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Blu-ray Review On Golden Pond Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Jan 16, 2015.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director

    Apr 24, 2006
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    Charlotte, NC
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    Matt Hough
    XenForo Template On Golden Pond Blu-ray Review

    Ernest Thompson’s thoughtful, moving ruminations on the fripperies and vagaries of old age with individuals fighting for one showy last stand before the end are brought beautifully to life in Mark Rydell’s On Golden Pond. With an expert cast, superb location photography, and a story that, with only a few bumps along the way, plays like a harmoniously nuanced chamber piece, On Golden Pond marks career milestones for many in the cast and crew and points to a time when movies that solely combined small moments of domestic comedy and drama weren’t all that rare but now seem like precious diamonds meant to be cherished.

    Cover Art

    Studio: Universal

    Distributed By: Shout! Factory

    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

    Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA

    Subtitles: English SDH

    Rating: PG

    Run Time: 1 Hr. 49 Min.

    Package Includes: Blu-ray

    keep case

    Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)

    Region: A

    Release Date: 01/20/2015

    MSRP: $24.97

    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    Elderly Norman (Henry Fonda) and Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) Thayer arrive at their summer lake cottage on Golden Pond to spend what might be their last summer together. Norman is getting ever-more forgetful and is further weakened by sporadic heart trouble. On her way to enjoying a month-long European vacation with new fiancé Bill Ray (Dabney Coleman), daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) continues to spar uneasily with her distant and often disapproving father without establishing any kind of mutual respect for one another. The couple drop off Bill’s rebellious thirteen-year old son Billy (Doug McKeon) to spend their time away with his soon-to-be grandparents, and the crotchety old man and forceful woman take him in hand and introduce him to a simpler, more bucolic existence (fishing, reading, board games, chores) which acts as a tonic for both Billy and Norman.

    Adapting his stage play for the screen, Ernest Thompson has fashioned a masterful blend of comedy and drama delving deeply into the human emotions of these damaged individuals and offering them at the film’s conclusion some blissful islands of solace. There isn’t much action in the piece (a minor boating accident and an accidental momentary fire in the living room are about as lively as things get), but the beauty of the movie is in the shared moments between Norman and Billy on the lake, between Norman and Ethel as they contemplate their ever-closer mortality, and individually between Chelsea and her mother and Chelsea and her father as they all strive to bring their frustrations and disappointments from the past into some kind of understanding. Some of Chelsea’s vicious potshots early-on seem perhaps a bit too whiny and childish, less realistic than most of the other moments in the dramedy, but there is genuine emotion present in the movie from the start, and Mark Rydell’s careful direction, capturing nuances in reactions to others’ behaviors and carefully pacing the story so that nothing drags or feels rushed, clearly represent his best-ever screen work. And because the film was shot completely on gorgeous locations at a real lake house (in New Hampshire, not Maine) with no Hollywood sets, the sense of reality present is palpable. You can sense these people being revitalized by the beauty which surrounds them and by the sizzling chemistry that the ensemble shares.

    Not only had Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn never worked together before, they didn’t even know one another prior to filming, but you’d never know it from the easy, loving camaraderie they share throughout. When she calls him an “old poop” over his forgetfulness and mind games nonsense and he calls her a “beautiful old dame,” you know they’re words spoken with utmost affection and sincerity. Both actors won Academy Awards for their performances (Fonda also won the Golden Globe and the National Board of Review Award for Best Actor), and you’ll seldom see old age portrayed with more honesty and virtuosity than it is here (Fonda’s climactic heart attack seems vividly real, and Hepburn’s fright over his being lost on the lake with Billy likewise rings totally true). Not getting nearly the credit that he has deserved for the film is young actor Doug McKeon playing Billy who not only holds his own with these two old pros but often expertly pulls focus with his own virtuoso display of emotional release. Jane Fonda playing a poignant variation of her real-life relationship with her father also registers strongly especially in the scenes after she returns from Europe with a fierce determination to settle things once and for all with her father in a last ditch effort to mend fences before it’s too late. Dabney Coleman has a wonderful one-on-one thrust and parry sequence with Fonda as his Bill Ray tries to establish early-on a rapport with his recalcitrant soon-to-be father-in-law. As the only member of the original stage cast in the movie, William Lanteau as waterway postman Charlie Martin offers regional charm and lots of heart.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

    The movie has been framed at 1.78:1 for this Blu-ray release and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Apart from a few late appearing flecks, this is a gorgeous transfer looking far sharper than any previous video rendition of the movie I’ve ever seen and offering excellent detail in the close-ups. Color is nicely handled (the film’s title is aptly rendered in that gorgeous opening and closing shot of the lake), and flesh tones are realistic throughout. Contrast is likewise rendered consistently apart from one shot with Hepburn on the lake when she brings the duo lunch which looks a bit overly filtered. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4.5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is very true to its era. Dialogue has been expertly recorded but is never challenged by the gorgeous, evocative music score of Dave Grusin (sounding quite expansive for a mono mix) or the sound effects which establish a nice, realistic lakeside ambiance for the film (those loon calls that Ethel goes on about come through loudly and clearly).

    Special Features Rating: 3.5/5

    Audio Commentary: director Mark Rydell revisits the movie recalling anecdotes from the filming but occasionally relying too much on describing what we’re already watching.

    Reflections On Golden Pond (30:03, SD): Billy Williams’ exquisite Oscar-nominated cinematography which contributed so much to the film’s great critical and public success is discussed by the man himself and also by director Mark Rydell, writer Ernest Thompson, and others.

    A Woman of Substance: Katharine Hepburn Remembered (15:53, SD): the four-time Oscar-winning actress and her storied career are recalled not only by the film’s director Mark Rydell, writer Ernest Thompson, and cinematographer Billy Williams but also by director Anthony Harvey (who directed her to an Oscar for The Lion in Winter) and film historians David Thomson and Richard Schickel.

    Theatrical Trailer (2:53, SD)

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    A one-of-a-kind film featuring brilliant performances in a poignant tale of lives moving forward despite crippling fears and regrets, On Golden Pond finally gets the home video version that it deserves: one that captures the great acting and the beautiful, idyllic locations in all their majesty. Highly recommended!

    Reviewed By: Matt Hough

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  2. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

    Sep 26, 2005
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    Oh great. Yet another release that dumps the 5.1 remix that was on the DVD. I understand that the mono mix is the primary soundtrack that absolutely should be on the disc, but why can't we have the newer remix as well?
    Brian McP and MatthewA like this.
  3. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer

    Mar 6, 2004
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    I honestly have given up trying to understand the choices made for audio mixes on blu-rays. Sigh. :unsure:

    Can't wait to pick this up. LOVE this film. Thanks Matt.
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Haven't seen this film since it's initial VHS release...

    So that's been....forever.

    Looking forward to revisiting this film, particularly for the great

    Henry Fonda's final performance.
  5. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator

    Oct 9, 2001
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    Ron: It is the pairing of Hepburn with Fonda that makes this film so, so special.

    I started a thread looking for this release more than two years ago. This film has special significance for me as my mom & dad owned a camp in the Adirondacks until they couldn't keep it up any more (and sold it a few years ago). They practically raised my sister and I there (well, at least during the non-winter months!). By the time they sold, they had become the beloved old couple at their lake. This was also probably their favorite film.

    I had hoped to have a special HD viewing sometime for my folks. But, my dad died about a year-and-a-half ago. But I will still embrace this release, watch it in his memory and enjoy the film immensely.

    Matt: Thanks for the excellent review.
    Bryan^H, MarkA, Brian McP and 5 others like this.
  6. Cinescott

    Cinescott Supporting Actor

    Nov 2, 2010
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    I absolutely love this film. Reminds me of the summers I used to spend in Michigan's Upper Peninsula many years ago and the time I spent with my grandfather, in a boat, fishing. He's been gone many years, but the memories stay.

    I'll never forget the time he was teaching me to cast properly; I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. My line went straight into the air, hanging for what seemed an eternity. The hook then dropped right on top of my grandfather's hat, latched on, and I proceeded to cast it right into the lake. I never thought he would stop laughing.

    His English was stilted, but those moments are universal.
    MarkA, Johnny Angell and Mike2001 like this.
  7. Erik_H

    Erik_H Stunt Coordinator

    Apr 11, 2004
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    I have treasured memories of this as well. For decades, my late grandparents had a vacation home on the shore of an island in Lake Winnepesaukee, NH, about 15 miles south of Squam Lake where "On Golden Pond" was filmed. The design of their house was very similar to the house in the film---an old, rustic lake cottage (sadly demolished about 10 years ago and replaced by a McMansion). Both of my grandparents were fans of Henry Fonda---they had followed his career since they saw him as a young actor in summer stock on Cape Cod in the early 1930s.

    In the summer of 1980, I was visiting a friend whose family owned a house at Squam Lake. We went for a boat ride one afternoon and came across the "On Golden Pond" crew filming one of the scenes and caught a few glimpses of Jane Fonda and Katharine Hepburn. Ever since that afternoon I was on the lookout for the release of "On Golden Pond" but ended up having quite a wait---filming wrapped in late summer 1980 but the film didn't premiere until Christmas 1981 (NY and LA only and nationwide the next month). I assume the release was delayed to better position the film for awards consideration---if so, the strategy certainly worked.

    It's also worth remembering what a major hit this was---earning over $100M in the US alone, at a time when most hits didn't exceed that box office threshold.
    MarkA, Cinescott and Brian McP like this.
  8. Brian McP

    Brian McP Supporting Actor

    Jul 29, 2007
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    I can remember this movie playing here in Melbourne, Australia in it's 6th month during the August 1982 school holidays in a three theatre complex (Hoyts Midcity to be precise) and the hit movie packing them in at the time was "Rocky III" in 70mm.

    Lines were going out the door and into the street -- soon the 'House Full' sign went up -- and practically all the kids left in this long line immediately moved to the left side of the box office and bought tickets to "On Golden Pond" as I did, this my second time seeing the movie.

    These days movies on such a subject would not connect with 8-16 year olds -- not this one. Most at the time knew it by reputation as a pretty funny movie, a veritable gagfest to them -- Henry Fonda would have been heartened to hear the response his zingers got from all of them.

    Also they knew there was a smartass kid in it, he was on the poster, and I can tell you that Doug McKeon's performance did not disappoint that day -- also Jane Fonda was known by these kids for her fitness tapes as home video was just beginning to kick in at that time in this country. Everyone loved the movie and was a rare treat to see it with such a young appreciative audience -- I caught up with Rocky and co later on, in all their 70mm blow up glory.

    If memory serves, pretty sure "On Golden Pond" was the third highest grossing movie of 1982 behind "E.T. The Extra Terrestrial" and "Rocky III", at least in the US -- it certainly was quite a time at the movies....
    Cinescott likes this.

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