The Harder They Come (Umbrella Ent) (1972) (NTSC)

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

Released 1-May-2009

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Featurette-One and All: The Phenonmenon of The Harder They Come
Featurette-Making Of-A Hard Road to Travel: The Making of The Harder They Come
Interviews-Cast-Interview with Jimmy Cliff
Interviews-Crew-Interview with Director Perry Henzell
Interviews-Crew-Interview with Arthur Gorson
Gallery-Slide Show: The Wild Side of Paradise
Music Video-"The Harder They Come" Music Video
Theatrical Trailer-"No Place Like Home" Trailer
Trailer-Umbrella Trailer for "Osibisa" by Don Coutts
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 102:45
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Perry Henzell

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Jimmy Cliff
Janet Bartley
Carl Bradshaw
Ras Daniel Hartman
Basil Keane
Bob Charlton
Winston Stona
Lucia White
Volair Johnson
Beverly Anderson
Clover Lewis
Elijah Chambers
Prince Buster
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $24.95 Music Jimmy Cliff
Desmond Dekker
The Slickers

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, Occasional drug use
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Harder They Come was the first major motion picture from and about Jamaica. It was a critical and cultural hit in Jamaica at the time of it's release. It was the first film to depict the economic struggles of common Jamaicans and also the first film to show a Jamaica other than glorious hotels and beaches as other major Hollywood studios at the time did. The film stars reggae musician Jimmy Cliff as Ivanhoe Martin, a young man from the countryside who decides to go to the big city and cut a record and, of course, become famous. What he doesn't bargain on is the exploitation he encounters in the music industry. On realising that cutting records is not going to give him the economic freedom he wants, he turns to dealing marijuana only to find out that this industry is also highly organised. This forces Ivanhoe to become an outlaw, taking on the system, even if the consequences of doing so means that there's no turning back.

     Director Perry Henzell co-wrote the film with Trevor Rhone, and also produced the film with his brother-in-law and Pat Rousseau, a prominent lawyer at the time who later on became President of the West Indies Cricket Board. The independent means by which Henzell had to secure financing for the film meant that it took him six years to pay off his investors. This sadly derailed his career as he was unable to get the financial backing to capitialise on the social themes presented in The Harder They Come. He planned to make a trilogy of films on the subject of cultural life in Jamaica and the conflict between the city lifestyle, country lifestyle and the modern impact of globalisation. The Harder They Come represented the City lifestyle of Jamaica from the point of view of a young man from the country, the follow-up to The Harder They Come, No Place Like Home was to show the country lifestyle of Jamaica from the point-of-view of a woman from the big city. No Place Like Home was finally finished in 2006, but it is The Harder They Come that remains the film that Perry Henzell is famous for, and it has become a worldwide cult hit.

     The reason why the film has become a cult hit goes beyond the subject matter. The soundtrack to the film exposed reggae music as a legitimate influence upon western music. Jimmy Cliff provided 4 original songs to the soundtrack, The Harder They Come, Many Rivers to Cross, You Can Get It If You Really Want and Sitting Here in Limbo. The album helped establish Island Records in the 1970s and the career of Bob Marley, influenced Paul Simon to record Mother and Child Reunion in Jamaica and was ranked number 119 in Rolling Stone's top 500 albums of all time as well as featuring in Time Magazine's greatest albums.

     The Harder They Come, being an independent feature, struggled to make an impact in Europe and America at the time it was released. Eventually, thanks to critical support at the Venice Film Festival and thanks to Roger Corman in the USA, the film was eventually shown in 43 countries and became the iconic film that it is today.

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

Transfer Quality


    The Harder They Come underwent a film restoration in 2006. This was handled jointly by Xenon Pictures and Westwind Media. Although the restoration does not match the restoration work of Warner Bros on Casablanca and Citizen Kane, or the work of James Katz and Robert Harris on classic films such as Rear Window, Vertigo, Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus and My Fair Lady, this version of The Harder They Come is the best transfer that the film has received onto DVD so far. The Region 4 Umbrella Entertainment release utilises this restored transfer, as well as maintaining the NTSC format, rather than converting it to PAL for the Australian market.

    The aspect ratio of the film is 1:85:1. This conflicts with all DVD releases of the film that use a 1:66:1 aspect ratio. I believe the original aspect ratio of the film is indeed 1:85:1, as The Harder They Come was filmed in Super16mm format, a process that when developed into 35mm film keeps the original image intact without cropping. Thus, in my opinion, other DVD releases of The Harder They Come use a cropped transfer. Unfortunately, Xenon Pictures did not restore the film anamorphically, in other words it is not 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions and minor artefacts remain on this release.

    The movie was shot using Super16mm film. This means that the transfer has a slight grain look throughout.

    The restoration has highlighted the colours in the film. It is now much brighter than previous releases.

    Minor film artefacts are present on the transfer at 3:00, 3:19, 5:42, 6:54, 10:41, 10:55, 13:04, 16:08, 18:37, 20:28, 22:14, 28:35, 32:33, 40:41, 41:09, 44:18, 44:49, 45:23, 46:13, 62:03, 62:31, 64:50, 66:40, 69:09, 70:22, 77:39, 78:52, 80:39, 83:39, 84:48, 95:00, 96:44 and 96:50. Black lines appear briefly at 4:59, 9:56, 80:15, 81:48 and 82:24. As mentioned previously, the transfer does not represent the definitive version of the film, but it is the best transfer available.

    Subtitles are in Occasional English. This means that dialogue is subtitled to compensate for thick, Jamaican accents. For this reason I suggest that one should watch the film for the first time with subtitles on. Overall the subtitling is fine except at 90:34 when the word quay is spelt "cay".

    There is no RSDL change as the film is presented on the first layer of the DVD, with the extras taking up the second layer.

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


    The audio soundtracks have also been restored in this transfer. There are 3 soundtracks on the film, original mono, a stereo soundtrack and a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Most cineastes insist that films should only be presented with their original audio transfer, and prior to the advent of Dolby Stereo in 1977 (remember Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Star Wars?), films were released in mono, with the exception of epic films filmed in 70mm such as Ben-Hur or Lawrence of Arabia. However, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track on this transfer supports the film's mood and feel, and in this case I would advocate that there is justification in including the original mono track and a 'bumped-up' 5.1 track for the Region 4 release.

    The 3 audio tracks differ in that the mono track has dialogue in the foreground, the Dolby Digital 2.0 track utilises stereo effects while the Dolby Digital 5.1 track transfers the stereo effects to the back speakers with the Subwoofer been used to emphasise the bass sound in the music soundtrack.

    Dialogue is clear throughout, although Jamaican accents can be difficult to decipher from time-to-time.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack brings out Jimmy Cliff's songs in the movie, in my opinion it is the track of choice when watching the film.

    Surround channel usage is mainly limited to the front speakers, but, as mentioned previously, the 5.1 track does transfer stereo effects to the back speakers.

    The Subwoofer is used to emphasis the bass sound on the music soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     Like the main presentation, all the special features on this DVD are presented in a non 16x9 enhanced format.

Featurette-One and All: The Phenomenon of The Harder They Come (10:04)

Reggae Historian Roger Steffens, Doors drummer John Densmore and Music Producer Arthur Gorson discuss the background of the film. Jimmy Cliff's character was based on a popular outlaw in Jamaica in the 1940s, Ivanhoe Martin, also known as "Rhyging' (this is a Jamaican slang term for 'raging") who inspired the rebellious theme of the film. The film also helped establish Island Records and continues to be popular today, with a successful musical running in London a few years ago.

Featurette-Making Of-A Hard Road to Travel: The Making of The Harder They Come (51:55)

This documentary was made by Chris Browne. He interviews Perry Henzell, writer Trevor Rhone, actors Carl Bradshaw and Winston Stona as well as Pat Rousseau and Beverley Manley. In the documentary Henzell discusses the influences for the film, John Cassavetes and Gillo Pontecorvo, who were similar independent , realist filmmakers. He also elaborates on the plans he had for a filmic trilogy beginning with The Harder They Come. The other interviewees discuss the consequences of financing upon the film and shooting schedules, as well as the work involved in marketing the film overseas.

Interviews-Cast-Interview with Jimmy Cliff (9:37)

This is a rare interview with Jimmy Cliff conducted by Reggae Historian Roger Steffens in the mid-1980s. In the interview Jimmy Cliff discusses the dual side of his personality which inspired director Perry Henzell to cast him from 2 opposite featured photographs on an album cover. These rebellious and innocent/naive looking photographs best summed up the main character in the film according to Henzell. Cliff also discusses other things not related to the film such as his fans. This feature comes from a damaged analogue tape source and also has excessive audio hiss.

Interviews-Crew-Interview with Director Perry Henzell (10:50)

This interview was conducted with Arthur Gorson in New York City in 2002. Henzell again discusses his plans for a film trilogy and the theme of The Harder They Come. He mentions that he was determined to make realist films, but that style of film making was not popular in the 1970s and this subsequently made his second feature No Place Like Home difficult to finance. Henzell mentions John Cassavetes, Gillo Pontecorvo, Ken Loach and Satyajit Ray as his major directorial influences. This presentation has minor audio drop-outs and clicks.

Interviews-Crew-Interview with Arthur Gorson (7:22)

This interview was done in July 2006. Music Producer Arthur Gorson, a close friend of Perry Henzell discusses the phenomenal influence of The Harder They Come on world culture. He argues that the film made Jamaica and it's music known to the world and afforded an opportunity for Bob Marley to become well-known in musical circles.

Gallery-Slide Show: The Wild Side of Paradise (7:47)

This is a slide show of Arthur Gorson's photography of Jamaican actors, musicians, producers and directors such as Perry Henzell, Chris Blackwell, Dickie Jobson, Bob Marley, Chris Browne, Ras Kassa and Willie Nelson taken over a 30-year period.

Music Video-"The Harder They Come" (3:14)

This clip uses the footage of Jimmy Cliff from the film singing his song, The Harder They Come. It uses a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, not as dynamic as the version in the film, which uses a Dolby Digital 5.1 track.

Theatrical Trailer-No Place Like Home (3:16)

A trailer showing the follow-up to The Harder They Come.

Trailer-Rockers (2:15)

An Umbrella Trailer for the movie Rockers by Theodoros Bafaloukas

Trailer-Panther (2:02)

An Umbrella Trailer for the movie Panther by Mario and Melvin Van Peebles

Trailer- Osibisa (2:14)

An Umbrella Trailer for the concert Osibisa by Don Coutts.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Harder They Come has been released in Region 1 (USA) and Region 2(United Kingdom). The Region 1 release by the Criterion Collection contains an audio commentary by Perry Henzell and Jimmy Cliff and an interview by Island Records founder, Chris Blackwell. The Region 2 release by BMG Entertainment includes the same transfer as the Criterion version with the same documentary by Chris Browne as on the Region 4 release, which can be viewed interactively during the main feature. Both these releases feature a mono soundtrack.

     The Criterion version is now out of print due to licensing undertaken during the restoration process in 2003. In 2006 Xenon Pictures released an identical release to the Region 4 release, as did Revolver Entertainment in 2007 in region 2 in the United Kingdom. These aforementioned restored releases included the soundtrack CD as a second disc, unless Region 4 fans really want the CD soundtrack, I suggest settling for the Region 4 release as the version of choice for The Harder They Come. Note that none of these releases use a 16x9 enhanced transfer.


    The Harder They Come is a film that blends the independent realist style of John Cassavetes, the spaghetti western style of Sergio Corbucci, (his film Django is referenced in the movie) and the French new wave style of Jean-Luc Godard. (This is evident at the end of the film with jump cuts in the middle of scenes to live audience reaction in a cinema, or other similar jump cut reaction shots in the film) As a result of this blend of styles, Perry Henzell has made a unique film that stands today as a cultural icon of its era. The musical soundtrack of the film also supports its iconic status. The Region 4 Umbrella release, with its extensive extras, represents the best version of the film released on DVD so far, only a 16x9 enhanced transfer could top it. The Region 4 release of The Harder They Come is highly recommended for Region 4 fans and World Cinema enthusiasts.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Friday, May 22, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE