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directed by Peter Watkins
USA 19
71

 

Both controversial and relentless in its depiction of suppression and brutality, Punishment Park was heavily attacked by the mainstream press and permitted only the barest of releases in 1971. However, like Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool (1969) and Robert Kramer's Ice (1969), Peter Watkins' film has established itself as one of the key, yet rarely seen, radical films of the late 1960s/early 1970s. Giving voice to the disaffected youth of America that had lived through the campus riots at Berkeley, the trial of the Chicago Seven and who were witnessing the escalation of the Vietnam War, Punishment Park was named by Rolling Stone as one of their top ten films of 1971 and has earned many admirers in the four decades since its release.

Set in a detention camp in an America of the near-future, Punishment Park's pseudo-documentary style (continuing Watkins' subversive innovations with Culloden and The War Game) places a British film crew amongst a group of young students and minor dissidents who have opted to spend three days in 'Bear Mountain Punishment Park'. The detainees, rather than accept lengthy jail sentences for their 'crimes', gamble their freedom on an attempt to reach an American flag — on foot and without water — through the searing heat of the desert. The pursuit of Group 637 — a lethal, one-sided game of cat-and-mouse with a squad of heavily armed police and National Guardsmen — is contrasted with the corrupt trial of Group 638 by a quasi-judicial tribunal.

Unlike Easy Rider's mythologising of American counter-culture, Punishment Park's uncompromising stance, and its uneasy parallels with Guantanamo Bay, retain a powerful and prescient message in the post-9/11 present.

 

Posters etc.

Theatrical Release: March 14th, 73' - TV in Sweden

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Comparison:

 Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL vs. New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL LEFT

2) New Yorker - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

DVD Box Cover

   

 

Distribution Eureka (Masters of Cinema spine # 21) - Region 2 - PAL

New Yorker

 Region 1 - NTSC

Eureka (Masters of Cinema spine # 29) - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:27:24 (4% PAL Speedup) 1:27:54  1:31:22.810
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.28 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.69 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 35,923,383,543 bytes

Feature: 27,648,983,040 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate: Eureka

Bitrate: NY'er

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)  - Director's Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0) English (Dolby Digital 2.0)  - Director's Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0) LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Subtitles English, None English, French, None English (SDH), None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• 30-minute video introduction by Peter Watkins
• Full-length audio commentary by Dr. Joseph A. Gomez (author of the 1979 book Peter Watkins)
• 32-page booklet with two essays and reprints

DVD Release Date: October, 2005

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: New Yorker Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• 30-minute video introduction by Peter Watkins
• Full-length audio commentary by Dr. Joseph A. Gomez (author of the 1979 book Peter Watkins)
• Short: The Forgotten Faces (18:09- with optional French or English subtitles)

• Text Essay by Scott MacDonald

• Original 1971 Press Kit

• Peter Watkins Filmography

• 24-page booklet with reprint from the Joseph A. Gomez book Peter Watkins

DVD Release Date: November 22nd, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• 30-minute video introduction by Peter Watkins
• Full-length audio commentary by Dr. Joseph A. Gomez (author of the 1979 book Peter Watkins)
• 32-page booklet with two essays and reprints

Original MoC DVD package

Blu-ray Release Date: January 23rd, 2012
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 12

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Masters of Cinema - Region FREE Blu-ray - January 12': I don't know that the static screen captures support this - but the image quality in-motion looked wonderful - full of thick, organic, grain. The 1080P seems to produce a slightly brighter image than the DVDs but the value, in my mind, is all in the texture. It really evokes the 16mm roots (although bumped to 35mm it still has the intense grain). As usual there is slightly more information in the frame - and this is the only, of the three compared, that has the film in theatrical running time.

Audio is via a linear PCM 2.0 channel stereo track at 1536 kbps. I couldn't say I noticed a demonstrative difference (except lack of PAL speedup reflected in the pitch of dialogue) but being uncompressed I trust it is as authentic as we are ever likely to get for Home Theater enjoyment. There are optional subtitles.

Extras duplicate the 2005 MoC DVD with the intro and commentary - plus the impressive liner notes booklet. The Dual-Format package also contains the original PAL SD-DVD disc.

This was the best viewing I've had of Watkins' prescient film. It can be a stark warning of what may lie ahead in these uncertain times or reflect that freedom requires eternal vigilance. I was enthralled by the rich viewing experience and definitely recommend.

***

ADDITION: New Yorker - NTSC - November 2005 - The New Yorker version is from an unconverted PAL source and hence has visible combing (see last 2 capture comparison images). Depending upon the system you are viewing it on the prevalence will vary. Neither release has extensive cropping. The NY'er is slightly more hazy than the Eureka and appears to have a greenish filter to it. I actually prefer the NY'er subtitles and they do offer optional French ones as well - they are slightly more discreet. In the area of extras both have the Watkins introduction and both have the Gomez commentary. The New Yorker includes a few more tidbits including a 20 minute Peter Watkins short film entitled The Forgotten Faces. Both DVD editions have something to offer but technically the Eureka MoC release has a big edge in image where the NY'er has nudged ahead in extra features. Not that it should make a difference - but I prefer the look of the NY'er menus over the Eureka, although both are very nice.  

***

ON THE Masters of Cinema DVD: There are some very poor editions of this film on DVD, but surely this, by far, is the best - a high-definition transfer (originally shot on 16mm, Punishment Park has been remastered from a new 35mm print struck from the restored 35mm blow-up negative held in Paris). Progressive and beautifully rendered the colors and sharpness are excellent. This is typical of the sterling quality that we have come to expect from Eureka's MoC series, who appear to be surpassing even Criterion in their level of excellence. Booklet, commentary, introduction - a full spectrum of extra features and we see no reason not to give this our full endorsement.

Gary W. Tooze

 


DVD Menus

 

(Eureka - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. New Yorker - Region 1- NTSC RIGHT)


 
 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) New Yorker - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

Screen Captures

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) New Yorker - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) New Yorker - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM


1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) New Yorker - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM


1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) New Yorker - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) New Yorker - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) New Yorker - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 
NOTE: Combing visible in NY'er release
 

 


1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) New Yorker - Region 1- NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 
NOTE: Combing visible in NY'er release
 


Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: New Yorker

Box Cover

   

 

Distribution Eureka (Masters of Cinema spine # 21) - Region 2 - PAL

New Yorker

 Region 1 - NTSC

Eureka (Masters of Cinema spine # 29) - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 





 

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