The Long Goodbye (1973)

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Released 8-Mar-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 107:35 (Case: 112)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:33) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Altman
Studio
Distributor

MGM
Starring Elliott Gould
Nina Van Pallandt
Sterling Hayden
Mark Rydell
Henry Gibson
David Arkin
Jim Bouton
Warren Berlinger
Jo Ann Brody
Stephen Coit
Jack Knight
Pepe Callahan
Vincent Palmieri
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music John Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/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 English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Polish
Greek
Romanian
Smoking Yes, Marlowe chain-smokes throughout
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Philip Marlowe is a seedy detective in a seedy town: Los Angeles in the early 1970s. Even so, he is not really of this era. He drives a 1940s coupe and does not really fit in with the hippies, the police and the criminals. He doesn't understand yoga and he has no real relationships with men or women. He even has trouble with his cat.

    His friend Terry Lennox turns up at his place one night asking to be driven to Tijuana, because he has had a break-up with his wife and doesn't want to be found. So Marlowe drives him to Tijuana. The next day back in L.A. the police arrive and interrogate Marlowe. They tell him that Lennox's wife has been beaten to death, and create a pretext to take him into custody. Three days later they release him. It turns out that Lennox has been found dead in a Mexican hotel, an apparent suicide. Case closed, or so it seems.

    Marlowe receives a phone call from Eileen Wade, who lives a few doors away from the Lennoxes in Malibu. Her alcoholic author husband Roger has gone missing, and she hires Marlowe to find him. Marlowe also has a run-in with local gangster Marty Augustine. As Marlowe searches for Roger, the trail keeps leading back to the Lennox murder.

    This is much like most other Robert Altman films. The point of view is detached, with the camera acting as discreet observer rather than participant. Altman favours the medium and long shot over the close up, with means that the audience is never really drawn into the action, remaining at arm's length. Sometimes this method works, sometimes it doesn't. In this film it works most of the time, but this is one film that really needs to be seen in widescreen to have its full effect. Virtually all of the film is seen from Marlowe's viewpoint, save for a short sequence in the middle where Roger has a conversation with his wife, in which Marlowe is sometimes visible at a distance but could not possibly be eavesdropping.

    I should mention here the screenwriter Leigh Brackett, one of the few female writers in Hollywood during the 1940s and '50s. She co-wrote the screenplay for the 1946 version of The Big Sleep, which also features the Marlowe character created by Raymond Chandler. She died in 1978 shortly after completing the first draft of the script for The Empire Strikes Back. The script for The Long Goodbye has a lot of in-jokes (for example Marlowe calls a dog "Asta", the dog owned by Nick and Nora Charles in the Thin Man detective films), plus there are some amusing moments where Brackett/Altman poke fun at various features of 1973 America. The script seems to be a parody of the detective film in some respects, though it can be taken as a straightforward adaptation of the book with an nod towards the changes in society since the 1940s.

    Some people seem to hate this film, others think it brilliant. To me it falls somewhere in the middle. It is quite entertaining and intelligently handled. There is a level of humour in the film that sometimes gets in the way of the story, but it always seems to get back on track fairly quickly.

    Elliott Gould might seem a strange choice as Marlowe, but he does play the seedy type very well. You can sense an inner determination and steel behind the easy quips and one-liners. He carries the film with some skill, though he does not erase memories of Humphrey Bogart in the role. Also very good are Sterling Hayden as Roger, Nina van Pallandt as Eileen and Mark Rydell as the gangster Marty.

    There are also a couple of obscure unknown actors worthy of mention. Marlowe's cellmate is played by an actor named David Carradine. I believe he has been in a film recently. One of Marty's goons is played by an excessively muscular actor named Arnold Schwarzenegger. I believe he has not been in a film recently.

    In summary a very good film, well worth watching.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    For the first 40 minutes or so, this seemed like an excellent transfer. After that a few problems are noticeable.

    The image is nice and sharp with an appreciable amount of detail visible. Shadow detail is adequate, but as some scenes have been shot with back lighting or using ambient light, these scenes are a little murky as a result.

    Colours are reasonable, with a very 1970s era look to the film stock. All of the tones are muted but you can see that this is the way it was shot. Flesh tones are initially fine, but in the second half of the film they are less lifelike, becoming a little brown. In fact, some scenes have an almost monochromatic brownish look to them, such as from 77:50.

    Black levels are not very realistic. In some of the night scenes, the darker areas of the image suffer from low level noise and blacks have a whitish film over them as if the contrast is not quite right.

    There are a few minor instances of aliasing, but these are insignificant. There is some pixelization on areas of red towards the end of the film, such as on the car lights and traffic lights from 94:36 onwards.

    Initially, there are few film artefacts, but in the last two thirds of the film there are patches where there are lots of white spots indicating print damage. There is also a larger white spot which appears on the film in the upper portion of the image just right of centre for about 30 seconds from 71:42.

    Subtitles are provided in several languages. The English subtitles are clear and easily read, and are reasonably accurate to the dialogue.

    This disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer change occurring at 60:33. This is one of the slowest layer changes I have seen in a while. It took my player somewhere between one and two seconds to change layers, and while this happens during a scene change it is very noticeable and therefore disruptive to the flow of the film.

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

Audio

    The case states that the default audio is English 1.0 mono, it is in fact Dolby Digital 2.0, and it does sometimes sound like stereo, though there are no stereo effects. There are also optional soundtracks in German, French, Italian and Spanish, all of which are 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue is for the most part audible and intelligible. However, Gould has a tendency to mumble, and some of the dialogue required use of the subtitles. This is exacerbated by Altman's liking for overlapping dialogue and a general backwardness to the sound, seeming recessed in comparison to the video.

    The audio is generally satisfactory otherwise, with some slight stridency in some scenes to distract from my immersion in the film. There was nothing to be gained from use of the surround modes on my receiver, except to send some hiss to the rear channels.

    The score is by John Williams. In contrast to his later epic scores this one is nicely integrated into the film, with some effective jazzy music and a not bad title song, which gets sung by several performers over the course of the film. I wonder if the use of an old recording of "Hooray For Hollywood" over the closing credits was intended as a parody, or just to remind us that this is Hollywood, not real life.

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

Extras

Theatrical Trailer (2:23)

    The sole extra is an original trailer for the film, in 1.85:1 but not 16x9 enhanced. This trailer shows most of the highlights of the film and contains some spoilers as a result, so it should not be watched prior to the film.

R4 vs R1

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

    In comparison to the US Region 1 release, the Region 4 misses out on:

    In comparison to the Region 4 release, the Region 1 misses out on:

    The UK Region 2 seems to be the same release as the Region 4. Reviews of the Region 1 indicate similar problems with the transfer, though Region 1 appears to get the better release in terms of extras.

Summary

    One of Robert Altman's better films, this is definitely worth watching. Region 1 gets a better package though.

    The video quality is problematic at times.

    The audio quality is reasonable.

    Just a trailer as an extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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