Bernie (Blu-ray) (2011)

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Released 2-Jan-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Black Comedy Featurette-Making Of-True Story to Feature Film
Featurette-Making Of-Amazing Grace - Jack Black
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Gossips - Carthage townspeople
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 100:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard Linklater

Madman Entertainment
Starring Jack Black
Shirley MacLaine
Matthew McConaughey
Brady Coleman
Richard Robichaux
Rick Dial
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Graham Reynolds

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English Linear PCM 48/24 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis


When American director Richard Linklater read a Texas Weekly newspaper article by Skip Hollandsworth in the late 90s about a small town undertakers assistant who was charged with murdering his wealthy female benefactor he was intrigued enough to travel to the town of Carthage, East Texas to sit in on the trial of Bernie Tiede.

What he found was an amazing story albeit one that took over 10 years to bring to the screen. The remarkable thing was not the nature of the crime, which is not exactly uncommon, but rather the reaction of the townspeople. Some of them refused to believe that Bernie committed the crime and others believe that if he did, well, the old lady had it coming!

Perhaps this is the reason why the Linklater has made such an unusual film of the story, combining performances by actors with interviews of the smalltown residents, known collectively as "the gossips". It is an inspired choice which makes this a strange and entertaining black comedy.

Jack Black plays Bernie Tiede, a dedicated, sensitive and religious undertakers assistant. Answering a job application he comes to Carthage and immediately wins over the local residents particularly the older residents. He is not only a genuine artiste when it comes to preparing the dearly departed for viewing but also an expert at helping the bereaved to get over their loss. He is able to present services with genuine sincerity and has a lovely singing voice to boot.

Bernie quickly becomes the most popular man in town despite the common belief from the menfolk of Carthage that he was "a little light in his loafers". When Marjorie Nugent (Shirley McLaine), the wife of the local banker, experiences the loss of her husband Bernie is there to console her. The irrepressibly positive Bernie comes up against the sour and mean-spirited Marjorie and eventually wins her over.

The pair become inseparable. Bernie fills a role in her life and the pair travel the world with Bernie as her trusted aide or friend or consort - no-one really knew. Stories differ as to what happened next. News reports suggest that Marjorie found out that Bernie was stealing her money. The film suggests that Marjorie wore down all of Bernie's goodness with her nasty nature and he eventually snapped.

For months Bernie made excuses that Marjorie was unwell or living in a rest home out of Carthage. Eventually the game was up and district attorney Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey) comes in to secure a conviction and move onto the next case. The DA wears a Stetson and loves the public attention. Imagine his surprise when the townspeople actively discourage him from charging Bernie with the crime!

Jack Black has hardly been better than as the genuine and sensitive Bernie. McConaughey and MacLaine don't have a huge roles that both give it their all. Some may find the film a little dark given the premise but Linklater is careful not to dwell on the horror. MacLaine manages to make Marjorie defiantly nasty and yet sympathetic at times.

The film is a little joy though I couldn't help the feeling that the story may have been told better by a documentary filmmaker like Errol Morris who could let each revelation drop to our growing astonishment.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality



Bernie comes to Blu-ray in a 1080p transfer at the correct cinematic aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

This is a good looking film.

The image quality is sharp throughout.

The colours are vibrant.

The flesh tones are accurate.

There are no technical problems with the transfer.

There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


Bernie features two English language soundtracks. One is a Dolby True HD 5.1 track and the other 2.0 LPCM track.

In truth, the film really consists of interviews and chamber dialogue.

The surround sound does not have a great deal to do. Further, the sub-woofer only rarely comes into effect.

This is not a criticism. The sound for the film is excellent and the dialogue is clear and easy to understand.

The music is by Graham Reynolds who combines various quirky themes.

There are no technical problems with the sound transfer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


There are a number of extra features on this Blu-ray although it must be said that they are pretty short and generally lightweight. Interestingly, the Blu-ray case refers to them as DVD special features.

True Story to Feature Film (9.30)

    Director Linklater and journalist co-scrptwriter Hollandsworth talk about their origins of, and their attraction to, the Bernie Tiede story.

Amazing Grace featurette on Jack Black's performance (7.16)

     Of course, Jack Black knows how to sing (see Tenacious D) but it still is a surprise to hear him belting out sacred arias and show tunes.

"The gossips" featurette on the real life townspeople of Carthage (13.10)

     A special on the townspeople who injected so much verisimilitude to the film.


     An advertised feature but it doesn't exist!

Deleted scenes (10.45)

     A number of deleted scenes are included, none of any great moment, some merely snippets. There is a comedy moment when Bernie drives around with a dummy "Marjorie" to convince people she is still around.

Theatrical trailer

     The trailer for the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The specifications for the film are the same in Region A. Buy local.



Bernie is a quirky and enjoyable film which for once fits the subtitle: "a story so unbelievable it must be true".

The transfer quality is excellent throughout and the extras are interesting though not comprehensive.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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