Silverado Blu-ray Review
Sony's handling of back-catalogue titles has been extremely good in my experience and their new hi-def transfer of Silverado is no exception. The 2.40:1 print makes it on to Blu-ray via MPEG-4 without much in the way of damage, age or the pesky appearance of those digital varmints cropping up. Yup, there's no bad DNR here, folks. The film's grain is apparent throughout and reassuring in its integrity. Detail is much improved over the previous Collector's Edition, with finite close-ups of clothing, set fixtures and fittings, facial foliage and weaponry all appreciably enhanced. There is greater definition of far away mountain ranges, too, as well as cloud patterns and the snow and sage-brush on the rolling high plains, though these long shots are still prone to some softness. Foreground delineation is sharp and clear, but also very natural and, overall, the visual depth of the image is film-like and doesn't appear falsely extended with too much edge enhancement. The haloing on the SD could be quite off-putting at times. Three-dimensionality isn't exactly at a premium, but the wide vistas and the immaculately composed frames have been warmly transferred and the picture has a tremendous patina of dust, shadow, winter-light, midnight blues and the swarthy texture of real locations. Some shots of two characters having an exchange in the middle of a day-lit street look surprisingly vivid - with the speakers in sharp relief in the foreground against the slightly softer background that we see over their shoulders.
Colours aren't bold or aggressive, but they are a cleaner, more consistent variation on what the SD version had to offer. The film is often earthy, drab and subdued and this disc handles the palette well. Silverado is not a big, sunny, Arizona desert type of movie. Like Clint's High Plains Drifter and Unforgiven, it is set up on the high grounds and it feels genuinely rougher and colder than the likes of Maverick, or even The Quick And The Dead, two other modern-made and basically escapist yarns. The film has always had pinkish-pushed skin-tones and this BD transfer is no exception. If anything, the reds and pinks are little warmer even than before, but I didn't find this to be a distraction. The burning house has some fine bright orange and red flames shooting out of its windows, and this looks very reasonable and well-contrasted against the shadows of the surrounding night. The blazing gallows offers more nicely contrasted flames set, this time, against the eerie, winter dawn. Blacks can be pretty strong, whether for the interiors of the Midnight Star and the jail-houses or the night-time scenes. I didn't notice any firm elements of detail being crushed. Lanterns and lamps are well picked-out amongst the gloom of the main streets come nightfall, too. However, there is still some aliasing and the image also has edge enhancement, though not to a detrimental degree. Shots of riders moving along ridges and becoming silhouetted actually look fine, when these could have proved problematic.
Overall, the image for Silverado is a very good one that looks authentic, film-like and detailed, and largely un-mired by digital tomfoolery.
Silverado's old DD 5.1 track gets a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 makeover that, whilst hardly earth-shattering in its upgrade, is still a very welcome improvement. Spacious across the front speakers and decent enough in depth to add a degree of sweeping grandeur to Broughton's score, the track favours gunshots, thundering hooves, ricochets and smashing glass. Dialogue is clear and natural-sounding and there is a full range of variance to the voices, even if placement isn't always what it could be. Steerage, on the whole, is fine, although nothing particularly showy. We get horses moving across the soundfield, activity well-placed around the environment, distant rifle shots carrying an echo with them and the odd bullet zipping across our heads and whanging off behind us courtesy of some sporadic, though perfectly agreeable rear speaker support. It isn't the most bombastic track around, but it delivers the aggressive side of the design with clarity and satisfying precision when necessary. Sub presence is minimal, but there are certainly some deep bass moments that carry forcibly across the room.
One thing that I did find very rewarding, and a definite step-up from earlier versions, was the degree of detail that incidental effects could achieve. Ambience in the saloons, especially the Midnight Star, is subtle but very well achieved, with convincingly modulated voices and tinkling glass lending a fine level of atmospherics all the way around the soundfield. Plus, the hubbub surrounding the panic over the house-fire features lots of scuffling feet, cries, shouts and all-round murmurings and mutterings that are picked up quite well by the full set-up. Again, nothing too overt, but just enough to give that feeling of immersion in the scene.
So, summing up how Silverado comes over in its new lossless audio, I would say that this release offers a dazzling presentation of Bruce Broughton's immaculate score, along with sharper, better defined gunshots and dialogue, making the experience, undoubtedly, more enjoyable than before.
Silverado gets a good selection of bonus material. All that is missed off from the R2 Collector's Edition is the rather superfluous Western Shoot-outs compilation, which is no great loss.
We get the dusty, saddle-sore commentary from Frank Thompson, Paul Hutton and Steve Arron, all three Western historians, lecturers and aficionados. These eminent, but breezy and down-to-earth academics discuss the genre at large, its condition at the time Kasdan heroically sought to give it a shot in the arm with Silverado, the film and its lasting appeal as, possibly, the last great traditional Western and it place in the cinematic pantheon of horse operas, as well as its placement as just another great American film. They talk about the real-life era, the weaponry and the geography and attitudes of the frontier, but they also point out the accuracies and the unavoidable inaccuracies of what Kasdan brings to the screen. Looking at the cultural aspects of the screenplay and the characters, themselves, leads to points about Silverado's curiously atypical lack of multi-ethnicity - well, apart from Glover's Mal, that is. Folks, this is great, wide-ranging stuff that combines history, anecdote, fact and production trivia with honest, well-honed opinion, and a true love of the genre.
Then we get a 37-minute The Making Of Silverado, which is a fine piece of documentary fawning from eminent producer Laurent Bouzerau. Both Kasdans have plenty to say about the thematic and character-based issues surrounding the screenplay, as well as the iconic imagery that both knew just had to be in there, despite the film's consciously post-modern attitude to the genre. Cinematographer John Bailey talks about the supernatural light and the vast New Mexico landscape. We hear about how the biggest - at that stage - Western town-set was constructed outside of Santa Fe and see footage of the build. There is on-set footage of the actors, who discuss the project and the chilly experience of filming in New Mexico. Despite the relatively short running time of the feature, compared to the epic scale of the film, this really does attempt to cover every base and, although I could sit through, say, 12 hours of this stuff, it would be hard to criticise the amazing frankness and affection of the participants, and the detail and combination of the trivia and hard production fact offered up. A very satisfying retrospective all round.
A Return To Silverado with Kevin Costner is twenty-one minutes of the actor reminiscing about the film, and his affection for the genre. He certainly knows what he is talking about, being a regular actor and director involved with these large-scale themes. He discusses Kasdan's approach and his relationship with him after making The Big Chill. Disappointed , initially, with his character of Jake, due to his massive, helter-skelter, comical exuberance being radically different to the Western heroes that he grew up with, he found that the casting and, especially the writing, would give him the energy and the belief that he needed to fit the bill. The piece is liberally intercut with clips from the movie, but Costner is actually very interesting and sincere about his character, the story and how certain scenes would give him a real anchor into how Jake worked. Eventually, he obviously came to love the role and how Kasdan made it all come together. He gives his co-stars a pat on the back and is certainly appreciative for the opportunity. Great anecdote about his poncho riding up over his head in the wind, too, and an honesty about how actors and directors can have different ideas about character and overall tone. Although basically light and nostalgic, this is still a decent backdrop to the production and doesn't outstay its welcome.
Sony's BD release is then rounded-off with BD-Live capability.
Whereas no-one could argue that Clint Eastwood didn't supply something akin to a final word on the genre, at least with regards to modern sensibilities, with Unforgiven, Silverado was a brave and wholly successful attempt to capture the old John Ford style of the big country, and the valiant deeds and strife-honed camaraderie that made it that most cherished of fictional settings, and mix it with the authenticity and revisionist attitude that a more learned and less optimistic audience expected from a horse opera. And yet this is still prime-time Saturday morning matinee excess that pays attention to the details, but doesn't let them get in the way of telling a damn good story.
Perhaps the film is a little too crowded with people and incident, but there is no denying its refreshing ambition, eagerness to please and outright winning formula of action, comedy, bravado and all-round iconic nostalgia.
Sony's disc is a fine one, indeed. All the right ammunition from the Collector's Edition has been loaded, and the image is certainly a good deal better. The sound has a warmer and more atmospheric appeal and is both louder and more precisely steered. Therefore, I cannot help but recommend Silverado to its many fans and to newcomers alike. Big, broad and bravura, this is old school myth-making with modern-day wit and adrenaline pumping through its veins.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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