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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

A Town Called Hell aka "A Town Called Bastard" [Blu-ray]

 

(Robert Parrish, Irving Lerner, 1971)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Benmar Productions

Video: Kino Lorber

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:37:17.414

Disc Size: 20,514,742,391 bytes

Feature Size: 20,041,826,304 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.25 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: August 18th, 2015

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1735 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1735 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

None

 

Extras:

• Trailer for Navajo Joe (1:51)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: From Robert Parrish, the director of The Wonderful Country and The Destructors comes this top-notch western set during the Mexican Revolution. Greed and violence explode as a dual manhunt reaches it terrorizing climax and the Town becomes like a fiery hell as it s held hostage. An ex-soldier turned priest, Robert Shaw (The Deep) shares a brutal town with Telly Savalas (The Scalphunters), a bandit with a bloodthirsty gang of sadistic killers. The stunningly beautiful, Stella Stevens (Too Late Blues) hauntingly dressed in black arrives in town on a hearse, accompanied by a deaf-mute gunman (Dudley Sutton, The Devils) and in search of her husband s killer... also arriving in town is a small platoon of soldiers and their Colonel, Martin Landau (They Call Me Mister Tibbs) looking for the legendary revolutionary leader, Aguila. The all-star cast also included Fernando Rey (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie), Al Lettieri (Mr. Majestyk) and Aldo Sambrell (Navajo Joe).

 

 

The Film:

Shot in Spain with a motley cast and crew, starting with the striking image of Stella Stevens, beatifically asleep in a coffin and being driven in a hearse across the desert by a deaf-mute gunman (Sutton) to the little Mexican village where she intends to claim a corpse after killing the man who murdered her husband, this suffers from the worst excesses of the spaghetti Western. On the other hand, behind the leering violence and allied crudities, both a purpose and a director are clearly evident. Involving a whisky priest (Shaw), a sadistic bandit (Savalas), a puckish traitor to the Revolution (Craig), and a military catalyst (Landau), the complex plot hinges on illusion, arguing obliquely and hauntingly that there is no comfort in loyalty, friendship, heroism, or even in doing the right thing. Scripted by Richard Aubrey, it's a strange, disturbing film, despite being plain bloody awful for much of the time.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

 

In 1895, a group of Mexican revolutionaries massacre a bunch of people in a church. Ten years later, a widow (Stella Stevens) rides into town offering a reward to anyone who can help find the man who slayed her husband. An alcoholic priest (Robert Shaw) offers his assistance, but he may be harboring a dark secret.

Although not made in Italy, A Town Called Hell is still very much steeped in the Spaghetti Western tradition. It has the look and feel of a Sergio Leone western and Stella’s gimmick of carrying around a coffin comes right out of Django. Also, the flick has a washed-out horribly pan-and-scanned print that gives it that TBS-at-11:35-pm-in-the-80’s vibe.

Excerpt from The Video Vacuum located HERE

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

The single-layered Kino Lorber Blu-ray of A Town Called Hell looks fairly good through about 1 1/4 hours. About 1 hour + 10-minutes into the film the picture quality lessens quite a bit. It gets thick and loses detail for about 10-minutes - mostly in the darkness of the night scenes. You may notice it in the last capture. I didn't find it fatal (the film's narrative wanders enough at that time) but it is noticeable.  Actually, most of the visuals are impressive and crisp with some consistent grain textures - especially detail in the film's many close-ups. It's tight with plenty of depth although can tend to an 'earthy' - maybe even a shade greenish - hue. This Blu-ray is 1080P and the screen grabs should give you a good idea of the, mostly, pleasing video quality.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Kino Lorber use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track at 1735 kbps in the original English language. There are plenty of aggressive effects in the film - even beyond the gunfire. They are carried with some depth - at times, pretty intense. The score is by Argentinean Waldo de los Ríos - who seems to have composed mostly for South American films. It doesn't have the edge of Morricone but it rolls beside the film in a unique manner. Dialogue sounds fine - clear and consistent. There are no subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Only a, poor quality, trailer for Navajo Joe. I'd have loved someone to 'discuss' this wayward western, but no such luck.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Firstly lets give credit for the ultra-cool title - A Town Called Hell (or if you prefer - A Town Called Bastard). After some impressive style-over-substance (lots of sweaty sun-burned close-ups) the film really meanders and loses its charisma. But I'm surprised it has become a bit of a cult favorite - if only for the brief Stella Stevens 'Kwaidan-like make-up' scene. I'm always keen on Robert Shaw and despite the intent - the film is a mess - yet I still had a fun time watching it as my expectations were very low. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray
is far from stellar with the image issues late in the film but it did give me the opportunity to see the film in 1080P and, I guess, I was in the right mood. I found it 'bad' but in a kind of appealing way. Perhaps I am the only one. Keep your expectations in-check and you might have the same reaction. 

Gary Tooze

August 4th, 2015

 

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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