The Quick And The Dead Blu-ray Review
Sam Raimi's preferred 1.85:1 framing gets an AVC MPEG-4 transfer that certainly offers a step up from the old SD edition, even though the same print seems to have been used. Occasional damage of the speck 'n' fleck variety can be seen, though nothing too detrimental or prominent. Grain is still in evidence and the transfer doesn't appear to have been molested by any undue processing, leaving depth and texture intact. There is some noise in evidence which can usually be seen in clumps within the often blooming, contrast-ramped whites of the skies. This was noticeable, but not too distracting. Agreeably, I did not encounter any trouble with artefacts, aliasing or blocking, and the disc coped well with the intense zooms, both forward and back, the fast motion and the rapid panning of Raimi's whip-around camera without any drag or smearing. Sadly, there is edge enhancement making its presence felt in numerous shots of hats, heads and shoulders when seen against skylines though, once again, given the high contrast of the blazing backgrounds, this possibly seemed more obvious than it really is.
The Quick And The Dead is smothered with an intentionally hot visual sheen. The film is meant to feel warm and sticky. To this end, the transfer, accurately I believe, boosts the oranges, reds and yellows, creating a somewhat hellish aesthetic that proudly bears its sun-drenched hues with screen-dripping intensity. Colours, therefore, are appreciably bright, hot and thickly saturated, although there really aren't too many of them on offer. The whites of flames, such as in lamps and lanterns and produced by torches, are quite blasted and lack internal detail, but there are still well-contrasted within the image. I noticed some occasional fluctuations in skin-tones, which are, otherwise, uniformly ruddy and weathered, and also an instance when a greenish tint struck up around the clouds in the far distance, during the final stand-off between Cort and Herod, that had me replaying the shot to see if I was seeing things or not. But, on the whole, I was happy that this transfer was respectful to the original print. The film was always intensely hot-looking and this BD image reproduces the gritty, ochre-tainted scheme accurately.
There are many occasions when shadows are called for - the interiors can be awash with them - and the disc allows plenty of gradation in the smoother black levels and very reasonable delineation. The stronger blacks of night-time are also well held and suitably thick. Detail is actually very good, although there is often so much grit and dust floating about and such a hot 'n' hazy look to the setting that you could be forgiven for thinking that the image was a tad soft. Facial detail is often terrific. The image favours some intensely vivid close-ups of Stone's eyes, or Hackman's. Hair is well delineated too, with the jostling locks of both Stone and Crowe winning the accolades here. Background detail is pretty much consistent, too. Woodgrain, objects and people all look appreciably better than I have seen them before, the picture's stylish appeal often coming into pleasingly sharp relief. Three-dimensionality can be quite striking too. This sort of film offers plenty of opportunity for startling close-ups combined with deep activity in other portions of the image - and The Quick And The Dead benefits from Raimi's and Spinotti's flair for eye-catching imagery. Characters at one end of the street are unmistakably deeper in the frame than those much closer. Obvious stuff, perhaps, but the transfer makes sure never to flatten the picture or the dull the depth.
Overall, this is a strong, though unusual image that the hi-def encode copes with admirably. Definitely worth the upgrade for fans.
Sony's disc elevates the film's sound design with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and the results are very definitely a worthy upgrade over the original SD's Dolby Digital mix.
At first I wasn't particularly aware of much of an increased extension spreading out from the frontal array. Voices were directional, as were gunshots, the score was louder and clearer and the effects were reasonably positioned. But the more I listened, the wider the audio range seemed to become. Activity is certainly more dynamic, with splintering wood, people crashing through the saloon doors, spurs jangling and stylised footsteps ka-thumping on wooden floorboards with clarity and fine steerage. The film offers plenty of opportunity for tight detailing, with much attention lavished on the working parts of the many weapons brought into play. The little metallic clacks and the luscious spinning of bullet-chambers sounds clear and finite. There is a great little effect when a shot from Herod twirls Clay's gun around, and the sound of guns being holstered or drawn is also keenly drawn. Silvestri's score is liberally spread around the speakers, sounding warm and detailed.
The track is also quite lively with surround activity. Bullets can sing their way past your ears, horses can thunder around the set-up. Ambience in the saloon is reasonably active and the little things like tinkling glasses, background banter and general hubbub is well presented and prioritised. There's a nice little crack to the moment when Cort kicks the door into Ratsy's face and the splintering of wood under gunfire features some cool smaller details within. But the most emphatic thing presented by the TrueHD is the realistic thunder that rumbles over your head during the two stormy sequences. Rainfall, also, is given a good and convincing rendering that patters across the soundscape. And listen out for the moment when Cort takes another beating from Ratsy just before he must make his final showdown - Ratsy's fist swoops all around the set-up with hugely enjoyable, if still ridiculous, sonic dexterity.
The track also offers some very decent .LFE bombast when it is called for, coming alive with some bodily impacts against wooden floors, tables, saloon-doors and the ground. But the big stuff, unsurprisingly, occurs when the dynamite goes off, a couple of the final explosions really thumping the foundations, but possibly only sounding so effective because, otherwise, this is not specifically a track that is sub-friendly. The “boom-boom” is good, there just isn't a lot of particularly weighty stuff for the track to play around with. However, I found the new lossless audio mix to be a very enjoyable one and I can't imagine any fans complaining.
Sadly, we get absolutely nothing with this UK release, other than BD-Live capability.
The Quick And The Dead is top drawer entertainment. It spins a shadow onto the overly familiar requirements of the genre, but explodes such trimmings with typical visual invention, wit, and a dark, dry eloquence. Russell Crowe reveals undeniable star charisma all the way through and brings a certain amount of style to the role that is denied the ostensible lead character of Sharon Stone's cipher, Ellen. However, Stone is still very personable in what is, admittedly, a one-note part. Both look great and issue their lines with the right amount of homage and knowing respect, only too mindful, one suspects, of the legions of similar icons who have gone through such dust-choked motions. Gene Hackman makes for a terrific villain, but he isn't exactly stretching his wings with yet another impossibly arrogant and verbally ensnaring character with which to chew the scenery.
Even if Bruce Campbell's cameo still resides on the cutting room floor, The Quick And The Dead piles on the supporting sauce with absolute relish. Henrikson and David are worth the price alone, but to see Woody Strode in his final ever role, even if for just a couple of seconds, is gold dust, too. With some highly amusing stand-offs and a delicious sense of hinterland machismo, Raimi puts some class into his take on such a well established institution.
Sony's disc may be bereft of extras, but the release will stand or fall on its transfer. Thankfully, it is a good one. Some issues still reveal themselves, but this offers fans of the film stronger video than they will have seen before and very enjoyable sound.
It may be bare-bones - which is why the whole thing only holsters a 6 out of 10 - but The Quick And The Dead still comes recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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