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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Tower [Blu-ray]


(Keith Maitland, 2016)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Go-Valley

Video: Kino Lorber



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

Runtime: 1:22:06.796

Disc Size: 38,892,673,869 bytes

Feature Size: 23,972,444,160 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.20 Mbps

Chapters: 10

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date:  March 21st, 2017



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3461 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3461 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 2011 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2011 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English (SDH), None



After the Screener Q+A (11:16)
Behind-the-Scenes Animation  (0:45, 1:06, 1:20, Interview - 1:34, 0:45)

Character Profiles (3:05, 2:37, 3:06, 3:46, 1:39, 2:33, 3:26, 2:33, 2:30, 2:49)

Memorial Dedication (4:22)
Trailer (1:56)





Description: August 1st 1966 was the day our innocence was shattered. A sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the iconic University of Texas Tower and opened re, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes in what was a previously unimaginable event. Based entirely on first person testimonies from witnesses, heroes, and survivors, TOWER combines archival footage with rotoscopic animation of the dramatic day in a seamless and suspenseful retelling of the unfolding tragedy. The film highlights the fear, confusion, and visceral realities that changed the lives of those present, and the rest of us, forever a day when the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others.



The Film:

There are stories of remarkable heroism here, alongside accounts of people discovering that they were cowards - something entirely understandable in the circumstances. Police officers remember their utter confusion and their amazement when members of the public stepped up to take action. Expanding beyond the stories of those who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, we learn about the amateur gun enthusiasts who heard what was happening on the radio and rushed to the scene to pepper the tower with bullets, limiting what the shooter could do. The local police didn't have guns that could shoot high enough. There was no plan for dealing with such an event. One is reminded of the words of Philip Larkin's famous war poem: never such innocence again.

Intensely detailed and delivered with great care, Tower is a film that really packs a punch. For all the anecdotes that give it context, such as Claire wondering is she was caught up in an alien invasion, this could be anywhere at any time. It's the human experience that shines through and, surprisingly, gives the film an optimistic character. Although there have been others like him, the killer was just one man, and history does not belong to him.

Excerpt from Eye For Filmlocated HERE


Keith Maitland has said there was no way the University of Texas would let him use its campus as a location for live-action filming of his documentary on the notorious 1966 sniper attack.

That’s a creative hurdle for someone planning to recount the events of the day when student Charles Whitman, hunkered down in a campus tower, shot 46 people – 14 fatally – on the grounds below. But Maitland realized his vision for Tower via roto-scoping animation in which actors go through the physical motions of the scene, then are essentially painted over. You can photograph them anywhere.

Excerpt from The GlobeandMail located HERE

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

Firstly, from Wikipedia - "The film is based on a 2006 Texas Monthly article by Pamela Colloff, "96 Minutes." Maitland originated from New Jersey and attended UT Austin. Maitland read the article in 2006 and asked Colloff to have lunch with him. He suggested making a film about the incident during the meeting. Colloff became one of the executive producers of the film. Various University of Texas students worked on the film as interns.

To finance the film the creators opened an Indiegogo, generating almost $70,000 from over 330 people in six weeks. In the final few days alumni of UT offered up a matching grant.

Early on Maitland realized that he and his team likely would not be able to film reenactments on the University campus and so they decided to opt for an animated aesthetic " to show the geography of the campus." Footage was mostly shot in Maitland's backyard and then animated by production company Minnow Mountain who was aided by pictures Maitland had shot around campus. Over 100 people were interviewed including at-the-time media members, police, students, and faculty, who had witnessed the events, but a few selective interviews were used.


The dual-layered Kino Lorber Blu-ray of Tower with a very high bitrate looks perfect in 1080P. There isn't much to go wrong with the transfer of digital-to-digital and the 1.78:1 appears pristine with bright colors, inventive effects and older live-action footage that can look damaged, grainy and intentionally less-crisp as an artistic foil to the animation. There are also modern interviews that look excellent, presumably shot in HD. The film was made using Rotoscoping (often abbreviated as "roto") - a tool for visual animated effects incorporating live-action. Wikipedia states: "By tracing an object, the moviemaker creates a silhouette (called a matte) that can be used to extract that object from a scene for use on a different background. While blue and green screen techniques have made the process of layering subjects in scenes easier, rotoscoping still plays a large role in the production of visual effects imagery. Rotoscoping in the digital domain is often aided by motion tracking and onion-skinning software." The resulting HD image quality is flawless. It is probably as close as theatrical as one could anticipate.






















Audio :

Kino Lorber give the optional of two DTS-HD Master tracks; a 5.1 surround at 3461 kbps or a 2.0 channel track at 2011 kbps, both 24-bit, in the original English language. There are, obviously, gun (rifle etc.) effects in the film - and the surround separation is excellent - crisp, tight and with rich depth - piercing around your home theatre. Dialogue was always clean and clear. The effects are juxtaposed by the film's use of classical music - notably Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune" which has a strange, serene, separating characteristic to the onscreen activity - supporting the disbelief by the characters of what what happening on that day. There is also popular songs of 1966 (ex. The Mamas & the Papas Monday, Monday) used and original music by Osei Essed. It all sounds excellent via the robust lossless rendering. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

Kino add some supplements. There is a ten-minute piece "After the Screener Q+A" which includes the director, Keith Maitland, and cast/crew being asked a few questions. I really enjoyed the Behind-the-Scenes Animation that shows the live-action - often in split-screen with the roto'ed animation effect. It's about 6-minutes worth of specific scenes/characters and I found it interesting. Then there are 10 character profiles running about 26-minutes in total with modern interviews with the characters present at the event and portrayed in the documentary. We can see how they look now an hear more details in their own words. It's quite impacting. Lastly, there is a 5-minuite piece on a 'Memorial Dedication' and a trailer.



I was anxious to see Tower. I had heard nothing but positives. There was a TV movie about the incident made with Kurt Russell entitled The Deadly Tower - made in 1975. I found this new documentary far more affecting. I thought it was absolutely brilliant. The use of the Rotoscoping works so well in presenting the events of that day and the characters involved - humanizing the event since the circumstances seemed so real in recreation. I was floored - Tower stuns you
as the film rolls along. The creativity involved with the production adds distinctively to the viewing experience. Wow - I can't wait to show friends and family. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray does an efficient job of delivering the theatrical presentation to your home theatre and I was also highly keen on the supplemental interviews and 'roto'-to-real-life comparisons.  NOTE: At the writing of this review it is 36% OFF at Amazon. Very strongly recommended!

Gary Tooze

March 5th, 2017


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.

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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
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Gary W. Tooze






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