Dances with Wolves: Collector's Edition (Extended version) (1990)

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Released 9-Oct-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Audio-Additional scenes
Audio Commentary-Kevin Costner (Director/Actor) And Jim Wilson (Producer)
Audio Commentary-Dean Semler (Dir. Of Photography) And Neil Travis (Editor)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 224:22 (Case: 227)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (71:45)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kevin Costner
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Kevin Costner
Mary McDonnell
Graham Greene
Rodney A. Grant
Maury Chaykin
Robert Pastorelli
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $34.95 Music John Barry


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, a final panning shot of the hills.

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

Plot Synopsis

    Based on the classic novel by Michael Blake, Dances With Wolves was one of the seminal movies of the 1990s, a defining moment in the career of director and star Kevin Costner, and an important film in the neo-Western cinema movement that shied away from the traditional stereotypes of vicious blood-thirsty Indians out to kill the hardworking white frontier men and the cavalry coming to the rescue. Indeed, here we get the complete reverse.

    During the American Civil War, Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) is wounded in the leg. Refusing to have the limb removed, he returns to the frontlines to commit suicide at the hands of the enemy. However, his suicide attempt provides encouragement for the Union soldiers to rise up from cowering behind their emplacements and win the battle. For his act of bravery, Dunbar is given his choice of transfer and is granted an outpost on the Indian frontier.

    When Dunbar arrives, he finds the place deserted. But instead of returning to civilisation, he chooses to man the fort himself, attracting the curiosity of the local Sioux Indian tribe. When Dunbar tries to make contact with this tribe, he comes across a white woman who has been raised as an Indian after her parents were killed by a rival tribe. This woman, Stands With A Fist (Mary McDowell), reluctantly agrees to the requests by the tribal elders for her to be a bridge between the tribe and the white man. But as Dunbar comes to know these people more, they awaken something in his spirit and piece by piece he becomes enchanted by their native way of life.

    Dances With Wolves is a powerful epic journey, well told and fabulously constructed. It is as much a spiritual and personal journey as well as a journey of communities and cultures, the clashing of the old and the new and the advancement of technology and industry paving over the old ways. There is an awful lot of subtext here if you are willing to sit down and spend some time reading between the lines, and I guarantee you that the journey is worth it.

    Moreover, for the first time on DVD we are getting not merely the director’s cut, which was broadcast on TV and has also been available on VHS for many years, but a special extended edition. Does it all make a difference? For me, yes, because for the first time the film feels complete and well rounded, not rushed through in parts. All the subplots are intact and this adds an overall majestic quality to the tale. That said, there is not a huge difference here between the original director’s cut, available on VHS, and this extended director’s cut. From what I can discern, there are just a few more lines of dialogue between certain characters, some extended cinematography, some slightly more gory violence and that kind of thing. There is, as far as I can tell, no major scene that has been added beyond the original director’s cut.

    I was slightly disappointed that there was not also a theatrical version viewing option, as I quite like the abridged version as well. While it lacks some of the character development and some of the bridging sequences that make the extended version of the film a smoother ride, it does have its own panache and sometimes you do not feel like watching the full version.

    Still, with all that said and done, I love this extended edition and if you were ever a fan of this film I recommend going out and picking this up. You will not be sorry.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Presented in 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, this is the original theatrical aspect ratio.

    Overall, the picture quality here is quite good. The image is well defined and rendered. There is the faintest of graininess to the image which is certainly a product of the film stock and not the transfer process.

    Colours are nicely balanced, with real-looking flesh tones and lush greens for the open prairies. There are some fantastic mixes of colour in the cinematography and this film plays as much as possible to its amazing locales.

    My major criticism of this video transfer is that it is still prone to what I initially thought was a combination of aliasing and moire effect in the background. However, after getting close to the screen I noticed that this was a strange kind of cross colouration centred around closely grouped lines. While this is a major improvement on the original R4 release, the opening ‘St. David’s Field’ sequence is shot through with this effect. It is on the log behind Dunbar and his friend, it is on the fences surrounding the field, and it is on the shingled roof of the farm house. The effect is not omnipresent - it only crops up when these fixtures are far enough into the background that a slight loss of detail occurs and then the visual effect emerges. But it is quite annoying.

    While the St. David’s Field scene is a perfect example, it is not the only, and this sort of transfer fault crops up throughout the film. We see it again on the gravelled soil at the frontier outpost where Dunbar is stationed, and in some outdoor sequences with lots of leaves with straight edges close together. You can ignore it, but it is kind of blatant and a little distracting.

    There is some slight dirt on the print, most noticeably during the opening credits. But this clears up fairly quickly and for most of the film there is no more dirt on the print than most contemporary movies, and certainly less than some transfers done of films from the same era. I did not find what little there was in any way distracting.

    Subtitles are available in English and English for the Hearing Impaired only. They are white with a grey border, and do not seem to substantially deviate from the actual dialogue.

    There are two dual-layered discs here. The dual-layer pause occurs at 71:45 on Disc 1 during a scene. It is noticeable, but only mildly disruptive. The pause is at 55:21 on Disc 2 during a scene change and is barely noticeable.

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

Audio

    Audio is available in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround (encoded at 384 Kb/s) and 5.1 DTS (coming in at a grandiose 768 Kb/s). The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is excellent, with immaculate auditory detail and a great range, but it simply pales in comparison to the 5.1 DTS track.

    For both tracks, dialogue is clear and easy to understand throughout and audio sync problems are very minor and generally faults with the source, not the transfer. However, for the rest, the DTS track is a real stand-out.

    The expansive score by John Barry is a masterpiece, with a grand and dynamic range and a theme as memorable as that composed by Maurice Jarre for David Lean’s epic Lawrence Of Arabia. Wonderfully reproduced.

    Surrounds are heavily utilised, and scenes such as the classic buffalo hunt are all-encompassing, giving you the feel of actually being there. But there are more subtle uses, including mere outdoor ambience (of which there tends to be a lot) and persons moving around the Indian camp.

    Subwoofer use is also extensive, noticeable especially in the score, but also to emphasise rifle shots and pounding hooves of galloping horses. Again, the buffalo hunt is a real stand-out, as is the St. David’s Field scene.

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

Extras

Menus

    All menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with the score playing in 5.1 Dolby Digital on the main menu and a still from the movie in the background.

Feature Audio Commentary Track 1 – Kevin Costner (Director/Actor) and Jim Wilson (Producer)

    Presented in 2.0 Dolby Surround, Costner and Wilson play extremely well off each other, and there is rarely a dull moment on this track. Indeed, the two are a wealth of information, given that they were so heavily involved in the making of the film, and there is plenty of anecdotal and technical data given. Well worth a listen.

Feature Audio Commentary Track 2 – Dean Semler (Director of Photography) and Neil Travis (Editor)

    Also presented in 2.0 Dolby Surround, these two dealt more with the technical aspects of the movie, and the commentary really reflects this. Still, even given that, there are very few silent patches here, and one generally fills in when the other runs out of things to say. A good one for you up-and-coming people behind the camera.

R4 vs R1

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

    The previous R4 release is a pure joke by comparison to this version. While it was the slightly shortened Australian theatrical version (not the US theatrical version which had some slight modifications), it was not 16x9 enhanced, not in the proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and had shocking picture quality. This new R4 release trumps that previous release hands down.

    There have been three R1 DVD incarnations of this film. Firstly, the THX-mastered US theatrical version, which has a couple of additional scenes to the Australian theatrical version, with only a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack and no extras. Secondly, there was a 2-Disc DTS special edition, which was not the extended version but the US theatrical release with an audio commentary by Kevin Costner and a forced intermission. Thirdly, there is now a single disc Special Edition released by MGM which has: (i) the Extended Director’s Cut; (ii) 2 audio commentary tracks featuring Kevin Costner and producer Jim Wilson on one track and director of photography Dean Semler and editor Neil Travis on the other track; (iii) a retrospective documentary entitled “The Creation Of An Epic”; (iv) the original making-of featurette; (v) a photo montage; (vi) a poster gallery, and; (vii) a music video. However, this release only has a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.

    There is also an R2 German release which is the original extended version that is available on VHS, but the aspect ratio is off (it is presented in only 2.20:1 cutting off the edges of some of the award-winning cinematography) and there are no extras and various subtitling problems.

    So which release is the best? Reports on the new R1 Extended Edition suggest that the picture and sound quality are not as good as that on previous R1 releases, suffering from much the same film-to-video transfer artefacts that are present on this new R4 release. By contrast, the image on the THX mastered R1 release was very good, with only minor aliasing resulting from the reduced number of horizontal lines in the NTSC image. However, the THX mastered release had only a 5.1 Dolby Digital track that is quite shallow in comparison to this new DTS soundtrack on the new R4 release.

    The final verdict? If you want the theatrical edition, then the R1 THX mastered release is the hands-down winner. If you want the new extended edition, I would suggest going with this new R4 release. Sure, it misses out on a few of the documentaries and such that the new R1 release has. But such things are generally promotional, and the R4 edition has the most important extras here which are the audio commentaries. It also has the best sound and the best picture available for the extended version, even allowing for the very mild inconvenience of the intermission. If you are the kind of DVD fan that values extras over picture and sound quality, take the new R1 release. But I am giving this to the R4 release for superiority in sound if not also maybe picture, because ultimately it is the movie that matters most.

Summary

    This release of Dances With Wolves is, for me at least, the definitive version of the film. It is grand, operatic, and epic. Absolutely amazing. Pick it up.

    The video is pretty good, albeit far from perfect. It kicks VHS to the trash heap, but does not measure up next to the image quality of the THX mastered R1 release of the theatrical edition. As far as the extended version goes, however, I think this is on par if not better than the R1 release of the same, but the cross-colouration problem is definitely bothersome and something that should be remedied for future re-releases.

    The sound is awesome, rattling you right down to your skeleton. I suggest turning it up and wearing a mouth brace.

    The extras were great, and I for one am glad that picture and sound quality were not compromised even further to shove on a bunch of promotional documentaries.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
John ? - REPLY POSTED
R1 is better than R4 - REPLY POSTED
John Barry composed the music for Dances With Wolves movie - NewcastleBoy (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
What's wrong with intermissions on long movies? - Chris W (read my bio)
New theatrical version - wolfgirv
Maybe it's time to put R2 into comparison -
danish version -
Dances S.A.C.D -
Where are the SACDs found in Grace Bros?... - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
Confused - Magna Pacific -
Re : Confused-Magnapacific - wolfgirv
Magna Pacific 16x9 version - Miklos (my stinkin' bio)
Region 1 information is incorrect -
Region 2 -