The Alamo DVD Review
PictureOne thing that is worthy of the title “epic” is image quality - I noticed no grain or video noise, no Mpeg artifacting and only a small amount of edge enhancement, which is never overly-intrusive. The colour palette is, at times, particularly impressive... take a look at the Mexican Army's tunics, for example. The reds are rich, with absolutely no bleed - just richly detailed and solid. My only real complaint is not so much to do with image quality, but more with style. The Alamo lacks the awe-inspiring cinematic scale of Eastwood's Unforgiven, Costner's Dances With Wolves, or even Open Range. Whether this was down to deliberation on the part of Director John Lee Hancock, or inexperience helming a movie of this type, I couldn't say, but it just seems to lack that “wow” factor. Of course, it could simply be me - I am a picky so and so!
SoundThis 448kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack flags up as EX encoded on my amp and is one of the most fulfilling audio experiences I've ever had whilst watching a movie. Dialogue is crisp, detailed and always intelligible, which is an important factor as there is often so much going on - cannonballs exploding, buildings being demolished, a myriad rifles firing at once - that it would be easy for the sound mix to become overblown or lose consistency. This just never happens, and amidst all the carnage that emanates from your speakers even the tiniest detail of a cricket's chirp can clearly be heard in the midst of the mayhem. Your sub will get a good workout, also, and bass is clean, tight and deep. This is a soundtrack of the highest calibre, with the rear centre speaker filling in nicely when required.
The disc also comes with a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track... which also flags up as EX encoded, albeit at the lower 384kbps bitrate. Comparing the two soundtracks reveals a marked difference, with the English mix standing head and shoulders above its French counterpart. Not only that but the French track's rear speaker is thoroughly underused - making me wonder if it is in fact EX encoded at all!
PS Don't forget to use the THX Optimiser mode to check your picture and audio settings - it really can make a difference!
ExtrasReturn Of The Legend: The Making Of The Alamo sees cast and crew talking about their experiences during the movie-making process. At around eighteen minutes long this is a making-of that seems to lack a little identity. Yes, it's informative, and yes, it's entertaining. But it flits from one piece of info to the next, never really finding its supplemental feature niche.
Deep In The Heart Of Texans and Walking In The Footsteps Of Heroes are little pieces of Texan “holiday-type” propaganda, purporting to characterise the Texan people by virtue of their ancestor's struggle at the battle of the Alamo. Hmmm... Me? I'm from East London, mate - don't know nuffin' about that!
There are a total of five deleted scenes - all have commentary by Director John Lee Hancock, and as seems to so frequently be the case with deleted scenes, their exclusion from the movie makes perfect sense once you've seen them!
I couldn't understand why the Audio Commentary was missing from the list of “Extensive DVD Extras” detailed on the case's rear cover. Indeed, I didn't even know it existed until I saw it listed in the menu... and even then it comes up last. Having listened to the commentary all is now clear - it comprises two Historians, Alan Huffins and Stephen Hardin - and whilst their discussions are insightful and informative, I think you'd have to be quite interested in the whole Alamo era to get the most out of this. It's quite a dry, heavy going affair.
VerdictThe movie itself can drag at times. Visually it's clean and sharp, but doesn't quite have that “epic” feel. Audio is reference quality and ultimately sways me to give The Alamo a recommended tag. This DVD will find its place in my collection simply because I find myself wanting to keep going back to those fight scenes just to test my equipment! If you can find it cheap... buy it.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £29.99