placement is more precise and more dynamic using DTS because it doesn’t suffer from post-processing of the 5.1 signal for EX to extract a center rear channel like Dolby Digital does. Dolby’s imaging behind the listener is more diffuse between channels rather than precise in DTS 6.1. When comparing the two soundtracks (matching volume levels compensating for Dolby’s Dialnorm offset) the DTS version does sound a little more coherent between channels and gives a greater presence of ‘air’. In DTS, low-level detail is more apparent and bass definition is tighter compared to Dolby Digital that sounded veiled and thumpy in comparison.

    There are a lot of new sounds in this remade soundtrack from outdoor nature ambience to in-room ambience of clicks and pops in Fasset’s control room. A lot of the film is still dominant in the center channel. Newer effects are placed in the other channels, but at a quieter volume until music or action takes place. Sometimes re-purposed soundtracks can be tricky. Integrating new dynamic sounds that don’t suffer from the same dynamic range limitations of the original recorded sounds can be difficult. But I appreciate every sound moment in this film because the action scenes are alive in all channels. Bass is presented quite often, even in the surround channels. Such sounds are gun sounds or submerging the listener ‘underwater’. Lalo Schifrin’s music soundtrack is very spacious sounding, with only a hint of distortion on the saxophone that carries the mood for the film. A film originally released in mono, this is a very good effort utilizing all 6 channels and the LFE. A Dolby 2.0 Surround is present to keep the integrity of the 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, and a 2.0 original mono soundtrack is also provided.


    SPECIAL FEATURES [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Except for the commentary, this commemorative edition has its special features on disc two. The commentary includes four Peckinpah historians – Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, David Weddle, and Nick Redman. They’ve all written books on him so they talk about Peckinpah inside and out and what he was probably thinking on each passing scene. Much is discussed regarding his relationship with the studio and the producers and it’s made well known how deteriorating it was during the course of his work. This gives good reason to why Sam never had ‘final cut’ on this film. Luckily for you fans, Anchor Bay is giving you Sam’s First Cut of this film before it was chopped up by the producers. Timing at 1hr. 56min (14 minutes longer than the theatrical release), there are alternate angles and takes to some scenes, as well as extended sequences and a subplot involving an affair with John Tanner and a woman he works with. The cut is very, very, very rough looking and wouldn’t be the version you’d normally watch, and you can jump to the major scenes different from the theatrical release in the menu. This is the version that appalled many female screener participants and forced them to walk out during the opening sequence. Sam’s version of the voyeuristic opening is much more dizzying with the distorted images. It does become uneasy to watch more for the point of being distracting rather than artistic since the effect looks cheap. Not willing to agree to re-cut the film after the negative reaction (as Sam thought this preview cut was “the version”), he was fired from the cut. The two producers re-cut the film differently and the result is the theatrical version on disc one.

    Anchor Bay has also produced an entirely new 78 minute special titled Alpha to Omega: A Retrospective. It chronicles the time of Sam Peckinpah working on The Osterman Weekend and includes NEW interviews with the producers, the major actors (except Hopper), and Peckinpah’s agent. You definitely don’t want to miss this feature, as there is a wealth of information here. You can see and read more about Peckinpah in the Still Gallery (81 pictures) and Biographies area that also include the actors. There are quite a few pages to flip through and are very informative. The theatrical trailer (16:9, DD2.0m) and a 12-page collector’s booklet with chapter stops is also included.


    THOUGHTS…

    This is an excellent release for Sam Peckinpah’s last film. Everything you wanted to know about Sam’s personality is well documented on this release and will give you more insight to the praise given to this man and why he was both aggravating and joyous to work with. While the DVD’s film quality suffers from a lot of grain, this is without doubt to be the best release for some time. Both audio and features is top notch, and the inclusion of Sam’s first cut is a real eye-opener on how easily films are altered from those behind the scenes. I’d like to see a lot more of this in the future because alternate cuts of films give more insight to the original vision. Congrats to Anchor Bay for another fine job. Recommended!

    04.03.11
    Michael Osadciw
     
  2. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Apparently Sam's First Cut is taken from a recently discovered Betamax video tape, hence the poor quality.

    ---
    So many films, so little time...
     
  3. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    I wouldn't doubt it came from a Betamax tape since there are tape drop-outs throughout. I'm not sure why it looks so bad, I thought Betamax was the better format? [​IMG]

    Mike
    (clutching to my Betamax collection)
     
  4. Garrett Adams

    Garrett Adams Supporting Actor

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    I just saw the movie in HD a couple of weeks ago. It was playing on the InHD channel. I enjoyed it.
     
  5. DeanR

    DeanR Second Unit

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    Good review Michael. I picked this movie up today at a local B&M store. I always loved this flick. I can't wait to give it a spin this weekend.
     
  6. Matthew_Millheiser

    Matthew_Millheiser Supporting Actor

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    The only Peckinpah film I've ever seen in theaters during its initial release, I hold some sort of strange love for The Osterman Weekend. Great review, I'm very much looking forward to this release!
     
  7. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    thanks for the review, I will be watching this very soon
     
  8. richardWI

    richardWI Second Unit

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    This was a blind purchase for me, motivated by this thorough review and my love of other Peckinpah films. Glad I got it. Anchor Bay really pulled out all the stops! I was torn between watching it in 6.1 DTS and the original mono. I wish AB had the rights to Wild Bunch.
     
  9. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Great review. I was on the fence on this one, but now I think I'll hunt it down.

    (And by the way, Matthew, I long wondered if anyone on HTF was familiar with the fantastic Phil Hendrie Show. Your sig makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Personally, it just doesn't get any better than Bobbie Dooley, head of the Western Estates Homeowner's Association!)
     

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