Bullitt and Papillon on DVD
A classic if only for its outstanding car chase between a 1968
Mustang and a 68 Charger, Bullitt is a moody cop drama based on the novel
Steve McQueen stars as Frank Bullitt, a San Francisco police
lieutenant whose team is assigned the apparently easy gig of protecting an
important witness for a couple of days so he can testify in court.
Naturally, things dont come off in as straightforward a
manner as Bullitt and his gang anticipate; the stool pigeon and one of
McQueens cops get shot up and hospitalized.
Meanwhile, the slimy and opportunistic politician behind the case
(played by Robert Vaughn) whos turning up the heat on Bullitt through his
boss (Simon Oakland) wants answers fast, more it seems to help his political
career than to actually serve justice.
And who can object to Jacqueline Bisset, even though shes
little more than decorative window dressing in her role as Bullitts
The plot is tightly written and directed, and its quite
remarkable how McQueen can craft a character with about three lines of dialog
through the film (okay, we exaggerate a tad).
Bullitt is most famous, of course, for one of the greatest car
chases in movie history. McQueen did his own driving and the chase scene builds
beautifully. It starts with the two hit men in their Charger trailing Bullitt
in his Mustang, then they lose him only to suddenly discover him behind
them, filling their rear view mirror.
So far the chase is pretty straightforward and low speed
then we see Bullitts quarry take the time to buckle up in an age
when seatbelts were only starting to become popular and we realize that
all heck is about to break loose, motorcar-wise.
And it does! While todays chases seem to generally fall into
the special effects super stunts category, with vehicles that leap
and bound and seem nearly invulnerable as if theyre looking for
best stunt Oscars, the chase through San Francisco streets has a
gritty reality to it. Here, when they head over a hill, they land with a thunk
that looks like theyre really trying to wreck the cars. And the speeds
look very real, like something out of a John Frankenheimer chase (watch
Ronin to see what we mean).
The special edition DVD features two discs, obviously with plenty
of extras to tempt Bullitt fans. Disc one features the movie, in a new digital
transfer the features anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), and with
Dolby Digital surround stereo audio. The picture quality is good but not great
(the film could use a good restoration as well as the digital remastering),
with some grainy sections. Overall, however, the color is good and the picture
is quite sharp.
Audio is okay.
Extras include: two new, feature length documentaries "Steve
McQueen: The Essence of Cool" and "The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie
Editing" as well as a vintage featurette. There's also a running commentary by
director Peter Yates and the trailer.
Bullitt, from Warner Home Entertainment
114 min. anamorphic
widescreen (1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Surround Stereo
Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Jacquenline Bisset
Produced by Philip
Written by Alan R. Trustman and Harry Kleiner, Directed by Peter
Papillon on DVD
From the Oscar-winning director of Patton and
Planet of the Apes (Franklin J.
Schaffner) comes the movie version of the true story of Henri Charriere, better
known as Papillon (French for butterfly), a man who refuses to give up his
quest for freedom regardless of the personal cost.
Its a dark and haunting film, with some scenes that will
stay with you long afterward, assuming you didnt cover your eyes during
them in the first place.
Though not gratuitously violent, there are definitely some
sections here that depict the horrible conditions of Frances Devils
Island prison and mans inhumanity to man (remembering,
of course, that these are hardened criminals for the most part) in realistic
ways that will make you glad you werent there!
Steve McQueen gives one of his best performances as Papillon.
Sentenced to Devil's Island, the movie follows his trip there via ship and his
multiple escape attempts - and their consequences. Hes a man whose spirit
will not be broken, despite those consequences of his escape attempts that we
get to see so well.
Dustin Hoffman is also excellent as Louis Dega, a counterfeiter
also sent to Devils Island. The two men struggle to survive their ordeal,
the only thing keeping Papillon going, it seems, being his visions of escaping
Devils Island and freedom.
One can understand why Papillon would risk escape attempts; the
conditions under which the prisoners lived were indeed horrible, and many would
probably rather (and undoubtedly did) die.
This is an unpleasant, though fascinating, movie, and despite the
fact that it tends to glorify these criminals, it is definitely worth a view
for its realism, its story, its performances and direction, and even its great
Jerry Goldsmith score.
The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible,
and the picture is generally very good. Theres some grain, but for the
most part the disc looks very film like, with terrific color and sharp
Audio has supposedly been remixed into 5.1 surround, though there
isnt a huge amount of surround. What you do get is a nice spreading
across the front of the dialogue and sound effects (center channel, mostly)
accompanied by a good stereo soundfield for the musical score. Audio quality is
Extras include the trailer and a promotional documentary that
includes cast/crew comments and a look at the real Papillon, Henri Charierre,
who was on hand for the filming.
Papillon, from Warner Home Entertainment
150 min. anamorphic
widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1
McQueen, Dustin Hoffman
Produced by Robert Dorfmann
Written by Dalton
Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple, Jr., directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
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