- May 7, 2001
Wyatt Earp – Two Disc Special Edition
Studio: Warner Brothers
Film Length: 190 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Languages: English & French
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
Package: 3 Panel gatefold Digipak with cardboard slipcover case
On May 18th, Warner Brothers is set to release three more of their highly coveted Two Disc Special Editions. Due to be released is the 1956 Academy Award winning film for Best Picture, Around The World In 80 Days, the 1973 Bruce Lee classic, Enter The Dragon and the feature film, 1994’s Wyatt Earp. The film boasts a veritable whose who of stars featuring Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman, Michael Madsen, Mark Harmon, Isabella Rossellini, Bill Pullman and Tom Sizemore to name just a few. The film was directed by Lawrence Kasdan who also brought us such favorites as The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist and Grand Canyon.
Unfortunately, for fans of the western genre, there hasn’t been much to get excited over during the past 10-15. It seems as though much of the interest in the once popular genre has waned for the more popular big budget action adventures and we’ve really only seen a handful of good westerns come out of Hollywood in the past decade or so. For an absolutely wonderful read on the history of westerns produced by Warner Brothers, I strongly suggest having a look at Barrie Maxwell’s recent article published at the Digital Bits. A superb article.
While there are no shortages of films featuring Earp and the legendary OK Corral gunfight, this version tells the story of the man who was perhaps, the most famous of lawmen in the Wild West. The story starts by showing a young Wyatt eager to leave the family farm to enlist in the war right up to the final years of his life. The film spends a great deal of time showing a young Wyatt growing up and eventually finding love and soon loosing it and the affects the loss had on his own life. Obviously, there are a great deal of myths and legends about Wyatt Earp, surrounding the man himself. Rather than focusing totally on the legendary OK Corral gunfight, there is an emphasis on the events prior to Tombstone which molded Wyatt Earp, the man. He is portrayed as a very powerful individual who, while fighting on the side of the law, could also be cold-hearted, cruel and excessively violent at times, all traits which were undoubtedly necessary during a period of lawlessness.
The biggest criticism of this film always seems to center around its 3+ hours running time, and personally, I think it is appropriate. That time is necessary to allow us to become familiar with his family members and seeing Wyatt for more than he appears, a lawman. Rarely, do I have a problem with long pictures and this film really flew by. I do find myself having to make one special note regarding one of the stars, Dennis Quaid. Beyond Costner’s performance which was outstanding, Dennis Quaid (who got down to a mere 140 pounds to play the part of a gaunt Doc Holliday, dying of tuberculosis) in my opinion, gave the best performance of his career. I found myself wanting him to show up on camera – never getting enough of him. What a performance - absolutely brilliant.
The film is presented in the standard WB Two Disc Special Edition Digipak with a cardboard slipcover. The film is 190 minutes in length. Thankfully, half of the film is on disc one while the second half and the special features can be found on disc two.
Whether you love this film or absolutely detest it, one thing is for sure; it is absolutely beautiful to look at. The film clocks in at a potentially butt numbing 3+ hours and when it was over, I felt like I had returned from vacation. The cinematography is a work of beauty and this is a very nice video transfer.
Colors were gorgeous and vibrant and perfectly saturated. Skin tones were equally impressive and remained accurate throughout the film. Blacks were as dark as imaginable and whites were contrasted cleanly.
The image detail was razor sharp throughout the majority of the film with only a few instances of softness. Close-ups were usually exceptionally detailed and clear. There was a decent amount of dimensionality which rendered an image that was rather film-like throughout.
There was only a slight hint of very fine grain which showed up sporadically and beside a few blemishes, the print appeared mostly clean throughout. The image was mostly stable and I detected a slight amount of artifacting during a few of the sky scenes and thankfully edge enhancement was kept to a minimum.
OK… you’ve asked for stars, so we’ll try it out. This transfer is gorgeous.
The track is a Dolby Digital encoded 5.1 soundtrack which is pretty adept at doing its job in a fairly aggressive manner.
The track is clean and free of any noise or other anomalies. Overall, the tonality of the track is natural with slight warmth to it. Dialogue was always clear, bold and intelligible and never became lost during the many action sequences. Nor was it ever found competing during the brilliant score of James Newton Howard. Speaking of which, was beautifully enveloping with a fairly wide soundstage that was pleasingly spatial.
The dynamic range was rather expansive while the subtlest grasses could be heard blowing to the thunderous concussive-ness of the gunshots – not Open Range thunderous mind you, but plenty adequate.
There are a number of gun battles, thunderstorms and general ambiance that show up through the deployment of the surround channels, all of which were tactfully done. There was also a rather frequent use of LFE as well to accompany such things as gunshots, buffalo stampedes and music scoring – again, all very tastefully done.
This is a very nice soundtrack which is very tastefully done.
This isn’t quite the jam packed two disc set that we’ve become accustomed to with many of the WB special editions, although what has been included is solid. I’m sure part of that is due to fact that half of the film has been (thankfully) put on disc two. The following features can be located on disc two:
[*] All New It Happened That Way which is by no means all new, is a short featurette which discusses Wyatt Earp – the lawman as a brief biography as well as many of the characters who appear in the picture. Mostly narrated by Lawrence Kasdan, many of the performers appear as well. This was recorded during the production of the film. Duration: 14:03 minutes.
[*] The next feature is 1994 TV Special Wyatt Earp: Walk With A Legend is narrated by Tom Skerritt and was produced and used to promote the film initially in 1994. This is the more interesting of the two special features located on the disc. Initially, the special starts by highlighting many of the epic features we now consider favorites such as How The West Was Won, Ben Hur and Spartacus. There is also a great deal of time spent discussing some of the masters of these epics such as John Ford as they discuss The Searchers and My Darling Clementine, an interview clip of David Lean and a brief discussion on Doctor Zhivago, also interviewed is Charlton Heston. The special then focuses on the feature which discusses the creation of the set, the costume designer and a number of behind the scene clips. Duration: 22:41 minutes.
[*] There are 11 Deleted Scenes (or “Lifted Scenes” as referred to on the package, presumably a Kasdanism). They are: On the wagon train, Wyatt courts Urilla, The wedding reception, Staking buffalo skins, Dealing with lawbreakers, Facing Wyatt Earp, Kate is back, Josie leaves Behan, Wyatt and Doc are jailed, Before the attack on Morgan, Behan’s posse. The total time for the deleted scenes clock in at 18:17 minutes.
[*] Finally, the Theatrical Trailer is included which does perfect justice to this wonderful and beautiful looking film. Duration: 3:28 minutes.
Special Features: 3.5/5
**Special Features rated for the quality of supplement, not the quantity**
To be honest, when this SE was initially announced, I found myself scratching my head questioning whether the film was worthy of the two disc status. Well, I had forgotten much of the film and after watching it again, I can see why the title was in such great demand. Rarely do three hours in a theater “fly by”… and in this case, it did.
For those who have patiently awaited the release of this title, you are about to be rewarded handsomely as WB has done another commendable job of bringing this long awaiting title to the home video market.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
Release Date: May 18th, 2004