'American History X' is presented in widescreen 1.85:1 with VC-1 coding.
As this movie is quite old and features black and white footage that was grainy to begin with I wasn't expecting miracles with this Blu-ray release. Needless to say during the black and white portions grain is rife and mars the picture with softness. During the indoor colour segments the grain is less noticeable although it's still present. As the movie progresses the grain factor becomes less obvious and at times can add to the gritty nature of the source material. The DVD release did suffer from some muddying effects during the colour segments and a hint of black crush during the black and white segments. Both have been eliminated on Blu-ray. The black and white segments can look stunning at times, with strong contrast ratio boasting very solid blacks (check out Derek's Swastika tattoo) , coupled with impressive shadow detail. This increase in shadow detail is a vast improvement when compared to previous DVD releases. What I was pleasantly surprised with on this presentation was the level of detail on show throughout. Everything from the Nazi memorabilia in Danny's room to the entire contents of the Vinyard's humble home (even their dirty bathroom!) is now in sharp definition. Facial close ups exhibit a nice level of detail and I noticed many more facets to the entire production in comparison to the previous DVD release. Colouring is spot on throughout (such as the accurate greens of the suburbia foliage) with naturalist skin tones during the colour segments.
As Kaye's style on this shoot involved some long shots the opportunity was there for plenty of high definition depth but unfortunately the quality of the source material prevents this from happening. There were also scant instances of that sought after 3D pop factor with the scene involving Seth in his van being the only real standout. Although the level of grain is initially distracting (such as in the opening beach shots) and does have that unwelcome softening effect, it later becomes a barely noticeable buzz and enhances the black and white segments. As a whole this is a worthy transfer and the best that 'A-X' has ever looked.
'American History X'- is encoded with a 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio lossless surround track.
Although not an action laden piece, this movie does contain gunshots and other action segments which are well represented on this track. During the opening scenes the soundstage is subdued with the score doing most of the work. There are a couple of token effects such as a motorbike passing behind the listening position and ambient effects such as crickets chirping and the distant bark of dogs are also audible during the night time sequences. Dialogue is crystal clear throughout with some nice bass tonality from some of the male speakers in the movie. The Nazi band segment is also very well represented with the chaotic guitar and bass sounds containing a nice weight coupled with some nice surround activity from the crowd. The bass from the gangsters Coup De Ville is also impressive with deep bass intonations and there's a very active sound field during the carnage of the grocery store assault scene. Of course the scene that I was looking forward to from an audio point of view was the infamous curb stomp and I was not disappointed. The scraping of the young African-American thug's teeth as they engage the pavement, biting down on the concrete causing shards of mortar and enamel to sheer and gather in minute piles is horrific. Without these audio effects I'm not too sure if this scene would have been as effective.
From the outset the score makes its presence felt with a snapping snare drum staccato coupled with a nice midrange punch. I was expecting more presence from the score later on in the movie but it stubbornly sits in the midrange and never really comes to the forefront to make its presence really felt. It does add to the main feature throughout and some segments, such as the rousing operatic piece during the basketball game, are aurally engaging. Overall the audio presentation on this release is an improvement over previous DVD releases but it does not at any point dominate the soundstage or completely immerse with surround activity and thus does not make its way into the demo material category.
As is to be expected, due to the aforementioned studio/director conflict, extras are scant and all we've got is a direct port of the features from the DVD edition. I was hoping that we would have seen a 10th Anniversary Edition of 'A-X' but alas this did not transpire. Kaye mentioned some years ago that he was working on a new DVD edition but now it seems as though we may never see a feature laden release of this movie.
Deleted Scenes - We have three deleted scenes which are presented in completely finished quality as Kaye intended to leave these in the movie. The first scene shows racial prejudice on the boardwalk in Venice Beach. The second shows Cameron as he attempts to convince Seth to take Derek's place and coaxes him with a promotion. They also have a run in with a black man in a cafe and racially abuse him. The third features Derek as he has some banter with a young African American girl. All three do add to the main feature but their omission is of no great loss to the overall plotline.
High Definition Trailer - A 1080p trailer for the feature presentation.
Although a highly controversial movie that comes dangerously close at times to glamourising the neo-Nazi way of life, 'American History X' is ultimately the story of one man's struggle to disregard the opinions of others and form his own beliefs. With some shocking imagery that will haunt the viewer, coupled with a incredible performance from Edward Norton, this intelligent drama is a must see for all movie fans. The direction is also impressive from Tony Kaye, for a man whose C.V. only included music videos and commercials prior to this release. Although over ten years old 'A-X' still packs a massive punch and it's message that race hate is not the solution to the world's problems still rings true today.
As is to be expected from a movie that features grainy black and white segments the resultant Blu-ray transfer does not contain any jaw dropping moments. In saying that, both the audio and video presentations have made very noticeable improvements over previous DVD releases. The level of detail in the video presentation, in particular, is very well represented. The extras portion is somewhat lacking with only a high definition trailer and the deleted scenes from the DVD edition available for your viewing pleasure. Overall it's the main presentation and the fact that this release is the best that 'A-X' has ever looked or sounded that makes this BD release a must buy for new and old fans alike.
I'm the most dangerous man in this prison. You know why? 'Cause I control the underwear.
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