North Dallas Forty – UHD Blu-ray Review

4.5 Stars Gritty football comedy debuts on UHD Blu-ray
North Dallas Forty Review Screenshot

Today, North Dallas Forty. Ted Kotcheff – a native of Canada – has carved out a career as a talented director spanning different continents and following in the mold set by the likes of Leo McCarey and Robert Wise. After attracting international attention with the Australian New Wave movie Wake in Fright (1971), he returned to his native Canada to make The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974) before Hollywood came calling for his services. By the end of the decade, he had made two comedies – Fun with Dick and Jane (1977) for Columbia Pictures and Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978) for Warner Bros. – and would hit upon his first critical success in Tinseltown with North Dallas Forty. Released by Paramount Pictures on DVD and on Region Free Blu-ray by Imprint, Kino has licensed the movie for its UHD Blu-ray debut.

North Dallas Forty (1979)
Released: 03 Aug 1979
Rated: R
Runtime: 119 min
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Sport
Cast: Nick Nolte, Charles Durning, Mac Davis
Writer(s): Peter Gent, Frank Yablans, Ted Kotcheff
Plot: A satire of American professional football in which a veteran pass-catcher's individuality and refusal to become part of the team family are bitterly resented by his disciplinarian coaches.
IMDB rating: 6.9
MetaScore: 80

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 59 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray
Case Type: Black keep case with slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 03/26/2024
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 4.5/5

Phil Elliott (Nick Nolte), the veteran North Dallas Bulls wide receiver, spend his days relying on painkillers and having some fun with his teammates, particularly the team’s quarterback Seth Maxwell (Mac Davis). However, when Phil meets Charlotte Caulder (Dayle Haddon) at one of the crazy parties he and his teammates often throw, he begins to see that there may be a life after football for him. But Elliott’s drawing away from the sport that he had devoted much of his life to puts him at odds with the Bulls’ head coach (G.D. Spradlin), assistant coach (Charles Durning) and owners (Steve Forrest & Dabney Coleman) and will force him to make a climactic decision whether to continue playing by their rules or to break free from the line of scrimmage for good.

One of the best football movies ever made – and even one of the best sports movies overall – North Dallas Forty brilliantly captures the essence of life in professional football without resorting to faux glamour or heroics. Based off of the 1973 novel by former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Peter Gent, Ted Kotcheff – who co-adapted the novel with Gent and producer Frank Yablans – gives us a gritty and satirical look at the both the manipulative and bureaucratic nature of the game while also indulging in some of the darkly comic nature of the life of a football player. To accomplish this, Kotcheff brought in a few veterans from the NFL to help advise the cast and crew in order to achieve the degree of realism needed to bring this story to life; however, the league was not kind to those who gave their assistance here and essentially blacklisted Hall of Famers Tom Fears and Fred “Scarecrow” Biletnikoff in addition to Tommy Reamon – who had a small part in the film – shortly after the film’s premiere. Despite that unfortunate outcome, the film shows remarkable realism in the scenes involving action on the football field and Kotcheff wrests great performances from his cast. In the end, North Dallas Forty scores a cinematic touchdown in displaying the game of football at its most raw and untouched while hinting at an underlying melancholy of those looking to get out from the brutal nature of the game.

Closing out the 1970’s here with one of his best leading roles, Nick Nolte is the film’s heart and soul as the non-conformist Elliott; his character can be seen as an on-screen surrogate for Peter Gent. Making his acting debut here, country music singer/songwriter Mac Davis makes a notably charming and memorable Seth Maxwell, exhibiting great chemistry with Nolte in their on-screen friendship; Davis’ character of Maxwell (both in the film and novel) has been compared to his real life counterpart, quarterback Don Meredith. Previously making his most notable film appearance earlier in the decade as Senator Geary in The Godfather Part II (1974), G.D. Spradlin portrays the Bulls head coach B.A. Strother, who is seen as the on-screen surrogate for the legendary head coach Tom Landry; as the woman who may just be Phil’s chance to break away from football for good, Dayle Haddon holds her own against the rest of the cast here. Filling out the cast are Charles Durning as the team’s assistant coach Johnson, Steve Forrest and Dabney Coleman as Conrad and Emmett Hunter (the Bulls’ owners and brothers), Bo Svenson as the intimidating Joe Bob Priddy, NFL defensive end John Matuszak – who managed to evade the league’s wrath over his participation here before retiring two years later to pursue acting full time – as O.W. Shaddock (who delivers a memorably blistering criticism to Coach Johnson), Marshall Colt as Art Johnson and Savannah Smith Boucher as Emmett’s fiancée, who may just be the deciding factor in Phil’s future with the Bulls.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

This release presents the movie in its original 2:35:1 aspect ratio, taken from a brand new HDR/Dolby Vision transfer created from a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative; the UHD Blu-ray presents the film in HDR, while the Blu-ray accompanying this release presents the film in SDR. Film grain, color palette and fine details appear to be faithfully rendered with minimal cases of scratches, tears and dirt present on the transfer. Overall, this release is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video and is a substantial improvement over the previous Paramount DVD and an improvement over the previous Imprint Blu-ray.

Audio: 5/5

There are two audio options on both UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray discs: a 2.0 lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track and a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio track. Both dialogue, sound mix and John Scott’s music score are presented faithfully on both tracks with only minimal cases of distortion like crackling, popping and hissing present on both tracks. Overall, this release is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.

Special Features: 4/5

On both UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray Discs

Commentary by director Ted Kotcheff, with filmmakers Daniel Kremer and Daniel Waters – Carried over from the Imprint Blu-ray, Kremer and Waters share their praise of the movie, with Kotcheff recalling memories from the film’s production in audio interview excerpts.

On Blu-ray disc only

Hit Me with Those Best Shots (5:22) – Ted Kotcheff speaks about the film’s opening and closing shots, as well as his memories of making the film in this interview from the Region Free Imprint Blu-ray.

Looking to Get Out (18:36) – In this video essay – carried over from the Imprint Blu-ray – by Daniel Kremer, he speaks about the threads and themes running through Ted Kotcheff’s films.

Introduction by Kotcheff (1:21)

Theatrical Trailer (3:05)

TV Spot (0:33)

Bonus KLSC Trailers – Number One, The Longest Yard, Semi-Tough, The Best of Times, Return to Macon County, New York Stories, Lorenzo’s Oil, Jefferson in Paris, Mulholland Falls, Billy Two Hats & Split Image

Overall: 4.5/5

Scoring with both critics and audiences, North Dallas Forty is not just one of the best films to ever deal with the sport of football, but also one of the best sports movies overall and one of the best films in the careers of Ted Kotcheff and Nick Nolte. Kino has likely delivered the best home video release of the movie, with a strong HDR transfer and carrying over all of the special features from the Imprint Blu-ray as well. Very highly recommended and worth upgrading from previous home video releases.

Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.

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KPmusmag

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This film was a favorite of my Dad's - we went to see it several times, including a drive in. Not a big favorite of mine, but it brings back good memories so I will definitely buy a copy of this one. I must say that Nick Nolte was the perfect actor for the role. A great performance.
 
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