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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Vera Cruz [Blu-ray]

 

(Robert Aldrich, 1954)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: United Artists

Video: MGM Home Video

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:33:35.818

Disc Size: 30,437,061,585 bytes

Feature Size: 29,384,521,728 bytes

Video Bitrate: 36.10 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 7th, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.0:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2040 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2040 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit / DN -4dB)
DUBs:

DTS Audio French 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / 24-bit / DN -4dB
DTS Audio German 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / 24-bit / DN -4dB
DTS Audio Italian 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / 24-bit / DN -4dB
DTS Audio Spanish 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / 24-bit / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / DN -4dB

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, none

 

Extras:

• Trailer

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Produced by Burt Lancaster's own company, Vera Cruz teams Lancaster with the venerable Gary Cooper. The story, set during... the Mexican revolution of 1866, casts Coop and Lancaster as Ben Trane and Joe Erin, two rival soldiers of fortune who team to fight for the highest bidder. The two men come to loggerheads when Trane's sweetheart Nina (Sarita Montiel) begs them to fight on the side of the rebels, while the wealthy Marquis de Labodere (Cesar Romero) implores them to offer their services to Emperor Maximillian. Though they still haven't taken sides, Trane and Erin agree to escort the aristocratic Countess Marie Duvarre (Danielle Darrieux) through hostile territory to Vera Cruz. It soon develops that the Countess is transporting a gold shipment to the Emperor's armies. Hardly the most patriotic of souls, she offers to split the gold with Trane and Erin, but they steal it for themselves instead. It takes a while (and several bloody armed confrontations) before the two protagonists do The Right Thing. While it's fun to watch Burt Lancaster try to upstage the taciturn Gary Cooper, the film's best line goes to supporting player Henry Brandon: impassively watching the loutish Lancaster wolf down his dinner and slop wine all over his blouse, Brandon says calmly Be careful, senor. Some of it is getting in your mouth. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide.

 

 

The Film:

A brash, lively, and totally appealing Western about a couple of American adventurers - Cooper, a decent but cynical Southern gentleman, and Lancaster, a supremely conniving crook - getting involved with Maximilian's imperial court and the Juarez revolutionaries in 1860s Mexico. Basically, the film is played as a game of bluff and betrayal, with the pair continually voicing their distrust of each other as they transport a countess and her crock of gold to Vera Cruz, allowing Aldrich to alternate with ease between earthy comedy and taut suspense. Beautifully shot by Ernest Laszlo, it conjures up a Mexico that in some ways looks forward to Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, a country at once romantic and treacherous, wild and lovely, an outpost of freedom for exiles yet oppressed by a corrupt government. And the performances, as you might expect, are highly professional.

Excerpt from TimeOut London located HERE

With a tag line blaring, "The Giants Battle in the Biggest Spectacle of Them All!," Vera Cruz stormed into theaters in 1954. This groundbreaking Western was indeed a spectacle in every way - from the sweeping Mexican landscapes (filmed in Superscope no less), to the multitudinous gun battles, to the bona fide movie stars taking top billing. Starring Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster, and directed by Robert Aldrich, Vera Cruz was such a pioneering film that it inspired a genre within a genre: the Spaghetti Western. Set in the 1860s, the story follows two mercenaries on the make in Mexico. They want gold and lots of it, and they find it - but not before getting caught in a civil war between the royal loyalists and the rebel Juaristas. The two men represent a good cowboy/bad cowboy dynamic, but in Vera Cruz even the good man can be bought for the right price. The film also added a new twist to suspect partnerships with what critics have called the "double-double cross." Such themes were prevalent in the films of Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, 1966) and other directors of the Spaghetti Western genre, one marked by copious bloodletting and a lack of recognizable heroes.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

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

Vera Cruz is duller than many would like on Blu-ray from MGM. What I suggest is that with a through cleaning this may have perked-up some of the Technicolor hues. It wouldn't say it gave me a poor presentation but I suspect if some work were put in it may have paid off dramatically in regards to the visuals. The grain not overly blocky and there is no damage. This is dual-layered and has a very high bitrate. It is less consistent occasionally showing some depth but in other scenes looks flat and video-like. I am led to believe it is more the source than the transfer. This is a great film but probably not one in line-up for restoration. The option, digitally, would have been some boosting but that might have backfired - every print has different characteristics regarding density. This Blu-ray may not be stellar by modern terms - but it is well in advance of SD and the film is an enjoyable western/adventure. Those with modest expectations on the video will appreciate the movie the most via 108P.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

There is a competent DTS-HD Master in 2.0 channel stereo at 2040 kbps. There is no notable depth but it sounds supportive if not crisp. Galloping hooves and rifle shots don't get demonstrative. Hugo Friedhofer provides an occasionally lively score that comes through without much panache via lossless. There are optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

Extras :

Only a trailer - but I, for one, don't mind the reasonably priced bare-bones Blu-rays that MGM are releasing.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I think Vera Cruz is a pretty good film - especially if you are a fan of either or both of the leads. There is some real entertainment value here seeing Lancaster and Cooper interacting on screen. Ohhh - Yes, that's Charles Bronson! (listed as Charles Buchinsky) playing the character 'Pittsburgh' in the film. This Blu-ray is not pristine but the price is very appealing. Vintage film devotees will get the most out of Vera Cruz in hi-def. 

Gary Tooze

May 30th, 2011

 


 

About the Reviewer: 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 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 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.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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