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(aka 'Killer of Sheep: The Charles Burnett Collection')

Directed by Charles Burnett
USA 1977

 

“If [Killer of Sheep] were an Italian film from 1953, we would have every scene memorized,” Michael Tolkin once said. Yet rather than basking in instant name recognition, Burnett’s masterpiece is only now receiving a proper theatrical release. Coming right after the blaxploitation craze of the early to mid-’70s and more than a decade before the in-the-’hood phase of the early ’90s, Killer of Sheep explores what it means to be a man, a woman, a child just barely eking out a marginally comfortable existence. Stan (Sanders), the increasingly beleaguered paterfamilias who toils in an abattoir, finds fleeting pleasure in dancing with his wife (Moore) before pulling away, or in the caress of his young daughter (Angela Burnett, the director’s child—one of the most preternaturally talented performers I have ever seen). Almost every scene is accompanied by a song that deeply enhances its resonance: Stan’s daughter sings along joyously off-key to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Reasons”; Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth” plays during the aforementioned dance and as Stan hoses down sheep entrails. “Today you’re young / Too soon you’re old,” goes the latter tune—a sentiment perfectly realized in Burnett’s perfect film.— Melissa Anderson

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

***

Milestone, Steven Soderbergh and Turner Classic Movies present one of the most famous and acclaimed films by an African-American filmmaker, KILLER OF SHEEP was one of the first 50 films to be selected for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry and was chosen by the National Society of Film Critics as one of the 100 Essential Films. But, due to music licensing problems, the film has rarely been screened, and then only in ragged 16mm prints. On its thirtieth anniversary, Milestone Films has cleared all the rights and will present UCLA Film & Television Archives dazzling 35mm restoration of this landmark film.

Charles Burnett’s films focus on everyday life in black communities in a manner unseen in American cinema, combining incredibly lyrical elements with a starkly neo-realist, documentary-style approach that chronicles the unfolding story with depth and riveting simplicity.

In KILLER OF SHEEP, the protagonist, employed at the slaughterhouse, is suffering from the emotional side effects of his bloody occupation to such a degree that his entire life unhinges. His refusal to become involved in the similarly destructive, but human-focused occupations of his more affluent friends and acquaintances becomes the odd obstacle to the family’s well being. Burnett once said of the film, “[Stan’s] real problems lie within the family, trying to make that work and be a human being. You don’t necessarily win battles; you survive.”.

Poster

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DVD Comparison:

New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque (The Charles Burnett Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Gary W. Tooze for the New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque (The Charles Burnett Collection) Screen Caps!

(New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque (The Charles Burnett Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque

Region 1 - NTSC

BFI
Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1:20:15 1:17:09
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.18 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.33 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

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

Bitrate:

New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque (The Charles Burnett Collection)

 

Bitrate:

 

BFI

 

Audio English (mono)

English (LPCM 2.0)

Subtitles None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Charles Burnett's acclaimed short films, Several Friends (1969), The Horse (1973) and When It Rains (1995)
• Burnett's latest short film, Quiet as Kept (2007) about a family displaced by Hurricane Katrina
• Killer of Sheep commentary track with Charles Burnett and Richard Pena, Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center
• Both versions of My Brother's Wedding
• Killer of Sheep cast reunion video by Ross Lipman
• Liner notes by Armond White
• Killer of Sheep trailer

DVD Release Date: November 20th, 2007
Keep Case

Chapters 10

Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Exclusive new interview with Charles Burnett
• Feature commentary with Charles Burnett and Richard Pena (Programme Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Centre)
• Burnett early shorts: Several Friends (21:08) and The Horse (13:18)
• Fully illustrated 13 page booklet

 

DVD Release Date: October 20th, 2008
Keep Case

Chapters 9

 

Comments

ADDITION: BFI edition: February 2010: These releases differ in a number of ways. First, the image quality is a factor between the two transfers. While the BFI has an acceptable appearance, the Milestone release has a clearer grain structure and finer details. Second, the Milestone release has a Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack, but the BFI has the clear edge here with a HD LPCM 2.0 audio track. It sounds great, with no discernible background noise. Third, the BFI disc has an exclusive interview with Burnett and an illustrated booklet with two new essays on the film and a biography of Burnett, but lacks quite a few of the extras found on the Milestone disc. Gone are the two versions of "My Brother's Wedding" (which is has its own BFI release - reviewed HERE) two shorts "When it Rains" and "Quiet as Kept" (both of which are found on the BFI's edition of "My Brother's Wedding"), but lacks the trailer, cast reunion, and Armond White's essay. I don't really think that you'd go wrong buying either edition (assuming that you also plan to purchase "My Brother's Wedding" separately if you plan to go with the BFI), and I suspect that the choice for which one to buy will probably come down to what region your DVD player supports. If you don't care about the other Burnett film, then the BFI is cheaper and probably the choice for you.

 - Brian Montgomery

ON THE NTSC EDITION: This is quite strong package from Milestone. It's hard to critique the feature image - originally shot in 16mm and restored to 35mm by UCLA Film and Television Archive. It looks - as it looks - which is to say quite acceptable and derivative of its meager production budget of $5000. It is full-frame (original aspect ratio) and a little grainy - transferred to a dual-layered DVD and residing on disc one of this two disc package. It shares the disc with a full commentary by director Charles Burnett and Richard Peņa as well as three Burnett shorts; Several Friends (1969), The Horse (1973) and When It Rains (1995) and Killer of Sheep cast reunion video by Ross Lipman. There should have been a split-screen restoration comparison for the film because I understand it was quite badly damaged prior to UCLA and the various factions taking part. Anyway, I hope the screen captures below give you some idea of what to expect. There has also been some restoration of the mono audio a group called by Audio Mechanics. I have no complaints on that front either - the occasional missteps only enhance the realism anyway. 

Disc two gives us two versions of My Brother's Keeper and Burnett’s latest short film, Quiet as Kept (2007) about a family displaced by Hurricane Katrina. I was initially exposed to Charles Burnett through a BFI PAL DVD - To Sleep With Anger . I saw it over 3 years ago and still remember it well.

I don't want to go overboard with a recommendation - but for those who know already - then this is a no-brainer. If you have opened yourself up to this brand of Indie cinema, and even if you haven't yet, I encourage you to watch this whole package. It is life.

Gary W. Tooze

 

 



DVD Menus
(
New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque (The Charles Burnett Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)


 

 

 


 

Screen Captures

(New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque (The Charles Burnett Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque (The Charles Burnett Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque (The Charles Burnett Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque (The Charles Burnett Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque (The Charles Burnett Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque (The Charles Burnett Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque (The Charles Burnett Collection) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Milestone

Sound:

BFI

Extras: Milestone for the Set/Draw for the Individual Releases
Menu: Draw

 
DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

New Yorker Video/Milestone Cinematheque

Region 1 - NTSC

BFI
Region 2 - PAL



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Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,

   CANADA

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