Red's 25th and 27th Anniversary Editions (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Warren Beatty's Reds is one of those rare films that really lives up to its legacy. It really deserves all of its Academy Awards. Everything was just done so right, and beyond what you'd expect, from the writing to the fantastic cast. When you see movies like Dick Tracy or Bulworth, you wonder what happened to that early Warren Beatty who made such a masterpiece? But Reds is also a bitch to get on blu-ray. Paramount made an excellent 25th Anniversary edition, and a separate DVD release, including a terrific little documentary on the film, when blu-rays were just coming out back in 2006, and most people hadn't yet adopted. In fact, there was an HD-DVD for this, too, because we were just in the beginning of the format wars at the time. They did reissue it in 2008 (which is why most online release dates show the 25th Anniversary disc coming out on the film's 27th anniversary), but even that's long out of print. The cheapest unused copy on Amazon is $74 as of this writing, and it was higher last time I looked, so you might want to jump on it. Or try to find an import that doesn't cost even more once you factor in the shipping.
Reds is the true story of journalist/poet/political activist John Reed, who wound up playing a huge role in the Bolshevik Revolution. It starts out with, and continually returns to, documentary interviews with real people from Jack's life, recounting their memories of him, but the bulk of the film is played out by a fantastic cast including Beatty, of course, along with Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson (as Eugene O'Neill), Maureen Stapleton, Paul Sorvino and Gene Hackman. The tagline for the film was, "Not since Gone With The Wind has there been a great romantic epic like it," and I daresay this film fully lives up to that hyperbolic claim. And perhaps unlike Gone With the Wind, Reds is just as powerful and moving today as it was the year of its release. Everything from the complex politics to the tragic romance flourish in this lavish production, with a very memorable score by Stephen Sondheim and a directorial style that actually feels reminiscent of classic Woody Allen, but on a grander scale.

So it sucks when you can't find a copy for a reasonable price. I guess the question becomes, then: is it worth an unreasonable price? Well, let's have a look, because I've got copies of both US blu-ray editions here, as well as the original DVD release (surprisingly, the 25th Anniversary was also the film's DVD debut). Let's jump right in.
Paramount's 2006 blu-ray on top, their 2008 blu-ray middle and the 2006 DVD on bottom.
The short scoop on the two blu-ray editions is, apart from the tackier artwork, the two blu-ray editions are identical. Same transfer, same menus, everything. They did stick different labels on the discs themselves, but that's it. A small thing to note is that, regardless of which edition you're looking at, they did leave little bits of black and odds and ends in the overscan area. It's really, really on the fringe, varies from shot to shot, and most viewers won't see it because they haven't reset their scan for proper 100% 16x0 anyway; but it is there. I guess in 2006, they figured no one would ever see outside the TV safe zone.
2008 blu-ray left; 2006 DVD right.
Anyway, it's a pretty great picture, especially for such an early blu. And seeing as they were concurrent releases, it only makes sense that the DVD has the same transfer, too, in terms of framing, colors, etc. But of course, one is in HD and the other SD, so the DVD is naturally softer, more compressed and doesn't hold up as well on large monitors, as we can see when we get in close. The lines of Sorvino's features get pretty mushy on the DVD, here, which the blu-ray fixes up rather nicely. Both the DVD and blu-ray editions are spread across two discs, though the blus are single-layered.
See those black edges? That's the overscan stuff I was talking about.
Extras-wise, all editions are the same. Again, remember, the two blus are completely identical, so no need to torture yourself trying to find one particular version. If you find it at all, you're good.Anyway, basically, the extras are all mixed together into one, feature-length (about 75 minutes) documentary, which is a very satisfying, all-you-need-to-know look back at the film, primarily based on a very substantive interview with Beatty himself. But it also involves interviews with Nicholson, Sorvino, Paramount execs... basically everybody except Keaton. There's also a "DVD trailer," which is a newly made trailer that's actually pretty corny. It's a small thing, but one can't help wondering what happened to the original theatrical trailer?
Now maybe a new scan could pick up a little extra detail and weed out a few niggling artifacts. It's not exactly an industry standard setter... at least not anymore (it might've been in 2006). But basically I don't think this film calls for an upgrade, at least not with so many other films still missing out on the HD treatment entirely. And even the most loquacious Hollywood stars would probably be pretty anxious about the idea of tackling an audio commentary for a three and a half hour film. So I don't expect a new 35th Anniversary edition next year. But hopefully they'll at least print up some more copies of the 25th, because this is one that really belongs on every serious blu-ray collector's shelves. Plus, Beatty is making his big comeback film, his first film since 1998, so the two projects could surely drum up some glowing publicity and sales for each other, right? Come on, Paramount. You could fit it all onto one dual-layered disc and spare people the hassle of switching discs mid-film; that alone might get people to double-dip.

No comments:

Post a Comment