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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson [Blu-ray]

 

(Robert Altman, 1976)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Dino De Laurentiis Company

Video: Kino Lorber

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:03:33.697

Disc Size: 23,789,496,611 bytes

Feature Size: 23,170,283,520 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.96 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: December 9th, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1632 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1632 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English, None

 

Extras:

• "From the Prairie to the Palace" Featurette (4:33)

• Teaser Trailer (1:45)

• Original Trailer (2:28)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: From director Robert Altman (The Long Goodbye) comes an uproarious, high-spirited look at "Buffalo Bill" Cody, the legendary Western adventurer. With a fine cast that includes Paul Newman, Harvey Keitel, Burt Lancaster, Joel Grey and Geraldine Chaplin, Buffalo Bill And The Indians is a hilarious yet poignant comedy that shows the Old West as you've never seen it before! Although Buffalo Bill (Newman) has fought Indians and Civil War battles, nothing can prepare him for his newest challenge; show business! His Wild West Show is hugely popular, but when he signs a former enemy, Sioux Chief Sitting Bull, for a featured role, a hysterical clash of cultures reverberates far beyond the boundaries of their sprawling outdoor theater. And the complications only multiply when the troupe discovers it must put on a special command performance - for none other than the President of the United States!

 

 

The Film:

Altman's continuing fascination with the lunatic reality underlying America's popular myths finds an obvious subject in Buffalo Bill. William F Cody was a nonentity who utilised the heroic Western image of 'Buffalo Bill' to create a capitalist showbiz enterprise grossing a million a year. With typical fast-paced wit, Altman focuses on Cody's blinkered, scatter-brained retinue, contrasting their alcoholic self-deception with the mystical reality and strength of the Indians destroyed in their grand distortion of history. Some of it comes off well, and Newman is superb. But the film shows tiresome signs of its origins as a stage play (by Arthur Kopit), and the good moments aren't quite enough to make up for its overall predictability.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

 

"Truth is whatever gets the loudest applause." Debunking western myths even more than he did in McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Robert Altman's Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976) sardonically explores the gap between western history and legend in show biz-obsessed America. Megalomaniac "Buffalo Bill" Cody (Paul Newman) assumes the legend created for him by writer Ned Buntline (Burt Lancaster), aided and abetted by his producer (Joel Grey) and his publicist (Kevin McCarthy), perpetuating myths of white triumph over savage "Injuns" in his Wild West show, as audiences cheer him on and buy his merchandise. But when Sitting Bull (Frank Kaquitts) joins the troupe with his interpreter (Will Sampson), his request for authenticity threatens to throw a wrench into the proceedings. Regardless of how Bill may feel about the facts, he must bow to the preferences of the paying public.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

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

Much to the delight of his fans, Robert Altman's Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson has made it to Blu-ray from the Kino Lorber label.  The SD image never looked very strong and this 1080P takes a wide step beyond the flat, artifact-ridden, DVD but the film was never meant to look glossy and over-produced.  This is single-layered with a modest bitrate and I expect this is as good as the film has ever looked on digital although visually has very few, strong, attributes. There is no defining tightness or depth - but the softness is inherent and I'm not complaining. I don't see egregious digitization. This Blu-ray is transferred at 2.35:1 and provides a rewarding presentation for a film that will never achieve the heights of the format.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio is transferred via a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1632 kbps. Typical of an Altman film - dialogue is, intentionally, scattered - although everything is audible. There is a score by Richard Baskin plus the fanfare of the Wild West shows - all sound competent, if not remarkable, via the lossless. There are some effects but most lack depth and more a function of the production than a fault of the lossless. There are optional English subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Kino add a few supplements - a 4.5 minute featurette entitled "From the Prairie to the Palace" - kind of a 'making of' also found on the original DVD. Plus there is a teaser and original trailer. Unfortunately, no commentary - which would have been a bonus.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Paul Newman is wonderful in Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson. The film has Altman's sardonic edge - a cynical, very funny film - it the director's own storytelling way. Not the director's best, and not to all tastes, but the Kino-Lorber Blu-ray gives as good a presentation as you are likely to find for this Western-comedy. I rather enjoyed it - certainly more than my SD viewing years ago. Recommended! 

Gary Tooze

December 5th, 2014

 

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 5000 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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