Atlantic City (1980)

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Released 8-Feb-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 103:43 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Louis Malle

Madman Entertainment
Starring Burt Lancaster
Susan Sarandon
Kate Reid
Robert Joy
Hollis McClaren
Michel Piccoli
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

After directing the controversial Pretty Baby (1978), the late Louis Malle went on to direct Atlantic City (1980), a neo-noir romance between two dreamers who need another chance to escape their mundane existences. Atlantic City marked the second English language production for the French director who also directed the film-noir thriller Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1958) and the infamous Les Amants (1958). Louis Malle’s name is often wrongly linked to the nouvelle vague movement which centres on the work of French directors François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. It could be argued Malle rejected the classical cinematic form like Truffaut and Godard and sought out to reinvigorate cinema, but Malle did not resort to experimental techniques, instead he depicted confronting subject matters in his films without restraint. Le Feu follet (1963) dealt with alcoholism and suicide, Le Souffle au cœur (1971) depicted an incestuous relationship between a mother and son and Pretty Baby starred a 12-year-old Brooke Shields as the a daughter of a prostitute growing up in the red-light district of New Orleans, in the early 1900s.

“Yes, it used to be beautiful - what with the rackets, whoring, guns...”

With the French-Canadian production of Atlantic City (1980) it may seem Louis Malle has toned down taboo thematic concerns as the film centres on an unconventional relationship between Lou Pascal (Burt Lancaster), an aging romantic who thinks he is a dangerous gangster and Sally Matthews (Susan Sarandon), a naïve young woman who has come to Atlantic City in search of a glamorous life. But through the fantasy of the enigmatic resort city the characters face harsh realities as Lou finds himself out of place in the ‘new’ Atlantic City where gambling is legalised. Lou is also forced to look after the aging beauty queen Grace, (Kate Reid) the discontented widow of his old gangster boss Cookie Pinza. Equally Sally is training to be a croupier in Atlantic City but finds her estranged husband Dave Matthews (Robert Joy) and sister Chrissie (Hollis McLaren), who is pregnant with Dave’s child have followed her to the city of dreams in search of fast money by selling stolen illegal drugs. Each of these characters will collide and a tragic situation will give birth to a run of luck which can only happen in Atlantic City, an extraordinary city in which dreams can make or break you. In Atlantic City you can transform yourself, take a gamble and risk all for a chance to matter to someone and be of some significance in a society which is overrun by greed, money and power.

“You should have seen the Atlantic Ocean in those days”.

The film is richly layered as the characters are given heart despite their obvious flaws. Every character is forced into a situation and they act upon impulse, often finding themselves making immoral choices and deceiving themselves to live for another day. There are some beautiful intimate scenes between the characters and the casting is perfect, both the late Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon are convincing and charismatic in their complex roles. Malle achieved a sense of realism within the film by filming on location in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1978 and 1979. Many urban areas of Atlantic City at the time were being demolished and to be resurrected with casinos and the hotel resorts, creating a tourism-intensive area after New Jersey voters approved casino gambling 1976.

Atlantic City is reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Bob le flambeur (1955) and it’s subsequent remake The Good Thief (2002) directed by Neil Jordan, as well as Mike Hodges’ Croupier (1998) and Wayne Kramer’s The Cooler (2003). Atlantic City also stars Michel Piccoli and Robert Goulet.

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Transfer Quality


The PAL DVD transfer of Atlantic City is presented in 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced widescreen.

The transfer has been encoded at an average bit rate of 7.21 Mbps, on a dual layer DVD.

The high bit accounts for a clear transfer which is free of MPEG compression artefacts.

There is noticeable film grain, mild telecine wobble and assorted film artefacts but this is most likely due to the condition of the print.

The picture is slightly soft and on occasion there was an interlacing combing effect, which was possibly due to NTSC to PAL conversion.

A screenshot below demonstrates the effect:

The colour scheme is rich yet at times over saturated with solid black levels and average shadow detail.

Overall the transfer is quite good considering the age of the film.

There are no subtitle options available.

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


The use of music and sound design in a Louis Malle film is always unique and inspired; from the Miles Davis score of Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, to the music of Erik Satie for Le Feu Follet, to using the music of Django Reinhardt for the semi-autobiographical Lacombe Lucien (1974).

For Atlantic City, Louis Malle hired French composer Michael Legrand to write a score for the film. However Malle would later desire for all the music in the film to be unique to the world the characters inhabit, for example music is heard when a character is listening to the radio, walking past a trio of singers in the lobby or playing an instrument. The subsequent minimal sound design of the film leads to a different filmic experience as the audience experiences the character’s world as they do. There are three key songs to the film Bellini’s “Norma”, Song of India and On the Boardwalk of Atlantic City which are played, heard or sung by the characters.

The single audio option offered on this DVD is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. The film was originally recorded in mono. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track is the original track spilt up to give the illusion of a stereo mix on home theatre systems. As expected the soundtrack does not make full use of the surround speakers however the dialogue remains clear and the audio track is faultless. The film is dialogue orientated with atmospheric sound and as such the soundtrack is suited to the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

The Main Menu is a still image of the unique title design, accompanied by a 38 second section of the song On the Boardwalk of Atlantic City. There are twelve scene selections and options to select the theatrical trailer and Madman Propaganda.

Theatrical Trailer (2:12)

16x9 enhanced.

Madman Propaganda.

Four trailers are offered; Clean (2004), Kenny (2006), Alles auf Zucker! (2004) and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005). The trailers are preceded by an anti-piracy warning. All the trailers are presented in Full Frame.

R4 vs R1

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

The R4 release looks to be identical to the Paramount R1 release with the exception of an NTSC transfer, optional English subtitles and Madman Propaganda.

The back cover of the local AV Channel release features incorrect plot details and a grammar error.


Louis Malle's award winning Atlantic City is a rich character study about characters given a second chance.

The performances from Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon are outstanding.

While the transfer is good considering the age of the film there are some minor defects. The audio is suitable and clear.

Unfortunately this title is not part of the Director's Suite collection and as such has no extra features other then the theatrical trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Monday, March 26, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1910, using DVI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE 700. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A595a - 5.1 DTS
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

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