Directed by Barbara Kopple
USA 1976


  Barbara Kopple’s Academy Award–winning Harlan County USA unflinchingly documents a grueling coal miners’ strike in a small Kentucky town. With unprecedented access, Kopple and her crew captured the miners’ sometimes violent struggles with strikebreakers, local police, and company thugs. Featuring a haunting soundtrack—with legendary country and bluegrass artists Hazel Dickens, Merle Travis, Sarah Gunning, and Florence Reece—the film is a heartbreaking record of the thirteen-month struggle between a community fighting to survive and a corporation dedicated to the bottom line.

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Theatrical Release: October 18th, 1976 - Toronto Film Festival

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DVD Review: Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 334 - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:44:24 
Video 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.15 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

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


Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Aspect Ratio 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by Kopple and editor Nancy Baker
• The Making of “Harlan County, USA,” a new documentary featuring interviews with Kopple, crew members and strike participants featured in the film
• Video interview with legendary bluegrass singer-songwriter Hazel Dickens
• Outtakes from the film
• Video interview with director John Sayles
• A panel discussion from 2005 Sundance featuring Kopple and Roger Ebert
• Original theatrical trailer
• Liner notes essays by film scholar Paul Arthur and music journalist Jon Weisberger

DVD Release Date: May 23rd, 2006

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Chapters: 26




I haven't found concrete evidence, but we will assume the film was shot in a 1.85 ratio making the 1.78 anamorphic conversion acceptable (loss of about 4%). The Criterion transfer looks excellent leaving all the rough production earmarks of its roots intact. The heavy grain gives the feel of true film although I suspect there is some digital noise as well producing that effect. All-in-all the DVD looks to give an accurate representation of its original festival showings. The commentary is a bit unique but almost excessively informative. These can be the best commentaries as they are very honest with Barbara relaying details about the films unsuspected success. This only helps imbue the true independent feel that the film already supports. It really clicks into place very well. The other supplements - 'Making of...', interview, outtakes etc. are all of a decent quality and highly relevant to appreciating the film in a higher vein. Nice to here John Sayles opinions. This is another great package by Criterion. Very worthwhile content.

The film is an account of a violent miner strike (if you couldn't tell simply from the screencaps) but it seems to be able to touch us with its strong, simple and intense characters even beyond Kopple's heavy-handed accounting of the details.

Gary W. Tooze


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CLICK to order from:

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 334 - Region 1 - NTSC


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Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,


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