Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

They're young. They're in love. They rob banks.

One of the landmark films of the 1960s, Bonnie and Clyde changed the course of American cinema. Setting a milestone for screen violence that paved the way for Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, this exercise in mythologized biography should not be labeled as a bloodbath; as critic Pauline Kael wrote in her rave review, "it's the absence of sadism that throws the audience off balance." The film is more of a poetic ode to the Great Depression, starring the dream team of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the titular antiheroes, who barrel across the South and Midwest robbing banks with Clyde's brother Buck (Gene Hackman), Buck's frantic wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), and their faithful accomplice C.W. Moss (the inimitable Michael J. Pollard). Bonnie and Clyde is an unforgettable classic that has lost none of its power since the 1967 release. --Jeff Shannon

Warner Home Video is releasing newly remastered transfers of Bonnie and Clyde, with new special features, in several editions. Amazon is taking orders at the following links:

Standard DVD 2-disc Special Edition
Standard DVD 2-disc Ultimate Collector's Edition

The first three were released on March 25th; the HD version is due out on April 15th. Warner Brothers has announced that it won't support HD after May 31, 2008, so there may be a limited window to get the HD version.

The new transfers have been made from the "original elements," meaning stuff like original negatives or original prints. (See below for an update on the video and audio quality.) The special features announced, included in all the new releases, are these:

  • the full-length History Channel documentary about the real Bonnie and Clyde called "Love and Death: The Story of Bonnie and Clyde" (43:10)
  • a new three-part documentary about the making and releasing of the film and its relation to the real Bonnie and Clyde:
  • "Bonnie and Clyde's Gang" (22:35)
  • "The Reality and Myth of Bonnie and Clyde" (24:07)
  • "Releasing Bonnie and Clyde" (18:06)
  • two newly discovered deleted scenes (5:23)
  • two trailers (4:11)
  • Warren Beatty's wardrobe tests (7:39)
The HD and Blu-ray editions will also include as a "high-def exclusive" a hardcover book (34 pages according to Amazon, 32 pages according to dvdbeaver) with a detailed production history, star/director filmographies and rare archival behind-the-scenes photos. The book is an integral part of the case. This isn't included in the standard DVD Special Edition.

The Ultimate edition will also include some non-DVD extras. Details are given in the earlier reviews of the Ultimate edition (January 17, 2008).

No commentary was announced, so I subtract one star. For some the making-of features may partially make up for the lack of commentary.

As for the movie itself, it's a landmark, but there are already many helpful reviews here about that ....

Update on the video and audio quality of the new releases (March 27th)

I haven't got my copy yet, but I've checked out some early professional reviews. All the ones I've seen that compare to the older DVD agree that the video quality of the new releases is much improved. I'll give some details from a sampling of reviews here for anyone interested, but the upshot is that everyone is pleased with both new transfers (HD not being out yet).

Standard DVD

DVD Beaver, which specializes in DVD image evaluations and comparisons, says the standard DVD 2-disc Special Edition video is "very strong," clean, with minimal noise. They report improved detail, contrast and color from the older DVD. Skin tones are said to be a bit on the red side (which is what most people prefer to accurate color). The image is said to have a glossy look at times, perhaps the same look described at DVD Town as "a little glassy."

The sound is the original mono, described by DVD Beaver as "clear and consistent." No one raves about the sound, but everyone finds it good overall, for mono.

The review at DVD Town finds the new transfer "excellent for a movie some forty years old." It mentions noticeable grain in some shots, but this may refer to scenes in which there was intentional grain introduced for effect. Also mentioned are occasional softness, skin tones a touch dark, but overall color "quite realistic." Says the definition is superb for standard DVD, contrast strong.

DVD Verdict says, "The remastered print looks very good, with strong colors and high contrast, and superb detail ...," with a little grain at times.


DVD Beaver says the Blu-ray version is, as would be expected, even better. The darks are darker than on the new standard DVD, the brights brighter, very strong detail, with a touch redder skin tones, very minor noise. The image is said to retain a natural look.

The sound is described with very same adjectives as for the standard DVD: clear and consistent.

Home Theater Forum's reviewer calls the Blu-ray transfer's color fidelity "outstanding" and overall quality "excellent," including sharpness and detail. Blacks are said to be very black, though less so in the later part of the movie.

A review at High-Def Digest praises the Blu-ray image quality very highly, particularly the color, which it describes as vibrant, smooth and natural. By Sanpete


Bonnie and Clyde 1967 Trailer

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