And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003)

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

Released 19-Oct-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 107:09
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (59:55) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Bruce Beresford

Warner Home Video
Starring Antonio Banderas
Eion Bailey
Alan Arkin
Jim Broadbent
Matt Day
Michael McKean
Colm Feore
Alexa Davalos
Anthony Head
Kyle Chandler
Saul Rubinek
Cosme Alberto
Damián Alcázar
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Joseph Vitarelli

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English 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 a big budget Home Box Office production, made for cable television about a particular part of the life of Mexican Revolutionary, Pancho Villa (Antonio Banderas). The story focuses on Villa's relationship with an American film company, the Mutual Movie Company during 1914 and the following years. In early 1914, Villa's revolution in Mexico was not going particularly well because he was struggling for funds and the US had placed an arms embargo on Mexico. He decided to raise funds by offering film companies access to film his revolutionaries in the heat of battle in return for $25,000 and a share of the profits. The Mutual Film Company (which actually existed) was owned by Harry Aitken (Jim Broadbent) & the famous director D.W. Griffith. They decided to take up Pancho Villa on his offer and as D.W. Griffith was busy filming his famous Birth of a Nation, they dispatched Harry's nephew Frank Thayer (Eion Bailey) to do the job.

    He arrives in Mexico and meets up with Villa. They sign a contract and shooting begins during a battle for a small town. At this time, Thayer also meets John Reed (Matt Day), a journalist who sympathises with Villa, unlike most American journalists of the day. He also meets my favourite character in the film, Sam Drebben, a mercenary from the Bronx who fights alongside Pancho Villa. He is played with great relish by Alan Arkin. Thayer finishes shooting the first film, which is basically a documentary and returns to the US. The film is received with great derision by the critics and journalists. Thayer eventually convinces his uncle that they should make a longer film about Villa, with a script which will include some fiction and some reality. Despite Villa's reticence to appear in something which is not true, he is swayed by the money and the fact that it portrays him in a positive light. The rest of the film follows the making of the second film, directed by William Christy Cabanne (Michael McKean) and starring a number of Hollywood actors and actresses including one who plays the young Pancho Villa. This film became The Life of General Villa which is listed in the IMDB, so it actually existed.

    This is pretty much a true story, or is at least based on one. The production is large and features many extras and some quite reasonable battle scenes. It was directed by well known Australian director Bruce Beresford. Despite the big name cast and director and scads of Emmy nominations, this film left me fairly cold. I felt that it focussed too much on the most uninteresting character, Frank Thayer (who seems to be made up), rather than on the real character, Pancho Villa. Also, it was a film which was hard to get emotionally involved in. It was entertaining in a low key sort of way but I really find it difficult to recommend too highly.

    People interested in the life of Pancho Villa may find this worthwhile but I would recommend a rental rather than a purchase.

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

Transfer Quality


    The video quality is very good.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. The shadow detail was excellent.

    The colour was generally good, however it did seem a little under-saturated, although this may have been an artistic choice.

    There were no noticeable artefacts of any kind.

    There are subtitles in 16 languages including English & English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read. There were also burned-in subtitles in English for Spanish dialogue. Quite a lot of Pancho Villa's dialogue was in Spanish.

    The layer change occurs at 59:55 and caused a slight pause.

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


    The audio quality is very good but certainly nothing spectacular.

    This DVD contains three audio options, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 384 Kb/s, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and the same in French.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync, although the subtitles occasionally came in handy.

    The score of this film by Joseph Viterelli fits the piece well, including as it does some quite Latin sounding music.

    The surround speakers added some mild directional effects and atmosphere to the music. Considering the amount of action in the film, especially chaotic battle scenes, I thought more use could have been made of the surrounds.

     The subwoofer was nicely integrated and added bass to explosions and other such sound effects.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu included stills, and the ability to select scenes, languages and subtitles.

Behind the Scenes Featurette (4:43)

    A very short, promotional puff piece which is really just a glorified trailer. Includes interview snippets with Antonio Banderas and Bruce Beresford.

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 of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    On this basis, the Region 1 version of the disc is the winner.


    A reasonable but uninspiring film about Pancho Villa and his relationship with an American film company.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good but a little lacking in dynamism.

    The disc has only one short extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Sarah G

Comments (Add) NONE