Old Gringo (1989)

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Released 5-Aug-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romance None
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 115:05
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (75:24) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Luis Puenzo
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Gregory Peck
Jane Fonda
Jimmy Smits
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Lee Holdridge


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hindi
Hungarian
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, during the closing credits we see some action

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

Plot Synopsis

    Old Gringo refers to the American poet, Ambrose Bierce, who has decided to live out the rest of his life in Mexico amongst the people of General Pancho Villa. This film is set in 1913, and while historical characters do figure prominently, the story itself offers a fictional view of a series of events.

    Ambrose Bierce is played by Gregory Peck in his usual wonderful and charming way. Even though he looks quite aged and heavy in this 1989 film, he had lost none of his acting prowess nor charm!  The supporting cast includes a slightly wooden performance by Jane Fonda as the American spinster Harriet Winslow who arrives in Mexico, somewhat wide-eyed and naive, to teach English. Jimmy Smits (on a break from TV series LA Law) puts in a good performance as one of Pancho Villa's Generals, Tomas Arroyo. The supporting cast of Mexican actors put in good roles without ever going over-the-top.

    Whilst there are a number of 'action' scenes, the film concentrates on the blossoming love triangle between the three main protagonists. However, it is interesting that it clearly distinguishes the love between Bierce and Winslow as quite different to the passionate physical love between Arroyo and Winslow.

    The film holds the viewer's attention quite well throughout its runtime of 115 minutes

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Old Gringo is presented in an aspect ratio of 1:78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. As far as I can guess by looking at the film, its original aspect ratio must have been 1.85:1.

    Overall we are afforded a soft image which, at times, made the film look older than its 1989 vintage. Indoor shots, including the opening scenes, were noticeably soft, and also had visible grain. The grain is quite visible for example at 75:00. The outdoor shots, which comprise most of the film, were far better. The colour of the Mexican countryside was richly captured on film without ever threatening to be oversaturated. At times it gave the scenes an almost painting-like quality which I would say was inherent in the original cinematography and is quite effective. A particularly nice example of colour is at 17:18. The painting effect might have also been enhanced due to the slightly shallow depth of field inherent in the original film. While some grain was apparent in the outdoor shots it was far less noticeable.

    There were some film artefacts by way of negative and positive specks throughout the film, especially early on, though none of these were disruptive or distracting. A couple of the larger negative marks show up at 24:40 and 31:40.

    The transfer starts off with some telecine wobble and Gibbs effect in the opening credits. Nothing too drastic compared to the Gibbs effect in the closing credits which, to my eyes, made it quite difficult to read some of the key names.

    The shadow detail was also lacking a little, especially in the indoor shots. This might have been inherent in the original material, as apart from this, contrast in scenes was generally good.

    There are a very large number of subtitle tracks on offer. The English subtitles were reasonably, but not 100%, accurate. I also sampled the Italian, French, German and Hindi subtitle and found, with my limited knowledge of these languages (!) that they were fairly accurate and well timed.

    This is a single sided, dual layered disc with the layer change fairly well placed at 75:24 just between scene changes. It's noticeable but not too disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    We are provided with soundtracks in five languages; English in Dolby Digital 4.0 (L-C-R-S) at 448 Kb/s, and French, German, Italian and Spanish in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround at 192Kb/s.

    The comments here pertain to the English soundtrack.

    Generally, the sound is spread well across the 3 front speakers, with plenty of panning effects and other sounds that provide a good wide front soundstage. However, there is very little activity for the rear surrounds. In fact, I was taken by surprise when they did wake up, for example during the fireworks at 13:49. They did occasionally carry some ambient noise but nothing to write home about.

    The dialogue was always clear. Even the Spanish which makes up a reasonable portion of the English soundtrack was clear. There were some slight problems with synchronization of the re-recorded or dubbed dialogue, but this might have been inherent in the original and was only really noticeable if one looked for examples.

    This being a Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack, there was no dedicated LFE track. However the subwoofer was still well used to support the sounds of bands, fireworks, explosions and other effects.

    The music, by Lee Holdridge, whom I had never come across before, was quite lovely and fitted the scenes a little like the way John Barry manages to always do so well in his 'romantic' scores. When the scenes required it, the music became expansive and thematic, but at other times it could also be intimate or dramatic as the scenes dictated.

    I briefly listened to the French and German soundtracks and found that they sounded quite good. The voices blended reasonably well into the ambient noise and were quite well synched with the actors' lip movements.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There were no extras on this disc. It would have been nice to have a documentary on the Mexican revolution or at least on some of the main protagonists. A little history about Ambrose Bierce wouldn't have gone astray. At least a trailer for the film!

    The menu has a pastiche of images from the film and is silent and still.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version misses out on:

The Region 1 version misses out on:

    From comments I have read about the Region 1 widescreen version, it appears to be a similar quality transfer so I would recommend the local version for the inherent advantages of a PAL transfer, if one could live without the P&S version and a couple of trailers, although I would find a widescreen version useful to 'convert' some people to the benefits of widescreen!

Summary

    Old Gringo is a powerful and well-acted drama which is basically a fictional romance set against the backdrop of actual events and some actual characters. Gregory Peck, as always, lends a great deal of gravitas to the whole film, and is well supported by the principal co-stars and other cast.

    The transfer, whilst not being particularly good in any aspect, still is a fair effort, though it would have been good to have a couple more extras supplied.

    I recommend this to any fans of romantic and dramatic movies in the vein of Out of Africa.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Satish Rajah (don't read my bio!)
Saturday, August 02, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using S-Video output
DisplaySony KV-XA34M31 80cm. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2801
SpeakersMain: Mission 753; Centre: Mission m7c2; rear: Mission 77DS; Sub: JBL PB10

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Ambrose Bierce - wolfgirv
wolfgirv's comments - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
Bran's comments - wolfgirv