Salvador: Special Edition (Blu-ray) (1986)

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Released 7-Dec-2016

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Oliver Stone
Featurette-Into the Valley of Death – The Making of Salvador (62:53)
Deleted Scenes-Deleted / Extended Scenes x 8
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 122:43
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Oliver Stone
Studio
Distributor

ViaVision
Starring James Woods
James Belushi
Michael Murphy
John Savage
Elpidia Carillo
Valerie Wildman
Tony Plana
Juan Fernandez
Cindy Gibb
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Georges Delerue


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Audio Commentary DTS HD Master Audio 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 Smoking Yes, and drugs
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     Journalist and photographer Richard Boyle (James Woods) covered conflicts around the globe including Northern Ireland, Cambodia and Vietnam but by 1980 his debauched and self-destructive lifestyle of drinking, drugs and women has taken a toll; he cannot get an assignment, he is broke and evicted from his flat, his wife has left him. With his last dollars and accompanied by his friend DJ Dr. Rock (Jim Belushi) Boyle leaves San Francisco and drives to El Salvador where a peasant uprising against the corrupt government is occurring. In response the government has branded the peasants Communists and with American aid and support is committing massacres and Death Squads are “disappearing” thousands of people, leaving their bodies in rubbish dumps.

     Boyle catches up with an old girlfriend Maria (Elpidia Carrillo) and he and Dr. Rock live the good life of drink and drugs on the beach, Boyle occasionally working with committed photojournalist John Cassady (John Savage) and starting to see the reality of the death squads and the corrupt and brutal military. When Maria’s brother is abducted, tortured and killed it becomes personal. Major Max (Tony Plana), the reputed leader of the death squads, runs for President with the support of the CIA, who believe that a mass murderer is preferable to a communist but when four American nuns and lay-workers, including Boyle’s friend Cathy Moore (Cindy Gibb), are raped and murdered US Ambassador Thomas Kelly (Michael Murphy) cuts off US aid to the El Salvadorian military. Under political pressure his decision is later rescinded but Boyle has become a marked man and with Maria and her children tries to flee to Guatemala.

     Oliver Stone had already won a screenwriting Oscar for Midnight Express (1978) when he directed and co-wrote Salvador with Richard Boyle. Stone had directed a couple of minor features before Salvador and while this film is overshadowed by Platoon, which also came out in 1986 and won Stone a Best Director Oscar, I think Salvador is in many ways a more impressive film; it is raw, intense and confrontational, very much guerrilla filmmaking, not shying away from the blood, gore and inhumanity of this dirty war in El Salvador. Certainly events have been dramatized for effect but events, such as the rape and murder of the four American women on a lonely road at night, happened. The film is political, strongly criticising American policy in the region but Stone also shows the revolutionaries shooting prisoners; no-one is blameless in a civil war.

     Salvador garnered two Oscar nominations, for screenplay and best actor for James Woods, who lost to Paul Newman in The Color of Money. Woods reportedly disliked the real Richard Boyle and is by all accounts the opposite in character to him, but his portrayal as the manic, smarmy, manipulative, nihilistic Boyle is compelling to watch. Jim Belushi is also manic as Dr. Rock while other cast members to make an impact are Elpidia Carrillo as Maria, Valerie Wildman as News anchor Pauline Axelrod and Juan Fernandez as the steely-eyed military killer and nemesis of Boyle.

     Salvador is a film with passion and a heart, with disturbing images and themes, critical of American policy and despairing of the terrible things humans do to other humans. It is also funny, tense, bloody, gory and spectacular, not only in the scenery but also in the urban battle sequence involving tanks, helicopters, aircraft and an amazing cavalry charge! Filmed and released a scant five years after the bloody events depicted, this is fabulous filmmaking and a film that still demands our attention.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Salvador is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The DP on the film was Robert Richardson in only his second feature film. This is a great looking film for its budget and content, Richardson showing already the talent and ability that was later to earn him numerous Oscar nominations and three wins, for JFK (1991) Hugo (2011) and The Hateful Eight (2015). Detail throughout is strong, with both landscapes and close-ups looking good. Colours are natural, the blue of the sky and sea, the green of the jungle, the brown of the desert, while uniforms, clothing and the city streets are muted. The heart-wrenching sequence at the El Playon body dumping ground is stunning with its smoke, brown crumpling soil and bodies in various stages of decay. Blacks and shadow detail are very good, skin tones fine and brightness and contrast consistent.

     There is pleasing grain throughout. There are occasional small marks and minor macro-blocking at one spot, but otherwise artefacts are minor.

     White English subtitles are provided while yellow subtitles automatically translate the sections of Spanish dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
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Audio

     The film’s audio is English DTS-HD MA 5.1 while the English commentary track is DTS-HD MA 2.0. The film was released in theatres with mono audio.

     Dialogue is always clear and centred. The surrounds and rears featured music, helicopters, thunder, crowd noise, rain and wind and include panning as helicopters and the aircraft fly overhead. Effects, such as gunshots and explosions, are sharp. The subwoofer added some depth to engines, crowds, tank tracks and thunder. The score by Georges Delerue was quite strident in places, suiting the mood of the film.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
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Extras

Audio Commentary with Oliver Stone

     Stone is relaxed and candid as he talks about guerrilla filmmaking, financing and filming on a minimal budget, the cast, how Woods could not cope with Boyle, the political climate in the US and Central America at the time, the fact that, although based on true events, the film was not a documentary as events were combined and rearranged from dramatic effect, his filmmaking philosophy, things he would now do differently and that he only believed about 50% of what Boyle told him. A decent impressive and informative commentary.

”Into the Valley of Death” – The Making of Salvador (62:53)

     Made in 2001 by Charles Kiselyak this is far more than a “making of”; it is a fabulous, old fashioned documentary in its own right about the making of a film that James Woods called, in an understatement, “not an easy shoot”. Using newsreel footage, film clips, on-set footage and interviews with Richard Boyle, Oliver Stone, James Woods, Jim Belushi and Robert E White (US Ambassador to El Salvador 1979-1981) the documentary covers Boyle’s background, how the film came about, reconnaissance in El Salvador, conning the military to allow the filmmakers to use tanks and aircraft, the troubled shoot in Mexico, Woods’ dislike of Boyle, conflicts between Stone and Woods, money troubles, the clandestine relationship between the US and the Salvadorian army and killing squads and the reception of the film. None of your usual EPK stuff, this is a genuine and honest account of what happened.

Deleted / Extended Scenes (27:48)

     Eight scenes are included. Some are not in good condition with softness and numerous marks and scratches. The scenes play one after the other:

Original Theatrical Trailer (1:59)

R4 vs R1

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

     Releases of Salvador are pretty much the same in all regions except for language options.

Summary

     Salvador is a fantastic film, I think a more impressive film than Platoon although that film won best film and best director Oscars. Salvador is passionate, intense, confrontational but never dull, with impressive cinematography and performances, especially from James Woods at his very best.

     Salvador was released on DVD in this country over 15 years ago and was reviewed on the site here. This Blu-ray from ViaVision thankfully retains the extras from that release including the fabulous documentary and Stones’s audio commentary, adding an extra four deleted / extended scenes but losing the photo gallery. If you own that old DVD I think the HD presentation and lossless audio is worth the upgrade. If you don’t have this fabulous film, this is your opportunity.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Saturday, June 23, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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