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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Little Big Man [Blu-ray]

 

(Arthur Penn, 1970)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Stockbridge-Hiller Productions

Video: Paramount

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 2:19:22.896

Disc Size: 24,093,075,895 bytes

Feature Size: 23,205,107,712 bytes

Video Bitrate: 18.40 Mbps

Chapters: 21

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 8th, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2084 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2084 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 384 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 384 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

Trailer (4:21 in 1080P)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Recounting how the West was won through the eyes of a white man raised as a Native American, Arthur Penn's 1970 adaptation... of Thomas Berger's satirical novel was a comic yet stinging allegory about the bloody results of American imperialism. As a misguided 20th-century historian listens, 121-year-old Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) narrates the story of being the only white survivor of Custer's Last Stand. White orphan Crabb was adopted by the Cheyenne, renamed Little Big Man, and raised in the ways of the Human Beings by paternal mentor Old Lodge Skins (Chief Dan George), accepting non-conformity and living peacefully with nature. Violently thrust into the white world, Jack meets a righteous preacher (Thayer David) and his wife (Faye Dunaway), tries to be a gunfighter under the tutelage of Wild Bill Hickock (Jeff Corey), and gets married. Returned to the Cheyenne by chance, Jack prefers life as a Human Being. The carnage wreaked by the white man in the Washita massacre and the lethal fallout from the egomania of General George A. Custer (Richard Mulligan) at Little Big Horn, however, show Crabb the horrific implications of Old Lodge Skins' sage observation, There is an endless supply of White Men, but there has always been a limited number of Human Beings. ~ Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide.

 

 

The Film:

Penn's adaptation of Thomas Berger's novel is an epic post-Western that sets out to demythologise its subject-matter through the eyes of Jack Crabb (Hoffman), either a 121-year-old hero who's seen it all or a phenomenal liar. Ambiguity, both towards fact and character, is the keynote, as Hoffman's protagonist is orphaned, adopted by Indians, returned to the whites as a conman, and finally acclaimed as the sole white survivor of Custer's downfall at Little Big Horn. It's a shaggy, picaresque tale, laden with off-beat but pertinent observations as Crabb exchanges cultures and bears witness to the white man's genocidal treatment of 'the human beings'. Parallels with Vietnam naturally abound, but finally it's a wryly ironic rewriting of American history that makes up for its occasionally facile debunking of heroic targets by means of vivid direction and effortless performances. Funny, humane, and a work of brave intelligence.

Excerpt from TimeOut London located HERE

Arthur Penn's "Little Big Man" is an endlessly entertaining attempt to spin an epic in the form of a yarn. It mostly works. When it doesn't -- when there's a failure of tone or an overdrawn caricature -- it regroups cheerfully and plunges ahead. We're disposed to go along; all good storytellers tell stretchers once in a while, and circle back to be sure we got the good parts.

It is the very folksiness of Penn's film that makes it, finally, such a perceptive and important statement about Indians, the West, and the American dream. There's no stridency, no preaching, no deep-voiced narrators making sure we got the point of the last massacre. All the events happened long, long ago, and they're related by a 121-year-old man who just wants to pass the story along. The yarn is the most flexible of story forms. Its teller can pause to repeat a point; he can hurry ahead ten years; he can forget an entire epoch in remembering the legend of a single man. He doesn't capture the history of a time, but its flavor. "Little Big Man" gives us the flavor of the Cheyenne nation before white men brought uncivilization to the West. Its hero, played by Dustin Hoffman, is no hero at all but merely a survivor.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE

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

The bare-bones Paramount Blu-ray of Little Big Man is single-layered but has some remarkable detail and contrast. It frequently looks very strong with a high level of sharpness and depth. The image quality shows some grit and minor grain. Penn's film has some notable cinematography from Harry Stradling Jr. - who knew his way around a western. There are some pleasing vistas shot in Alberta, Canada and in Montana that looks fabulous via HD. Colors are a shade flat but I have no reason to believe that they weren't like this originally. It's the detail that will stand out and I can't see the edge-enhancement that exists (minor via capture #10 - as the most prominent example) being bothersome to most. This is still above average and far better than I was anticipating.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio comes in the form of a DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 2084 kbps. There isn't a ton of separation but the audio transfer is competent with moments that impress. Depth is reasonably modest. Original music is by John Paul Hammond - who was one of a handful of white blues musicians - he started his three decade career in the mid-'60s. His solo guitar riffs are crisp and sound perfect in HD - it seems a perfect choice to back the film. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

Extras :

Only an HD trailer - which is a shame as it's a film that deserves more.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I hadn't seen Little Big Man for over 20-years. This is infinitely superior to an SD rendering and this is one of the things I love about Blu-ray - it gave me the opportunity to be re-exposed to a film that I probably wouldn't have - and seeing it in such a stellar appearance it improved my appreciation. Little Big Man has a subtext of a frank vision of America's treatment of Native Americans without being overly judgmental or sermonizing. Extras would have been very appropriate here but the price seems decent enough for such good film - looking so great. Recommended! 

Gary Tooze

November 2nd, 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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