Wild Bill (1995)

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Released 18-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 93:41
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (52:22) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Walter Hill

Starring Jeff Bridges
Ellen Barkin
John Hurt
Diane Lane
Keith Carradine
David Arquette
Christina Applegate
Bruce Dern
James Gammon
Marjoe Gortner
James Remar
Karen Huie
Steve Reevis
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Van Dyke Parks

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 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 Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok is one of those Wild West personalities whose standing in history has approached legendary proportions. He was a Civil War veteran, a professional gambler, a drinker, a womaniser and, above all else, a renowned lawman and gunslinger.

    Wild Bill opens with a black and white scene depicting the funeral of Wild Bill Hickok (Jeff Bridges). His close friend, Charley Prince (John Hurt), narrates the opening scenes as we jump back in time to witness a quick succession of gunfights, quickly establishing the legend of U.S. Marshal Wild Bill Hickok.

    Following the accidental shooting of fellow lawman Mike Williams (Robert Peters), Wild Bill leaves the town of Abilene, Kansas, to travel with Buffalo Bill’s theatrical production, “Scouts of the Plains”. Not satisfied with stage life, Wild Bill finds his way to Deadwood Gulch, Dakota Territory, intent on making his fortune gambling.

    It is here that Wild Bill is reacquainted with Calamity Jane (Ellen Barkin). Calamity Jane is clearly infatuated with Wild Bill but, for the most part, Wild Bill rejects her advances.

    The majority of the movie takes place in Deadwood, depicting the events leading up to Wild Bill’s death on 2nd August 1876. Events from his earlier life are recounted through a series of dream sequences and flashbacks.

    Whilst many of the events portrayed in Wild Bill are historically correct it is unfortunate that the story deviates from establish fact. I can’t help feeling that this movie would offer more if it was a historically correct retelling of Wild Bill’s final years.

    Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of Wild Bill is outstanding, as are the performances by John Hurt and Ellen Barkin.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer is very good except for its grainy appearance. Most of the scenes throughout Wild Bill contain grain to some extent. Those that are affected most are the dream sequences, the flashbacks and the open plains at the start of the film.

    The transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    With the exception of the dream sequences, the transfer is sharp and displays good shadow detail. There is no low level noise. To depict Wild Bill’s dreams and flashbacks, the director has chosen to use a grainy, black and white image that is intentionally vague.

    The colouration used in Wild Bill is deliberately subdued and earthy. It is well suited to the dusty (or muddy) streets of Deadwood and the open sweeping plains.

    There was a small degree of pixelization of the opening credits and the outline of the Chinese lady’s face at 60:40, otherwise there were no MPEG artefacts.

    Telecine wobble could be seen during the opening credits but it was minimal and was not observed during the movie. I did not notice any aliasing.

    Film artefacts were kept to a minimum, with one example being the scene where Wild Bill leans over Mike Williams’ body at 13:30. A number of film scratches are evident during the dream sequences, but I feel this is intentional as it gives the black and white footage an aged appearance - consider the film scratches from 53:25 onwards.

    There are numerous foreign language subtitle streams, along with English and English for the Hearing Impaired. The English subtitle stream is selected by default and is used for some, but not all, of the Chinese dialogue. The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle stream accurately reflects the spoken word and provides additional sound cues. The subtitles were clearly displayed and easy to read.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change occurring at 52:22. The layer change was mildly disruptive despite the fact that it occurred between scenes.

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


    The audio transfer is exceptional with my only complaint being that the surround channels weren’t used enough.

    There are five audio tracks on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). I listened to the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 sound track.

    The dialogue was always clear and easy to understand, even during bar room brawls and gunfights. There were no audio sync problems with this DVD.

    The musical score by Van Dyke Parks would do any Western proud.

    The surround channels are not used anywhere near as much as they could have been. Having said that, they do come to life during gunfights, with gunshots and ricochets bouncing off the rear walls.

    The subwoofer supports the sound track well and never draws attention to itself. It is used to good effect during the gunfights.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is in theme with the movie and is 16x9 enhanced. It is not animated and has no audio.

Theatrical Trailer (2:15)

    The transfer quality of the Theatrical Trailer is very high. It is 16x9 enhanced. The trailer does a very good job of promoting Wild Bill.

R4 vs R1

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

    Our local release is the same as the Region 2 release.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on; 

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on; 

    The Region 4 version is clearly better if German, French or Italian is your language of choice.


    Wild Bill is a gritty western that succeeds in portraying life in the Wild West. Strong performances by the cast members make this an enjoyable, even if historically questionable, movie.

    The video quality is very good except for its grainy appearance.

    The audio quality is exceptional.

    Unfortunately the only extra on this DVD is the original Theatrical Trailer. Having watched the movie I would have liked the opportunity to view a documentary on the real Wild Bill Hickok.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Aaron Devereaux (read my bio)
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-533K, using Component output
DisplayInFocus Screenplay 7200 with ScreenTechnics 100" (16x9) screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to Amplifier. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC -A11SR
SpeakersJamo D6PEX wall mounted Speakers and Powered Sub (7.1)

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