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http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/cassavetes.htm
USA 1976

 

"Perhaps a film that should be not be over-analyzed but rather allowed to wash over you with its gritty realism. John Cassavetes's first attempt at a crime-thriller failed miserably at the box office and was re-cut to a shorter more condensed version which was released two years later. It's this short version that is most readily available in VHS and on the Pioneer 'Pan and Scan' DVD (see review below). Initially dismissed by many critics it has now come to the stature of a postnoir masterpiece. Cassavetes employed his usual cast (gruesome Timothy Carey and Seymour Cassel) and ad-hoc improvisation which gave 'The Killing of a Chinese Bookie' its realistic deconstructionist atmosphere. Typical of Cassavetes' style, the film is relentless in its demands on the viewer, never clearly revealing plot details, but inferring them as if we were a stranger on the diner stool next to the characters. Ben Gazzara plays Cosmo, a cool strip club owner who gets himself indebted to the mob in a bravado gambling spree. His demeanor throughout the film is one of passive acceptance, almost as if he is bored with his lifestyle. He is coerced into killing an enemy of the mob and fulfills his duties with calm solace. The movie completes with him soliloquizing his personal philosophy to the burlesque crew at the nightclub he owns. Underrated as a film it continues to surface in quiet back-street Art-house theatres."

Gary Tooze

Posters

Theatrical Release: February 15, 1976

Reviews                                  More Reviews                                  DVD Reviews

Comparison:

Optimum (The John Cassavetes Collection - Long) - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion (Cassavetes - 5 Films) - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Pioneer - Region 0 - NTSC vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Henrik Sylow and Gregory Meshman and Gary Tooze for the Screen Caps!

1) Optimum (The John Cassavetes Collection - Long) - Region 2 - PAL - LEFT

2) Criterion (Cassavetes - 5 Films) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Pioneer - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) BFI - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

Only available in the Boxset listed below:

Only available in the Boxset listed below:

Only available in Criterion John Cassavetes: Five Films Blu-ray set:

The 6 - disc John Cassavetes Collection from Optimum includes: Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under The Influence, The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie, Opening Night with THESE LISTED EXTRAS.

The 8 - disc Criterion John Cassavetes - Five Films includes - Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under The Influence, The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie, Opening Night with THESE LISTED EXTRAS.

            

Distribution

Optimum

Region 2 - PAL

Criterion
Region 0 - NTSC
Pioneer
Region 0 - NTSC
BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Criterion Collection - Spine #254
Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:08:27 (4% PAL speedup) 2:14:04 1:48:36 ('cut' version) 2:13:59.364 2:14:20.969
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.78 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.96 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1:33 Open Matte format
Average Bitrate: 5.4 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.85:1 - 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,715,483,935 bytes

Feature: 27,510,614,016 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,382,658,999 bytes

Feature: 24,677,984,256 bytes

Video Bitrate: 20.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate:

 

Optimum (The John Cassavetes Collection - Long)

 

Bitrate:

Criterion (Cassavetes - 5 Films)

 

Bitrate:

 

Pioneer

 

Bitrate: BFI

Blu-ray

 

Bitrate: Criterion

Blu-ray

 

Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital English

1.0 Dolby Digital English

2.0 Dolby Digital English

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Select Scene Commentary:  Dolby Digital Audio English 320 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 320 kbps
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles No subtitles English, None None English, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Optimum

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary on selected scenes by Peter Bogdanovich and Al Ruban

• Both long and short versions of the film on separate discs.
• 36 page booklet with articles and interviews

DVD Release Date: September 12, 2005
Digipack Box

Chapters 19

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
DISC ONE—THE 1976 CUT

• John Cassavetes’ original 135 -minute edit of the film

DISC TWO—THE 1978 CUT

• Cassavetes’ 108-minute edit from the 1978 theatrical re-release,
• New video interviews with star Ben Gazzara and producer Al Ruban
• Audio interview with Cassavetes by film historians Michel Ciment and Michael Wilson conducted after the film’s release
• Stills gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos
 

DVD Release Date: September 21st, 2004
Digipack Box

Chapters 19

Release Information:
Studio: Pioneer

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1:33

Edition Details:
• 4-page liner notes with essay by Ray Carney
 

DVD Release Date: April 6th, 1999
Keep case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: BFI

 

1.85:1 - 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,715,483,935 bytes

Feature: 27,510,614,016 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• 
Includes both the 135 minute and 108 minute re-cut versions (1:48:29 - 1080P)
• Selected scene commentary by Al Rubin and Peter Bogdanovich on long version (53:59)

PAL, Region 2, DVDs:

Disc One - long version with optional select scene commentary and short version

Disc 2
• Anything for John (1993, 1:30:53, limited edition DVD only): feature documentary featuring interviews with Cassavetes' collaborators Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk and Al Rubin
The Haircut (1982, 21:31, limited edition DVD only): rare 1982 short starring John Cassavetes
• Tamar Hoffs Interview (1993, 5:08, limited edition DVD only): the director of The Haircut discusses her film and working with Cassavates
• Extensive booklet with essays and film credits
• Strictly limited to 1,000 units

Blu-ray Release Date: July 15th, 2013
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 17

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,382,658,999 bytes

Feature: 24,677,984,256 bytes

Video Bitrate: 20.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
THE 1976 CUT

• John Cassavetes’ original 135 -minute edit of the film
 

THE 1978 CUT

• Cassavetes’ 108-minute edit from the 1978 theatrical re-release,
• New video interviews with star Ben Gazzara and producer Al Ruban
• Audio interview with Cassavetes by film historians Michel Ciment and Michael Wilson conducted after the film’s release
• Stills gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos
 

Blu-ray Release Date: October 22nd, 2013
Custom
Blu-ray package
Chapters: 19

 

 

 

Comments

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

 

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (September 2013): Like the BFI (and the Criterion DVD before that) this includes both the 1976 and 1978 cuts of the film The Killing of  a Chinese Bookie. They are in 1080P and the technical stats compare favorably with the BFI Blu-ray of earlier this year. After comparing Shadows, Faces, and A Woman Under the Influence, with almost no differences at all - here we fine some minor variances in the video. The Criterion is darker - not a whole lot - but a shade. Skin tones are also warmer to a very small degree. I have not compared the shorter 1978 cut but, again, things appear very similar to the Criterion in terms of video rendering. LPCM audio - Criterion going flat mono and both have optional English subtitles. We get the same extras from the 2004 Criterion DVD boxset (which handily won our first poll for best package of the year! This Blu-ray set might repeat...   

 

***

 

ADDITION BFI Blu-ray - June 2013: Quite the package from the BFI! Okay, we have a 3-disc set of Cassavetes' The Killing of a Chinese Bookie - one of my favorite of the director's lauded vérité work. There is one dual-layered Blu-ray with both the 2 1/4 hour and 1 3/4 hour versions of the film (not seamlessly branched but looking very similar) - both in 1080P looking thick and rich - perfectly exporting the gritty realism and film-like qualities of the movie. The audio is in a linear PCM track in 2.0 channel and there are optional English subtitles (see sample). There is one extra on the Blu-ray - a selected scene commentary by Al Rubin and Peter Bogdanovich on the long version only - this is the same on as found on the 2005 Optimum DVD. Then we have two PAL-coded, Region 2, DVDs. The first has the long (1976) version and the optional select scene commentary and the short version - obviously in SD. The Second DVD has three supplements - we get a rare 1982 short directed by Tamar Simon Hoffs (mother of Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles fame) starring Cassavetes entitled The Haircut running 22-minutes. It is also found as a bonus on Hoff's "The Allnighter" DVD. We get a 5-minute interview with Hoffs from 1993 discussing her film and working with Cassavetes. The big extra is Anything for John (1993, 1:30:53) - a feature documentary directed by Dominique Cazenave and Doug Headline featuring interviews with Cassavetes' collaborators Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk and Al Rubin. It is an intimate portrait of actor-writer-director and a loving tribute to his genius for studying and depicting the human character. Also included is an extensive booklet with essays and film credits. We should note that this package is strictly limited to 1,000 units. I expect this to sell-out fast - incredible package for Cassavetes fans!

***

ON THE DVDs: Again we pass on the early Pioneer disc. It is Open Matte. It has boosting and is faded. No digital extras but the included liner notes essay by Ray Carney is excellent.

Both Optimum and Criterion have included both the long and short versions in their respective packages and the image quality of the two is strikingly similar. Criterion has removable subs, the Optimum doesn't. Obviously those sensitive to PAL speed-up will have this as an issue in the Optimum.

For this film(s) of the package it boils down to extras with the Optimum having a scene selected commentary with Bogdanovich and the Criterion having extensive audio and video interviews. This one really wouldn't be the one to sway a decision one way or the other. We suggest you check out the other comparisons.

- Gary Tooze


Recommended Reading on Cassavetes (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

Check out more in "The Library"


Menus
(Optimum (The John Cassavetes Collection - Long) - Region 2 - PAL - LEFT vs. Criterion (Cassavetes - 5 Films) - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Pioneer - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)
 

 

 

BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

DVD 1 included with Blu-ray

 

DVD 2 included with Blu-ray

 

Criterion Blu-ray

 

 


 

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

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Optimum (The John Cassavetes Collection - Long) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion (Cassavetes - 5 Films) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Pioneer - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) BFI - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Scene not in Pioneer's DVD - SHORT Version

 

 


1) Optimum (The John Cassavetes Collection - Long) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion (Cassavetes - 5 Films) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Pioneer - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) BFI - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Optimum (The John Cassavetes Collection - Long) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion (Cassavetes - 5 Films) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Pioneer - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) BFI - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) Optimum (The John Cassavetes Collection - Long) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion (Cassavetes - 5 Films) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Pioneer - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) BFI - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

NOTE: I had real trouble matching the Pioneer -this capture may not be in the short version - GT


1) Optimum (The John Cassavetes Collection - Long) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion (Cassavetes - 5 Films) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Pioneer - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) BFI - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Optimum (The John Cassavetes Collection - Long) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion (Cassavetes - 5 Films) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Pioneer - Region 0 - NTSC - THIRD

4) BFI - Region FREE - Blu-ray FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures of the 1976 Cut

1) BFI - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Short (1978) Version Blu-ray Captures


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Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray

 
Box Covers

Only available in the Boxset listed below:

Only available in the Boxset listed below:

Only available in Criterion John Cassavetes: Five Films Blu-ray set:

The 6 - disc John Cassavetes Collection from Optimum includes: Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under The Influence, The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie, Opening Night with THESE LISTED EXTRAS.

The 8 - disc Criterion John Cassavetes - Five Films includes - Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under The Influence, The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie, Opening Night with THESE LISTED EXTRAS.

            

Distribution

Optimum

Region 2 - PAL

Criterion
Region 0 - NTSC
Pioneer
Region 0 - NTSC
BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Criterion Collection - Spine #254
Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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Gary Tooze

Thank You!