Fingers (1978) (NTSC)

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Released 4-Feb-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Audio Commentary-James Toback
Featurette-Fingers: A Conversation About Independent Film with HK & JT
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 89:53
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4 Directed By James Toback
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Harvey Keitel
Tisa Farrow
Jim Brown
Michael V. Gazzo
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Various


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Independent movies are always a little bit of hit and miss, but it's often fun to watch out for some of the more recognisable actors who started their careers in such movies. Fingers is a movie made on a shoestring and its gritty on-location shots, as well as the in-your-face type acting was well suited to the time period the movie was made, 1978, but it is definitely starting to show its age now. Still, it holds up well against a lot of bigger budget movies from this period and that makes it worth a look. Director James Toback offers up a little slice of New York of the late 70's and in the process puts together a rather intriguing movie that was probably as violent as any seen in its day. The violence though, pales into insignificance compared to what we see today, which takes away some of its edge.

   Jimmy "Fingers" Angelli is a man of two worlds. In the first, he is an aspiring concert pianist who is obsessed by his craft. In the other, he is a debt collector for his father Ben (Michael V. Gazzo), a once-powerful underworld character now losing his grip and his ability to collect on his debts. He asks Jimmy to collect on the debts owed to him, one by the owner of a pizza parlour and the other by an up-and-coming gangster who has openly made it clear that he will not honour the debt to the now-fading shylock. Jimmy, armed with his wits and a cassette recorder, which he carries with him everywhere and constantly plays old hits with, begins the task of collecting the monies owed to his old man.

    He first visits the pizza store owner and makes light of the collection when he uses a little violence to enforce the collection. After returning the money to his father, he takes time out to practise for a recital he's giving in order to obtain a position in a prestigious music school. He shows his total obsessiveness, playing until he's exhausted. During one practise session, he sees a girl outside his window and ends up striking up a very strange relationship with Carol (Tisa Farrow), whom it seems works for a major pimp called Dreems (Jim Brown). His next collection is far more dangerous as Patsy Rizzamonza (Tony Sirico) is a made guy and is well protected. Finding out where he hangs out, he is sidetracked when he decides to make a play for Rizzamonza's girlfriend in the toilets of a hotel.

    A meeting with Rizzamonza's people doesn't go well when he ends up being set up and turned into a local beat cop. In jail, he is bailed out but he is badly stressed as he has his big recital in a few hours. He runs late when the building's lift breaks down and his stress gets the better of him and he performs badly before Mr Fox (Dominic Chianese) and blows his chance of joining the school. Totally frustrated, he visits his father who asks him to kill Rizzamonza, but Jimmy refuses. Going home to relax, he receives a phone call later that night and races over to his father's apartment where he discovers him dead. Jimmy then loses it and seeks his revenge.

    Like I mentioned before, this is not your average movie with lots of manic moments, annoying characters, and high intensity followed by periods of total serenity with long shots of empty streets and old buildings which creates quite a contrast. Swirling around this is the music. Jimmy's constantly playing of the cassette deck makes it hard to hear at times along with the street and background noises. Toback certainly put the movie together well and despite its age it is a strangely compelling movie even now.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    For a movie shot in 1977, this one has stood the test of time fairly well. Although it has some problems, specifically with artefacts, it still scrubs up pretty decently and doesn't prove to be too much of a chore to watch.

    The original theatrical ratio was 1.85:1 and this is presented in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced which is no problem, although note that the transfer is in NTSC, which may be an issue if your equipment cannot display an NTSC signal.

    There is a fair amount of grain on display during the movie with some scenes being heavier than others, but overall it was pretty indicative of the age of the movie and the style it was shot in, so there wasn't any major stress on this front. The whole movie isn't overly crisp with lots of indistinguishable backgrounds, but it wasn't blurry by any means either. Shadow detail was minimised by the use of natural lighting making for much darker backgrounds and less visible detail. Fine detail is absent a lot of the time, but then with independent movies the coarser the look the more interesting they seem to be. No low level noise was noted.

    Colours were fairly washed out and faded, possibly due to the quality of the print but also due to how the film was originally shot. There was some good saturation of primary colours, but much of the background was very bland and showing its age. The palette used was fairly utilitarian, but if you listen to director James Toback's commentary, this was how it was meant to be. No colour bleed or chroma noise was detected.

    There are plenty of film artefacts in this movie, indeed almost every shot has some fleck or nick for the viewer to contend with. The opening 30 seconds is a good enough indication of the rest of the movie. The major distractions were at 48:09, 58:08, 64:18 and 75:52. At 2:27 there is some slight aliasing along the lines of the piano in shot. Aliasing is also visible at 22:45 on a fridge and at 37:08 there is some shimmering on some car trim, but overall aliasing and moiré effects were minimal and not intrusive. No other MPEG or film to video artefacts were noted.

    The subtitles are an annoyance and miss out on almost 50% of the spoken word. Much of the interplay with the protagonists is missing and they are nothing more than short précis of what is said. They are located, as usual, in the bottom quarter of the screen and are easy to read with the usual decent font in white with a black border.

    No layer change was detected on this disc.

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

Audio

    The audio is another strictly mono soundtrack which shows its age and the style in which it was made. A Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack at 192 kilobits (with an alternate French version if you wish) is what is on offer. The sound is solid from the front speakers with a good depth to it, even though it's only mono. There are no hisses or pops in the soundtrack to contend with, but there is a general clutter since everything is jumbled together. In particular, when voices contend with blaring music, it can be hard to distinguish what is being said. Still, there were no major problems of note.

    Dialogue and syncing were excellent with no noted disparities. Although the accents can be a little hard to understand, it was not a major issue.

    There are no credits for the music, although there is plenty of it in the movie. Most of it consists of songs from the past which Jimmy Fingers constantly plays on his portable tape deck which he carries with him everywhere. The sounds of Summertime Summertime by The Jamies, Mockingbird by Charlie and Inez Foxx and One Fine Day performed by the Chiffons are amongst the most notable of the songs played during the movie. Other songs by James and Dean, The Drifters and other acts from the 50's and 60's dot the landscape. The music is actually quite annoying (which I guessed was the director's intention, since it also annoys the people around Jimmy) but very memorable for all that. Interesting use of songs rather than a musical score on this disc.

    There was no surround channel or subwoofer activity on this disk.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The standard fare. Music from the movie overlays the static menu setup.

Filmographies-Cast & Crew

    A bunch of names on a single page with no links for any of them.

Audio Commentary

    The audio commentary comes from director James Toback. It is very screen specific and he is a fairly decent talker, although I found him a bit boring at times (but then I find most audio commentaries a yawn-fest to be brutally honest). Still, what is said is anything but boring since he offers so much detail about the various subjects he touches on. For instance, he talks about how he set up shots for the movie, where he got his actors from, his crew and all sorts of other interesting information, if you are into this sort of stuff. He does love to name-drop quite a bit, but that's not unusual, and some of the details on the actors, some now dead and others who have moved onto other vocations or gone onto better things are worth listening out for. My only real gripe was that he explains the movie to the absolute nth degree leaving nothing to the imagination. For many this will make it all worthwhile, but I still like to use my own imagination when dealing with movies, so listen in at your own pleasure. It isn't a bad commentary, as commentaries go.

Featurette

    This is a conversation with Harvey Keitel and James Toback on the making of Fingers. With a running time of 5:48, Toback talks about the making of an independent movie in the 1970's and Keitel offers his own views on the period and the making of the movie. Too short to be anything more than filler, it is still quite reasonable for its brevity.

Theatrical Trailer

    With a running time of 3:25 this is offered up in 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced format but it contains about as many artefacts as the original movie. It certainly shows its age.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    There appears to be no significant differences between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases of this disc. Considering you can often find this at a significant discount, I'd be recommending the local version given the lack of difference between the two releases.

Summary

A very dated movie that is quite decent but has lost some of its edge over time. Keitel is excellent in the lead role and the appearance of so many actors that have gone onto bigger and better things is something to look out for. The video quality is decent without being exceptional given the budget this was made for and the period it was made in. There are no major hassles or problems to report with the video transfer. The audio is monaural and very cluttered. It does the job but it certainly shows its age. The extas on this disc are decent, all things considered.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Saturday, November 01, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSony NS-305, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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