That Cold Day in the Park (1969)

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Released 23-Mar-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1969
Running Time 106:26 (Case: 95)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Robert Altman
Commonwealth United
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Sandy Dennis
Michael Burns
Susanne Benton
David Garfield
Luana Anders
Michael Murphy
Edward Greenhalgh
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI $9.95 Music Johnny Mandel

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

   That Cold Day In The Park was directed by Robert Altman  a year before really making his name as a director with M.A.S.H. (1970). He started directing films some eighteen years earlier, writing and directing a documentary called Modern Football. He worked extensively through that period on documentaries and television programs, leading to his first feature film, The Delinquents, in 1957.

   That Cold Day In The Park is an excellent preview of Altman's later work. Even though this is early Altman, many of the trademark elements are used here that would make him one of the world's most respected directors.

   Frances Austen (Sandy Dennis ) lives a lonely existence. She has a small group of friends, all of whom are much older than herself. They are all, most likely, friends of her mother who died some time ago, leaving Frances an apartment that overlooks a park.

   One cold and rainy afternoon while entertaining her friends, she notices a young boy (Michael Burns) sitting alone in the park. She connects immediately with this vision and assumes he is poor and homeless. Once her friends have left, she ventures down to the park and invites the boy back to her apartment to get warm and to dry off. After he accepts an offer of a hot bath and food, Frances begins to tell the boy all about herself. Her communication, however, is one sided, as the boy doesn't speak at all. The fact that he appears to be mute seems to suit Frances, as she takes on a mother figure role, a remedy to her loneliness. She then invites him to spend the night in the guest room, which becomes in time, almost permanent.

   Within a short time, Frances develops some disturbing traits. She has the companion that she has longed for, and has plans to stop him from leaving. He discovers his door locked at night, and every time Frances leaves the apartment. One night he escapes through the window, and visits his sister, Nina (Susanne Benton ). It is at this point that more of the young man's character is revealed.

   He returns to her apartment, and soon after, Frances becomes even more obsessed with him. The young man has become more than a companion in her eyes, and sexual tension lingers. It is very clear that Frances has had little experience in intimacy. As more secrets are uncovered and bizarre behaviour intensifies, we become aware that a tragic conclusion awaits.

   That Cold Day In The Park is a good tense drama, come gothic thriller. The production design by Leon Ericksen is outstanding. He sets the mood well, with lots of browns and drab looking sets. The film is also beautifully photographed by Laszlo Kovacs . There is, however, one big problem with this DVD - it is let down badly by an inadequate transfer.

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Transfer Quality


    I would have hit the eject button within minutes had I not have been reviewing this DVD. It is such a bad transfer that I found myself having to look away at times to re-focus my eyes. Viewers with larger screens will find this transfer problematic. I decided to view the DVD for a second time on a standard 1.33:1 display, which still gave an ordinary result, but it was at least watchable. Most of the DVD's artefacts were not as obvious on the smaller screen.

   The listed aspect ratio is 1.29:1, and the transfer is definitely not 16x9 enhanced. I could not find any information on the original aspect ratio, although I believe this DVD would be close to correct. The slick states pan & scan, but I would bet on it being a full frame transfer, as many scenes appeared to have excessive information top and bottom of screen.

   There was a serious lack of sharpness. Images are over soft, causing a slight blurred effect right throughout the film. Blacks and shadows were terrible, as low level noise was constant. Dark scenes had no detail at all, making for very frustrating viewing. An example of this is at 33.33.

   Colours are deliberately drab, which is consistent with the overall mood of the film. This would have been quite acceptable had the other problems not existed.

   The transfer is loaded with artefacts of varying degrees. There is slight Gibb effect in the white titles, and these also bleed off to the sides. In fact, there was constant bleeding of bright whites throughout the film. There was also minor colour bleeding at times.

   Edge enhancement was present but relatively minor, and aliasing was surprisingly quite good. Film artefacts were common, but forgivable, and consisted mainly of small hairs and scratches, and nothing of major concern. Reel change markings were noticeable at times, but again, were not a distracting problem.

   There are two short video drop outs at 73.31 and 103.31. They are annoying, especially the first one, which lasts approximately one and half seconds.

   By far the worst of the artefacts was excessive noise reduction. This was prevalent from beginning to end, with "floating" faces the main problem, although a scene in the kitchen at 40.35 was particularly bad. Certain things in the kitchen actually looked as though they were suspended off the screen. Any movement by the camera or an actor, in almost every scene, displayed some loss of image cohesion. There is no need to list more examples as this is so constant that you really just need to select the Play option to start seeing them. These artefacts are without a doubt the knockout blow for this transfer.

   This DVD is a single layered, single sided disc, so there is no layer change.

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


   The audio also has many problems, albeit not quite on the same scale.

   There is one audio option on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) stereo. There was very little, if any, separation. It sounded very much like a mono soundtrack.

   Dialogue quality was quite poor generally. I found the opening dinner party scene very difficult to hear and comprehend. The audio during this scene also has some fluctuation in volume, which did not help the cause. There was also a low hum when the volume was increased to a moderate level.

   I was surprised to find no apparent problems with audio sync.

  The music was composed by Johnny Mandel . It is light and moody, which complements the film quite well, although at times the music did mask some dialogue.

  The use of Pro Logic did not offer any benefits here. Although sound came from two speakers, it did sound very much like a mono soundtrack. The subwoofer wasn't bothered at all.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras or subtitles on this DVD.

    The menu is static and silent with a minor montage of two images from the film. It has a scene selection (ten chapters) and play movie option.

R4 vs R1

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

    I could not find information relating to any other DVD version of this film, apart from this R4 version.


    That Cold Day In The Park is a good introduction to the work of Robert Altman, but it is let down by a terrible transfer. Video quality is inadequate, and audio is also below par.

   For the RPI of $9.95, I would only contemplate purchasing this DVD if I had access to a small 1.33:1 screen. The artefacts are far less obvious on the smaller screen, giving a watchable result at least. Having said that, this transfer is almost unwatchable in this format. I therefore nominate this DVD to be my first entrant into the Hall of Shame.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Saturday, December 11, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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