H D - S E N S E I

A view on Hi-def DVDs by Gary W. Tooze


Introduction: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 5600 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:
Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)

Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze







The Professionals [Blu-ray]

(Richard Brooks, 1966)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Columbia Tri-Star

Blu-ray: Sony Pictures


Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

English: TrueHD 5.1
DUB: French: TrueHD 5.1

English SDH, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Bahasa, Chinese, Korean, Thai, none

• Featurettes: The Professionals--A Classic (6:26); Burt Lancaster: A Portrait (12:37) ; Memories from The Professionals (23:19)

• Blu-ray promos

Disc: 50GB Blu-ray Disc

DVD Release Date: June 10th, 2008


Blu-ray TOP vs. SD BOTTOM


Product Description: A wealthy rancher, Frank Carter (Ralph Bellamy), hires four tough gunslingers to rescue his wife (Claudia Cardinale) who is being held captive by Captain Rasa (Jack Palance), one of Pancho Villa's most desperate revolutionaries, in this dynamic and hard-hitting Western set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution of 1917. The wild West commando team consists of a dynamite expert (Burt Lancaster), an ex-revolutionary and munitions expert (Lee Marvin), a horse specialist (Robert Ryan), and a tracker (Woody Strode). On their mission to return Carter's highly prized wife, they track the Mexican revolutionaries through rough and rugged desert terrain, determined to outsmart, outshoot, and outride anyone they come across--until they meet the the charismatic Rasa and discover that Carter's seductive wife is in love with the Mexican outlaw and has no intention of returning with the band of "professionals."



The Film:

Writer-director Richard Brooks' career had highs and lows but he was never more on the mark than when he put together The Professionals, a tightly written and directed adventure that fulfills the spirit of its title in all departments. A wonderful cast of he-man action heroes handles both the constant physical exertion and Brooks' slick script with style and grace. And the cinematography of Conrad Hall gives the film a gloriously colorful desert setting for 1001 wild gags with gunplay, horses, trains and arrows laced with sticks of dynamite.


Brooks cast his adventure with hardened veterans at the top or just over the peak of their acting careers. Lee Marvin has his keen-eyed stare and monotone purr down cold, and walks with the kind of swagger that says he means business without showing off. Burt Lancaster knows he has only a few years left in which he'll be able to perform his signature screen acrobatics; his essential vitality is doubly impressive in athletic feats like sprinting and rope climbing. His toothy grin used to be a parody of male arrogance and vanity; now it's the friendly how-do-you-do of a man proud to be a survivor and still fit to tangle with the young guns.

Woody Strode's wiry commando was considered a big step in the breaking of the color barrier. His magnificent presence on the screen is a race statement better than any Richard Brooks could have written. Robert Ryan has the least exciting role but his authority and integrity anchor the film; if he's riding with these guys, they must be okay. The fact that each member subordinates his personal feelings to the mission makes us identify with the team all the more.

Excerpt from Turner Classic Movies located HERE




Image: NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc. Sometime back, we compared two SD (and now a few with the Blu-ray) versions HERE - but as it stands this new 1080P Blu-ray detail really blows them both right off their saddle. The MPEG4-AVC transfer has some unbelievably strong moments considering the film is over 40 years old now. Outdoor sequences (make up close to 90% of the film) look marvelous with colors more true and detail at the highest I have ever seen for this particular film. Noise, in open blue skies, is dramatically minimal - even my modern film standards. There aren't too many older films out on Blu-ray yet and, like The Longest Day, this is such an encouraging sign - if they can look this improved I can't wait for more classics to be presented in high-definition. The Professionals looks exceptionally strong and I doubt anyone will be disappointed in the appearance - especially in comparison to previous SD editions. One can often see the skin pores of the principle actors - it is quite visually impressive.     













Audio & Music: This might have been originally in 3.0 channel so although the 5.1 TrueHD audio is a bump (read somewhere though taken from existing elements) - it had some decent separation. Nothing grandiose but some occasionally gunshots etc. hitting the rears. I wouldn't get your hopes to high in this department and I'd prefer if the original was available as an option but I certainly wasn't unhappy with how the sound presented itself through my system. Only so much could be done I'm sure. Most of the time though the HD audio offering is unremarkable. The center channel dialogue is supported by subtitles available in English (CC and standard), French, Spanish, Portuguese, Bahasa, Chinese, Korean and Thai in a medium white font with a black border.




Extras: Nothing new as the BRD has the same three featurettes (all in 480i) by Laurent Bouzereau from the Special Edition SD in 2005 - Burt Lancaster: A Portrait (12:37) has the actors daughter and a couple of others giving input - nothing too deep. The other two - Memories from The Professionals (23:19) and The Professionals--A Classic (6:26) - have input from Cardinale and discussion of the underrated cameraman Conrad Hall. All three are worth watching for 40 minutes of education and appreciation of the film but mostly it's surface stuff. Beyond that some Blu-ray promos which, fortunately, are not overly intrusive prior to the start of the feature. 




Bottom line: It simply comes down to liking the film enough. I do. It's a dynamic combination of machismo actors - in a western - with an amazingly beautiful co-star - daring deeds, kidnapping, soldiers-of-fortune, Mexican guerrilla-bandits - come one - what more do you want? But the amazing thing is how it looks - bravisimo! I'm a pretty big fan of Lancaster, Ryan and Marvin so you couldn't keep me away from this one. I really enjoyed watching it on Blu-ray - it felt akin to theatrical. It's not a stellar example of the classic western but the adventure aspects and star power exceed most films. I certainly recommend.

Gary Tooze
June 3rd, 2008






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