PictureOnce again, another vintage movie gets the Blu treatment and comes up looking amazing. I don't know why we sound so pleasantly surprised anymore. I've covered lots of older catalogue titles in 1080p now and the overwhelming majority have been highly impressive. Bonnie And Clyde's VC-1 transfer is certainly no exception to the trend.
The 1.85:1 image is bright and clean and highly detailed. There is grain in the picture, but it looks right, so don't fret over it. The contrast is jacked-up though, leading to some hot whites and some glaring but, again, this is something that is inherent in the print, as it was a common aspect of films from the late sixties and, here, is often a result of the source lighting that Arthur Penn was fond of. Whilst it is noticeable, I believe that it adds considerably to the atmosphere of the film - the hot, dusty, dry locations and the hazy, lyrical nature of the narrative. Every version of the film that I have seen has shown evidence of this, but the BD edition looks far more authentic and deliberate.
Colours are fine, though you will find that the transfer likes the reds, greens and yellows most of all. Blood is bright and splashy, Bonnie's dresses are bold, the grass and trees are vibrant and the cornfields provide a nicely saturated hue. As I said earlier, the heat of the environment seems to burn through the image for much of the film. Skin-tones err on the ruddy side, well for Beatty, at any rate. Detail is excellent. Skin texture, hair and eyes reveal far more information than ever before. The material of clothing, the upholstery of the cars and their the bodywork, the grain on wood and the surfaces of the walls, both internal and external, of cafes, houses, banks and holiday homes are all scrubbed-up and striking with the greater resolution. The swaying corn and the bullet holes ripped through the foreclosure signs, the hairs on Pollard's chest when he reveals his tattoo and the odd pimple on Beatty's face or the crags on Denver Pyle's weather-beaten chops - all look far more studied and finite than ever before.
Another very striking aspect of this transfer is the wonderful depth of field that the picture attains. Ignore those hot whites or a second and admire the superb three-dimensionality of the scene when Clyde trains Bonnie to shoot by having her fire at a hanging tyre in the immediate foreground. Great framing and a real sense of true depth also bolster any scene of cars travelling down the endless roads and dusty lanes, and the fabulously spacious street scenes feel expansive, broad and active. For a film from 1967, Bonnie And Clyde sure shapes up well with regards to scope and viewer immersion.
The sepia-tinted reunion scene sticks out like a sore thumb, though. But this is, of course, intentional and the unique look was actually achieved by putting a piece of window-screen in the camera to break the image down - so don't go thinking that the transfer has thrown a wobbler. However, there are some very odd miniscule shots that do show their age with an over-abundance of grain, such as the look at Bonnie after her classic gun-toting, cigar-smoking photo-pose, for instance. And there are several slight frame jumps too - although these are tiny and shouldn't be a problem. Edge enhancement on such objects or, say, around Clyde's white shirt when seen against the blue sky, can still be seen, but this isn't too much of a bugbear, either, and most of the movie is blissfully free from it, or any distracting noise or compression artefacts.
Overall, I was very pleased with the image on offer here and it certainly brings out the best in Bonnie And Clyde.
SoundIt always seems like a bit of cop-out when it comes to writing up an audio review for a film that only carries a mono track, because there simply isn't a great deal that you can wax lyrical about. Unlike Criterion's release of Robinson Crusoe On Mars (SD DVD - see review), most single-channel don't exactly cater for much in the way of determinable detail. Mind you, there is a slight difference between this UK disc and its US equivalent. Over the pond there were apparently treated to a DD Plus track, whilst we only get simple DD 1.0. Then again, what possible difference could there be?
The elements that Warner had to work with for this transfer are clean and free from hiss or distortion. I had no problem with the dialogue at all and the frenetic fiddle-playing score comes over well and with some degree of vitality. Blanche's shrieks would probably get on your nerves even if the film was silent, but there is an unsurprising lack of depth and warmth to the track, though you really would find it to complain about what is, basically, a very clear and respectful audio presentation. Let's face it, we would probably have moaned if they had attempted some form of surround mix, wouldn't we?
ExtrasWhereas the US release was treated to one of Warner's new Book-style presentations with pages of notes and illustrations, the UK version only maintains the featurettes and documentary.
Starting with the 1994 History Channel TV Special: "Love and Death: The True Story of Bonnie & Clyde" (SD, 43.13 minutes), we get to know the outlaw couple pretty well. Their story is told in interviews with Clyde's sister, various writers and historians and via some letters that the pair and their relations wrote during their crime-spree. Starting off in poverty-stricken conditions, it seems the pair were destined for trouble in their attempts to find a better life. Clyde's various times in prison are discussed and the acquaintances and experiences he had there are vital to the direction that he life on the outside would take. Their exploits are covered in depth and the path to their ultimate bullet-raked execution is actually quite riveting stuff. We learn of the real gang members and of the crimes, themselves, which rapidly became unforgivably violent and unnecessary. The folkloric Jesse James/Robin Hood angle was swiftly lost as they continued to pump lead into policemen and, in one spectacular vengeance raid, the very prison in which Clyde had served a terrifying time. Lots of photographs and archive footage is presented - including their dead bodies at the scene and as a grisly freakshow for the public. Even film of their celebrity funerals is offered up. Great stuff - not sure about the ever-present swing-time music that underscores the doc, though.
Then we move onto the terrific three-part retrospective making-of entitled “Revolution! The Making Of Bonnie And Clyde”. Now this is wonderful, comprehensive, honest and down to earth. We get to meet all the main players - Beatty, Dunaway, Hackman, Pollard, Parsons and Evans - as well as Arthur Penn, writer Robert Benton, Curtis (LA Confidential) Hanson (who actually “discovered” Faye Dunaway), and the editor, Dede Allen. There are tons of anecdotes and trivia, lots of on-set stills and a fully-rounded approach to the film's conception, script, shooting and release. Produced by the ever-reliable and unstoppable Laurent Bouzereau, this is excellent stuff. From Beatty's attempts to have Francois Truffaut direct in the current French New Wave style - he refused as he was busy with Fahrenheit 451 - to the various storms in tea-cups that Penn had with his cinematographer over the now-exquisite clouds-across-the-cornfield sequence - the photography, of course, garnered the picture's second Oscar win, this tells it all, warts 'n' all. Dede Allen even confesses that she didn't actually cut that immortal final scene and Penn tells how it was the combination of violence and humour that spelled most of the problems that the film had with the production code of the time. He even broke the code when he was the first to break the taboo of having a gun and the victim it kills in the same frame without any cutting away - a big no-no in those days. The epic blood-squib climax gets plenty of reminiscence, as does the classic burger and French fries scene with Gene Wilder who, sadly, does not show up for a chit-chat. But it is nice to see the still amazingly gorgeous Morgan Fairchild say a few words about her time when she was Faye Dunaway's double on the picture. Astute and humorous, this is well worth your time, folks.
The two Deleted Scenes provided do not have any soundtrack that could be located, so they are presented with a choice of language subtitles. Both are really good, too. The first shows Clyde planning a bank job with the aid of some spilled sugar on the table of a diner, whilst all Bonnie is interested in is a bit of attention. The second is the original and much extended version of Bonnie singing “We're in the Money” and prancing around in front of the mirror. This version is much craftier and wittier in that it reveals that poor C.W is actually in the bath and forced to endure her performance whilst squirming a little uncomfortably in the, thankfully, murky water. Both scenes are worth seeing, though it is quite clear that they were unnecessary to the finished movie.
Then we have 7 minutes of Warren Beatty's Wardrobe Tests. There is no dialogue on offer, although we can see the actor's lips moving as he talks to whoever is off-camera, and the whole piece is accompanied by more swing-time musicola as he struts his stuff in period duds.
Finally, we have the film's Teaser and Theatrical Trailers to round the package off. A commentary would have been the icing on the cake, though. But, c'est la vie.
VerdictTerrific performances from Dunaway and Beatty ensure that this proto-Natural Born Killers has immense style and personality. They hug the camera with screen-stealing charisma and provide all the romance that the real saga's tabloids-of-the-times used to fashion folkloric sensation. The whole cast excels and the film also contains Gene Wilder's first riotous set-piece mania that, curiously, doesn't seem out of place even for one giddy, eye-rolling second. Penn's treatment of the story is beguiling, crafty and superbly staged. Its controversial aspects can't avoid feeling a little tepid now, but you have to remember that Bonnie And Clyde's refusal to play by the rules opened the floodgates to the action and crime dramas that we all love to see with grit, realism and an edge these days. Sensuality, violence, ambiguous moralities and the savage cost of love on the run - that's Bonnie And Clyde for you. A definite classic on a BD release that gathers together some great and comprehensive background material and provides a fine AV transfer - I can't help but recommend it, wholeheartedly. This one's there with a bullet.
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