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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

 

Directed by Michael Ritchie
USA
1969

 

Astonishing Alpine location photography and a young Robert Redford in one of his earliest starring roles are just two of the visual splendors of Michael Ritchie’s visceral debut feature, Downhill Racer. In a beautifully understated performance, Redford is David Chappellet, a ruthlessly ambitious skier competing for Olympic gold with an underdog American team in Europe, and Gene Hackman provides tough support as the coach who tries to temper the upstart’s narcissistic drive for glory. With a subtle screenplay by acclaimed novelist James Salter, Downhill Racer is a vivid character portrait buoyed by breathtakingly fast and furious imagery that brings the viewer directly into the mind of the competitor.

Posters

Theatrical Release: November 6th, 1969

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Comparison:

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

Box Covers

   

  

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 494 - Region 1 - NTSC Criterion Collection - Spine #494 - Region 'A' Blu-ray
Runtime 1:41:45  1:41:53.148  
Video 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.21 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,128,788,677 bytes

Feature: 29,843,466,240 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.95 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)  LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English (SDH), None English (SDH), None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• New video interviews with Robert Redford, screenwriter James Salter (33:45), film editor Richard Harris, production manager Walter Coblenz, and former downhill skier Joe Jay Jalbert, who served as a technical adviser, ski double, and cameraman (29:48)
• Audio excerpts from a 1977 American Film Institute seminar with director Michael Ritchie
• How Fast?, a rare 12-minute promotional featurette
• Theatrical trailer
• 20-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Todd McCarthy

DVD Release Date: November 17th, 2009

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 13

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,128,788,677 bytes

Feature: 29,843,466,240 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.95 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

• New video interviews with Robert Redford, screenwriter James Salter (33:48), film editor Richard Harris, production manager Walter Coblenz, and former downhill skier Joe Jay Jalbert, who served as a technical adviser, ski double, and cameraman (29:51)
• Audio excerpts from a 1977 American Film Institute seminar with director Michael Ritchie (1:01:29)
• How Fast?, a rare 12-minute promotional featurette (12:25)
• Theatrical trailer (2:40)
• 20-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Todd McCarthy

Blu-ray Release Date: November 17th, 2015
Transparent Keep case

Chapter: 12

 

 

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray November 15': Improvement is noticeable - tighter, deeper colors, more layered contrast - it has almost 6X the bitrate and this shows up more in-motion than the static screen captures. This is in the 1.85:1 (not 1.78:1) and shows the same information in the frame - maybe a sliver more. It's a visually impressive film and looks impressive in HD.

Criterion use a linear PCM mono track with a score by Kenyon Hopkins (12 Angry Men, The Hustler, Wild River). You can also hear Mancini's Moon River and That Old Black Magic. It sounds, predictably flat, but clean and clear with some appreciated depth. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles on the region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.

Extras duplicate the 2009 DVD with an interview with Robert Redford and screenwriter James Salter for 35-minutes discussing the film's origins and productions. There is another new piece with film editor Richard Harris, production manager Walter Coblenz, and former downhill skier Joe Jay Jalbert, who served as a technical adviser, ski double, and cameraman. They discuss the 'making of...' for 30-minutes. Criterion have included some audio excerpts from a 1977 American Film Institute seminar with director Michael Ritchie [1938-2001] who discusses, this his feature debut film, and his career in film and television. How Fast?, is a rare 12-minute promotional featurette from Paramount made in 1969 about, you guessed it, skiing. There is a 16X9 theatrical trailer and a 20-page liner notes booklet featuring photos and an essay by critic Todd McCarthy.

Great film. I really enjoyed it in the higher resolution and uncompressed audio. Stunning visuals and the whole sense of the sport is captured so succinctly. Even if you already own the DVD this is very strongly recommended! 

***

ON THE DVD: While it's not the sharpest Criterion transfer to DVD that I've ever seen - it is consistent and colors look quite strong. Considering the film's 40-year age - the appearance is quite good. It is very clean and bright, anamorphic - in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio (well, 1.77) highlighting the, occasionally, exquisite cinematography. It looked quite good on my system and I suspect that any softness is more inherent in the production than the fault of the transfer described as 'restored high-definition'. This dual-layered, progressive DVD supports a decent-to-strong presentation.

Audio is unremarkable but close, I'll wager, to the way it was produced. The sounds of swishing skiing, snow and the original, and compelling, music by Kenyon Hopkins and Tangerine Dream work very well with the narrative. There are optional English subtitles.

This film is an interesting choice for Criterion to release - there is much more under the surface than you might initially suspect. Redford's restrained David Chappellet character is highly intriguing as more than just a one-dimensional athlete. The competition aspect is less real than his emotional state. I enjoyed it very much and recommend. 

Gary W. Tooze


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2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

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Box Covers

   

  

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 494 - Region 1 - NTSC Criterion Collection - Spine #494 - Region 'A' Blu-ray




 

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