The Killer Elite (1975)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 10-May-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 118:19
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sam Peckinpah

Starring James Caan
Robert Duvall
Arthur Hill
Bo Hopkins
Burt Young
Gig Young
Tom Clancy
Tiana Alexandra
Walter Kelley
Kate Heflin
Sondra Blake
Carole Mallory
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Jerry Fielding

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 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
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    This is the story of a group of mercenaries who work as subcontractors to the CIA. They are assigned to hide and protect defector Vorodny (executive producer Helmut Dantine), but in the safe house it turns out that George Hansen (Robert Duvall) has accepted an offer from the other side. He kills Vorodny and shoots his partner Mike (James Caan) in the elbow and kneecap, bidding him a fond retirement. Then he disappears.

    Months of rehabilitation follow, during which Mike is told that he will never walk properly again. But Mike is determined to return to the firm. When an attempt is made on the life of visiting politician Yuen Chung (Mako) and Hansen is implicated, Mike is asked to take charge of protecting him until he leaves the country.

    If you have never seen a Sam Peckinpah film, then don't start with this one. Although it is reasonably well made and has a roster of star actors, it is slow, dull and incoherent. By this stage of his life Peckinpah was on a daily regimen of cocaine and alcohol which dissipated his talent and hastened his early death. This film shows some glimpses of his former talent but not enough to make it even mildly interesting. There is a kung fu subplot with Mike being a student of martial arts, and the would-be assassins stalking the apparently Chinese politician are a mixture of ninja and samurai sword wielding killers, which is more than a little nonsensical. The final sequence is set in a graveyard of naval ships lined up like cars in a parking lot, which looks interesting but again fails to fulfil the initial promise.

    This may well be Peckinpah's worst film, and while it features his trademark violence, themes of betrayal and corruption in the corridors of power, and some slow motion killing, it does not add up to two hours of entertainment.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1, close to the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Due to the lack of widescreen enhancement, the quality of the transfer may vary depending on your display and how you choose to view it. I can imagine that this transfer would not look terrible on an average sized 4x3 television, but when zoomed in on a 16x9 display there are a lot of problems.

    Although this is not nearly as good as the image on Brannigan (made in the same year but with a widescreen enhanced transfer) which I watched immediately prior to this film, the image is reasonably sharp and detailed provided neither the camera nor the objects in frame move. Once there is the slightest bit of movement, most of the detail disappears. Edges look soft and ill-defined, and detail in the background of shots or in wide shots is below par. While colour is generally satisfactory, there are a few instances where flesh tones look oversaturated, and the rest of the image seems unsaturated. Shadow detail is poor. I am not certain whether the lack of detail in even mild shadow is inherent in the original materials or appears as a result of the transfer, but either way it does not look good.

    The only noticeable film to video artefact is aliasing, and there is plenty of it. Nearly every straight line shimmers when objects or the camera moves. There are also lots of jagged edges where there should be straight lines.

    There are some film artefacts on display, with dirt and minor print damage, though this is not excessive for a 1970s film. I have seen a lot worse in more recent films.

    Subtitles are provided in various languages including English. Unfortunately, when using the zoom function on a 16x9 display the second line of the subtitles is missing. This could be overcome by moving the image upwards (if your display has that option), but this would inconvenience most people. This issue is particularly annoying as the subtitles are often needed to work out what the actors are saying.

    The disc is a single layered one, therefore there is no layer break to contend with.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The default audio channel is English Dolby Digital 2.0. This seems to me to be a mono mix. There is no surround encoding present.

    I was disappointed with the audio transfer. Dialogue is often muffled and unclear, partly due to the mumbling of the actors. The level of the dialogue also seems to be low in comparison to the rest of the soundtrack, which means you need to turn the volume up fairly high to compensate.

    The audio generally is a little boxy and lacking in dynamic range, with some distortion evident at times. That being said, the bass level of the audio is quite good. I did not notice any issues with audio sync.

    The music score is by Jerry Fielding, and on the occasions on which I noticed it, it seemed quite good. The audio transfer does not do it justice, however.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer (1:59)

    A short trailer that is well made, in the sense that it makes the film seem better than it is. Like the main feature it is widescreen but not 16x9 enhanced.


    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.

    Judging by reviews of the US Region 1 and UK Region 2 discs, they are identical to the Region 4, so there is no reason to prefer one over the other.


    A tedious film from a major filmmaker. I suppose most of them make the occasional dud. Unless you really need to see this, stay far away.

    The video quality is poor.

    The audio quality is poor.

    The sole extra is little compensation.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, July 07, 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

Other Reviews
Web Wombat - John K

Comments (Add)
Killer Elite not a bad film! -