The Quick and the Dead's Sexy Eurpoean Cut (DVD/ Superbit DVD/ Blu-ray/ UHD Comparison)

The early 90s was the time when Hollywood's response to sexism was to cast women in the same, dumb action roles they'd been putting men in for decades, starting of course with Thelma and Louise, and culminating, perhaps, with Barbwire. In between those two films, they also decided to apply the formula with westerns. Drew Barrymore, Mary Stuart Masterson, Madeline Stowe and Andie McDowell starred in Bad Girls in 1994, and Sharon Stone came right on its heels as the slick gunslinger in 1995's The Quick and the Dead. The film kind of languished at the box office as another PC statement, but now that time has past and we view the film out of that context, and out of Bad Girls' unfortunate shadow, we can appreciate it for the fun and creative film it really is. And if we're willing to spend a little extra on an import, we can see even more of it.

Update 3/9/15 - 8/7/18: Sony has just come out with a 4k Ultra HD release of The Quick and the Dead, so it's time to revive this post and see how things have improved (and, if you're interested, I also just added the missing Anchor Bay blu-ray to my Day Of the Dead page).  And since it's a combo-pack, that means we round out our comparisons with the US blu-ray, too.  Unfortunately, could this all be a one step forward, two steps back situation?
Evil Dead fans were already excited to see it was that this film was directed by Sam Raimi (and executive produced by Robert Tapert), and it's full of his innovative style... something not always as evident in some of his later mainstream films. It's written by Simon Moore, who also wrote the original Traffik Masterpiece Theater miniseries, but it has the feel of a slightly more upscale Brisco County Jr. episode (especially one episode in particular). That's not a criticism, though, that's a compliment, as the story is a lot of fun. A really exotic selection of gunslingers come from all across the west to compete in an ultimate gunfight, and they're portrayed by an amazing line-up of colorful character actors including Gene Hackman, Lance Henriksen, Leonardo DiCaprio, Keith David and Russell Crowe. That's some big names, and that doesn't include all the other name actors who turn up in this film like Gary Sinese, Tobin Bell, Woody Strode, and even Scott Spiegel in a small cameo. The plot gets more complex and engrossing as we find out nearly ever character harbors a dark secret and another reason they need to be in the contest. It's really a great western by any definition.
UK-only footage... Bruce, is that you?
All of us Raimi fans who saw this couldn't help but notice the name of one Bruce Campbell in the closing credits. It especially stood out since he didn't appear to actually be in the movie. And there were also rumors of a Sharon Stone sex scene clipped from the movie. Well it turns out, we only had to go as far as the United Kingdom to find a longer version of the film, roughly 107 minutes, versus the US cut's 105. And all the differences come down to one solid chunk of film cut out around the 2/3s mark. Yes, it's a sex scene; but it's a lot more than that, too. After the flashback of Hackman killing her father, which we saw in the US version, the UK version now cuts to Stone storming into the saloon. A guy (Bruce Campbell? See the screenshot above) tries to shake her hand for her success so far in the contest and she pushes him into the bar, storming past him and up the stairs. She encounters a naked man (Stone's isn't the only nudity to be cut from the US cut) and starts kicking open the bordello bedroom doors, startling a number of people. There she finds a number of men roughing up Russell Crowe, who she rescues him from. She takes him into a room where they make love and spend the night, after she makes him promise not to kill Hackman before she can.
UK-only scene
Now, I can see cutting the sex scene on the one hand... It feels a little Cinemax-y, and I understand Stone decided she didn't want it left in the film. But the problem is how much else had to come out with it. Up to that point, Stone had been very stand-offish towards Crowe, to say the least. Previously, Crowe was left out in the sun begging for water and she kicked it from him.  And after this bit, they're now essentially teammates. In the US version, that's a very sudden, barely motivated shift in character dynamic; but it makes sense when you see the longer version where they've bonded and - critically - made their pact. So having lived with both versions of the film for some time now, I really do have to say that the the UK cut is the better film.
Right. Now, we've got the UK blu-ray here (though the UK DVD also features the uncut version), and to make things interesting, in addition to just comparing it to the standard US DVD, I thought I'd compare it to the Superbit DVD. What the heck is Superbit, you may ask? Let's have a look at the explanatory insert included inside the case.

Well, a Superbit DVD is... just a regular DVD that plays in a regular DVD player. What they've done is removed any special features, right down to the animated menus, and filled the disc with the movie only, so it has room to give the film a higher bitrate. So is it the equivalent of a blu-ray or HD DVD? No. It's just a regular DVD, but with all of the space devoted to the film (although in this case, they did make the room for two audio tracks and five sets of subtitles). A few films were released as Superbit Deluxe, where the extras were included on a second disc. Now in the case of, say, Desperados, where the film was originally a special edition forced on a single layer disc, the Superbit was a worthwhile improvement. But The Quick and the Dead was dual-layered and only ever had the trailer as an extra. But at least the Superbit line implies that they're paying extra special close attention to the compression and the transfer, so maybe it's still a bit better.

And speaking of the compression of the transfer looking better, now we've got the 2018 4k Ultra HD disc to look at, too!
US DVD widescreen first, US DVD fullscreen second, US Superbit DVD third;
UK blu-ray fourth; US blu-ray fifth; US UHD sixth.
Oh boy, the color timing is sure different. That's something I wasn't expecting to find in this comparison. The US DVDs are bluer, except the fullscreen, which is redder. And the blu-rays are greener. It's certainly more noticeable in the top shot than the lower one, but it's present in both and throughout the film. Finally, the UHD comes along, and we know it's going to have at least somewhat different colors thanks to the HDR.  And I have to say, Sony seems to have used this opportunity not just to give this film more vivid, stand-out colors, but the most authentic looking timing of all the releases to date.  The framing is identical, however, with all versions - except the fullscreen, obviously - slightly letterboxed to the proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The fullscreen is a bit of a hybrid, losing some info on the sides and gaining some on the top and bottom. It's definitely a less attractive image at 1.33, though.
l to r: US DVD wide, US DVD full, US Superbit, UK blu, US blu, US UHD.
Otherwise, in terms of quality, it may not look like a huge difference; but the blu is a bit clearer and more detailed, and then the UHD even more so.  The fullscreen side of the DVD is a bit softer than the widescreen, and grain is more natural on the blu, there's a smidgen extra detail and the haloing is much smaller and less invasive on the blu. While all of the pre-2018 releases are to some degree, the Superbit actually seems a little more edge enhanced than any of the others, perhaps to make it look sharper than the previous DVD. Or maybe it's just because the edges are less obscured by extra softening. But the original DVD has an interlacing problem (look at the flames of the fullscreen to see an example, but the widescreen has it, too), which the SuperBit at least corrects, so it unquestionably would've been preferable to the DVD back in the day, if not hugely.

Of course, that distinction's academic now.  The blu-rays trump all the DVD versions, and happily, the UHD clearly trumps the blus.  It's not just a question of capturing grain, either, it genuinely affects the root image.  In that close-up shot, you can see Crowe's features becoming even more life-like.  You can actually see the expression he's making with his mouth, which was previously just an unclear patch of pixels, even on blu.
Don't expect a lot of extras 'round these parts. The original DVD at least has the trailer, which is more than you can say for the SuperBit or blu-ray. And none of them have any other special features. But each version has rather different language options. The original DVD provides a French dub and English and French subtitles. The Superbit ditched the French dub but added Spanish, Portuguese and Korean subtitles to the mix. The blu-rays lack the French dub, but has Italian and Spanish ones, and optional/ removable subtitles in: English, English SDH, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish. As far as straight English audio, though, both DVDs offer 5.1 and 2.0 mixes, and the blu has DTS-HD 5.1. There's also a menu button to mute the music on the blu's menu screen, but it only actually worked in one of the three blu-ray players I tried it in. The DVD has a nice fold-out insert, while the Superbit DVD also comes in a slip cover and includes two inserts: the one from the regular DVD and the other explaining Superbit.
deleted scene
And the 4k Ultra HD?  It gives us the choice between an Dolby Atmos TrueHD 7.1 mix or 5.1 DTS-HD mix for the English audio, plus the French and Spanish dubs (in 5.1 DTS-HD), with optional English, French and Spanish subs.  And extras?  Yes!  There's finally something.  Not a ton, but something, mainly in the form of 7 deleted scenes.  They run for just over five minutes and they're presented in 1080p, though the source they're taken from shows a good deal of wear, and the sound is clearly not in the final mix stage.  Stone walking in her gown is louder than the character's dialogue in one scene, and in two others, there are points where we see the character speak, but their dialogue just isn't there.  Still, there are some interesting additions here, including DiCaprio trick-shooting the corks off champagne bottles, the blind kid's back story, and most welcome of all, the tale behind another one of the crazy gun slingers, Dog Kelly.  Also, from the "Little Things That Count" department, the UHD brings back the film's trailer that the blu-rays discarded.  It also comes in a nice slip cover.

I should point out, though, that the blu-ray in the combo-pack is the standard 2009 release.  Same original menu, same label on the disc.  What that means is that the enclosed blu-ray does not include the new transfer, trailer or the deleted scenes.  So if you can't play 4k discs, but were thinking of just getting this to upgrade your blu, don't bother; you're out of luck.
But didn't I mention something about a step forward, but also some steps back?  Yeah, the bummer about Sony's new 4k release is that it's the shorter US cut again.  Most websites just say there is a "sex scene between Ellen and Cort" excised from the US version, but I'd call that a misleading understatement considering how much more happens in the cut footage than sex.  And no, that material isn't included in the 7 deleted scenes either.  So now we're stuck with a bit of a Sophie's choice on our hands: do we watch the best transfer or the best cut of the film?  We can't have both.  It was fun looking at the newer, prettier colors, and I'm glad to have those deleted scenes, but at the end of the day, next time I rewatch The Quick and The Dead, I'll still opt for the UK blu.  That's one you'll all have to decide for yourselves, of course.  But whichever version you go with, it'll be a hell of a lot better than Bad Girls.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I've been debating the UK Blu for awhile now as I love this flick. Had no idea it was a longer cut. Sold!