Eureka Blu-ray Review
Underrated masterpiece or unknown curio?
Director Nicolas Roeg proved, across the golden years of his career, an adventurous auteur with an obtuse Lynch-ian style that saw his 1983 opus Eureka buried without a trace.Probably best known for his classic horror Don’t Look Now, Roeg’s distinctive vision – developed through his early years, before he became a director, as a cinematographer – often proved painfully elusive, with viewers forced to wait patiently as the narratives of his features slowly came into some sort of focus. More about mood and feeling than coherent storytelling, arguably one of his most ambitious projects was the epic fictionalisation of the life of gold mine owner Sir Harry Oakes (with all the real parties involved renamed), whose mysterious life was climactic enough to push news of the victory in World War II off the front page of the newspapers at the time. The film’s fictionalisation itself runs somewhere between Citizen Kane and, more recently, There Will Be Blood, with determined prospector Jack McCann striking it rich and establishing himself on an island in the Bahamas where he finds himself equally plagued by a wayward daughter who has fallen in love with a playboy yachtsman that he doesn’t approve of, and by a group of suspicious interested parties sent by mob boss Mayakofsky (a thin renaming of real mob boss Meyer Lansky) to help ‘persuade’ McCann to allow the building of a casino on the islands.With an all-star cast, including Roeg’s then-wife Theresa Russell as McCann’s highly sexual daughter, Rutger Hauer as the charming playboy, Joe Pesci (on very atypically restrained form) as the mob boss, and a young, suave Mickey Rourke as his consigliore, the film rises and falls largely on the shoulders of Gene Hackman’s committed central performance as the eccentric Jack McCann, whose comparatively early ‘jackpot’ sees the rest of his decades filled with a frustrating lack of purpose as he can simply never recapture the magic of striking gold for the first time. Roeg’s vision both distinguishes and taints the feature, at times clouding the narrative structure to levels of painful obscurity, whilst rendering imagery and visual excess with the same wanton abandon as was prevalent in the ‘Heaven’s Gate’ era of filmmaking. Ultimately the opaque storytelling style and theatrically flamboyant performances, combined with a semi-incoherent narrative that only hints at having any kind of meaning, leave this an understandably hard-to-appreciate work even from someone as unconventional as Roeg, although its mistreatment upon release was wholly undeserved, and some appreciation as an all-star curio must, posthumously, be levelled now.
Picture QualityEureka’s release of Eureka is most impressive, as we have only come to expect from them, promoting the movie with a largely excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the film’s original (very limited) theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
Many will have never come across this offbeat little all-star indie curio due to the fact it was barely given a theatrical run, or aired on TV, and this is likely the best it’s ever looked.
Detail is surprisingly good, affording characters rich texture and fine observation on hair and skin, whilst clothing weaves are discernible and background nuances distinguishable. A marginally variable layer of grain pervades the piece, coming over as a suitably filmic sheen for the most part and only occasionally shifting to a slightly thicker haze which still resists impinging upon your viewing pleasure and is only vaguely distinguishable from the rest of the feature. Defects and problems are almost non-existent (there are a couple of shots, including one which uses a mirror, that come across slightly worse) and whilst there’s some light softness around some of the sequences, the picture generally holds up very well indeed, providing surprisingly rich tones and strong black levels and making for another impressive title in the Eureka catalogue.
Sound QualityAlthough boasting no more than a Linear PCM 1.0 offering for an aural accompaniment, the track is a perfectly serviceable one.
With a front-loaded effort that never feels less than faithful to the material, we get dialogue promoted clearly and coherently across the array, and effects well-observed and natural, picking up on all of the atmospherics that bring the various settings to life, from the supposedly utopian island to the blisteringly cold northern outreach. It’s the score that’s the most distinguishing element, however, courtesy of the man behind the memorable Deer Hunter score, Stanley Myers, and indeed so good that it gets its own Isolated track option (along with the effects).
ExtrasEureka presents Eureka and, as is expected from their Masters of Cinema Series, provides a solid selection of supplemental features.
Aside from the Music & Effects-Only Track, we also get a series of interviews, including Nicholas Roeg at the NFT, which is so hefty that it’s enabled as an optional pseudo-commentary, to play alongside the feature. Recorded following the film’s UK premiere back in 1983, Roeg discusses his career leading up to this production, his filming style and preceding work behind the camera, and what he brought to Eureka.
There’s also a contemporary quarter-hour chat with producer Jeremy Thomas who discusses the fact that it was based on the book Kings X, which was about the mysteries surrounding eccentric island-dwelling gold-miner Harry Oakes, and chats about the various locations used in the shoot with a few anecdotes into the production, whilst writer Paul Mayersberg’s hour-long Interview and editor Tony Lawson’s quarter hour Interview round out the offerings with lesser but still equally informative additions. The packed disc is rounded off by a Theatrical Trailer and the package itself accompanied by one of Eureka’s Criterion-rivalling booklets with Articles about the film.
Blu-ray VerdictAcclaimed Brit Director Nicolas Roeg's 1983 curio Eureka was buried upon release and is impressively reincarnated now.
Eureka - the studio - have done a great job bringing this near-lost feature to life, with possibly the best presentation it's ever had, and a superb selection of hefty Interview-based extras to offer further background into the production. Fans shouldn't hesitate in picking it up.
You can buy Eureka on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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