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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

3 Days of the Condor [Blu-ray]

 

(Sidney Pollack, 1975)

 

1) Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - LEFT

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'A + B' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

 

UK Optimum Blu-ray Edition

German Kinowelt Blu-ray Edition:

Studio Canal Blu-ray in France:

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

ADDITION: Optimum / Kinowelt - Studio Canal Collection - Region A + B Blu-ray - September 2010': Studio Canal Collection comments are in GREEN!

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Stanley Schneider

Video: Paramount Home Entertainment + Studio Canal Collection

 

Disc:

Region: ALL / Studio Canal is Region A + B (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:57:22.994  / 1:57:06.060

Disc Size: 41,152,097,447 bytes / 34,858,905,147 bytes

Feature Size: 39,929,874,432 bytes / 26,936,604,672 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.36 Mbps / 20.95 Mbps

Chapters: 16 / 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Custom Blu-ray case

Release date: May 19th, 2009 / September / November 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video / VC-1 Video

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Audio:

Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3085 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3085 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio French 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps

 

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2006 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2006 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1076 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1076 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1083 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1083 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio French 904 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 904 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio German 853 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 853 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio Spanish 976 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 976 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), English, French, Spanish, none

 

English , Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, none

 

 

Extras:

• Theatrical Trailer in HD

Commentary by Sidney Pollack

CIA Secret Wars - 1947-1977 (53:04 - French + English with subtitles)

Something About Sidney Pollack (59:05)

More About the Condor (24:56)

 

 

Comment:

Alongside all of the incarnations of King Kong, 3 Days of the Condor is one of the more fascinating explorations of what has come to be known as the “Stockholm Syndrome."  In the facile hands of screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. (the TV Batman, Papillon, The Parallax View, the 1976 King Kong, Flash Gordon), Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway may have pulled off the impossible: that we should come to accept that a randomly kidnapped woman should come to identify with the objectives of her kidnapper – a man whose defense of his actions to her admittedly reeks of paranoia. In any case, to watch these two pros dance their way from, through and into a political thriller is a joy to behold.

 

1975 was a banner year for cinema, and Condor may have gotten a little lost alongside the likes of One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest, Shampoo, Dog Day Afternoon, Toute une vie, Barry Lyndon, Amarcord, Nashville, Jaws, L'histoire d'Adele H., and The Man Who Would Be King.  Yet today I think the movie holds up quite well.  The spy thriller machinations of the story do not embarrass; Owen Roizman's cinematography is state of the art in the truest sense and never brings attention to itself as was common in the early seventies (what with the love affair with the zoooom lens in bloom); there are no out of place Oscar-reaching songs; Sydney Pollack's direction of Robert Redford (this would be their 4th of 7 films together) and Faye Dunaway make the impossible: plausible.  OK, let's be honest and thorough here: Cliff Robertson's hair is idiotic.  Max Von Sydow as the soft-spoken professional assassin, Joubert, is a marked contrast to the Malkovich-types we’ve seen in more recent times.  And then there are the multiple appearances of the World Trade Towers that loom over New York City like a ghostly special effect: their fate from our perspective only enhances the war games theme of the story.

 

 

 

Lorenzo Semple Jr's adaptation of James Grady's novel is just as smart, sharp and sassy as it was 30-odd years ago. I was stunned to review the Oscar list and discover its absence in this category.

 

Kathy: You're not entitled to personal questions! That gun gives you the right to rough me up; it doesn't give you the right to ask me...

Turner: Rough you up? Have I roughed you up?

Kathy: Yes! What are you doing in my house?

Turner: Have I? Have I?

Kathy: Going through all my stuff? Force...

Turner: Have I raped you?

Kathy: The night is young.

 

The Score Card

 

The Movie : 8

 

Image: 7/8  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

While the image may not have the kind of resolution or breadth of contrast we find in a Bourne Ultimatum or Goldfinger, it is nonetheless sharp and fairly immaculate.  I found no obtrusive manipulations or enhancements.  On the contrary, the image is every bit as grainy as it must have been 30-odd years ago. It can tend to look thick but the texture is consistent and benefits the presentation. Colors seem true with acceptable flesh tones but there isn't a lot of dimensionality to the visuals. It has no gloss and the image is clean of dirt and speckles.

I don't discount that Paramount may have boosted their image somewhat (flesh tones are redder) but I think it looks a little crisper. Studio Canal came out with a bare-bones HD-DVD of the film and as this is still the same VC-1 encode and the feature size would fit that defunct format assuming it was dual-layered. Colors have some noticeable differences - see below. The Paramount is generally more vibrant and the Studio Canal Collection has some green in it. This is how we saw the disparity in The Graduate - from the US vs. European Blu-rays. The Paramount has a higher bitrate, AVC encode and a larger file size for the feature. I think the Paramount is superior in appearance.

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

 

1) Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'A + B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

1) Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'A + B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

1) Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'A + B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

1) Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'A + B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

1) Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'A + B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

1) Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'A + B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

1) Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'A + B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

1) Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'A + B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

1) Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'A + B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

1) Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'A + B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

1) Paramount - Region FREE Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'A + B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

Audio & Music : 7/8

Condor is a relatively subtle and subdues thriller by today’s standards.  The few times that there is gunfire it is a surprise even though we see it coming.  The uncompressed Dolby TrueHD mix helps put this over.  The attack on the Historical Library is an excellent case in point, as we are carefully suspended in the midst of computer and printer noises between bursts of automatic weapons fire, followed by the falling down a stair or over a desk.  There is a bizarre and very dark humor to these moments that the audio mix does its part to bring off.

 

 

 

Given the choice I will almost always lean to the DTS-HD Master over a TrueHD track. While the TrueHD of the Paramount may be more robust - the SC can seem more resonant in the minimal activity of gunshots and Dave Grusin score. It's a small difference that most wouldn't be concerned over. The European Blu-ray has a some foreign language DUBs and subtitle options. See the initial menu screen:

 

Operations : 6

There's very little to the unanimated menu page, though what's there is a piece of cake to navigate. 

Very easy - not even a Studio Canal trailer to start - a couple of warning screens and away you go.

 

 

 

Extras : 0

Zip - aside from an HD trailer.

 

This is where the Studio Canal edition may be of interest to some. Yes, it has the Pollack commentary but I didn't find it a very good one. There are plenty of gaps where he is just watching and when he does interject it is more of a narration of the scene. He does state some production choices but they are few and far between. BUT the video supplements are interesting. The CIA Secret Wars - 1947-1977 is fascinating in French + some English with optional subtitles. It runs about 53-minutes and for those keen on the politics of the CIA from its inception with president Truman till the time of Three Days of the Condor - its well worth the indulgence seeing undercover operations with William Karel. Something About Sidney Pollack is an hour with the director on his routine for film creation starting with the script. There is also More About the Condor - a 25-minute piece with Redford. 

 

Recommendation: 7

Too bad about the lack of extras. I guess Paramount doesn’t think as highly of this movie as I do, since there are no interviews with Dunaway, Redford or Robertson, or a commentary by a film historian. Nevertheless 3 Days of the Condor is a classic of the genre with a special resonance for our times.  The image and audio recover more than I had hoped.  Recommended.

 

This is a great film that I could watch yearly. I think it's an easy choice - for those concerned with the visual quality - I'd lean to the Paramount - but for those keen on supplements the Studio Canal is the way to go. I should note that many systems may not distinguish the two Blu-ray a/v differences enough to make it overly important. Both are consistent which is our greatest desire in a transfer.

 

NOTE: I don't think Optimum officially released this film on Blu-ray at the writing of this review. It can be had from Amazon France (Universal S/C) or Germany (Kinowelt) though. Aside from packaging - it is the exact same transfer.

 

Leonard Norwitz
May 14th, 2009

Gary Tooze

September 27th, 2010

 

 

 

UK Optimum Blu-ray Edition

German Kinowelt Blu-ray Edition:

Studio Canal Blu-ray in France:


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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